Senator Jacqui Lambie has arced up at a top bureaucrat over his refusal to reveal when Australia’s international borders would open.
In true Lambie fashion, the Tasmanian senator pulled no punches when Home Affairs Department secretary and Border Force boss Michael Pezzullo dodged questions about the resumption of overseas travel.
During a parliamentary committee meeting last week, Labor senator Kirstina Keneally asked Pezzullo if the government would stick to its plan to open international borders on 1 November, news.com.au reported.
After Pezzullo did not answer, Labor senator Katy Gallagher echoed Keneally’s question.
“What is that date?” Gallagher asked, according to news.com.au.
When Pezzullo still wouldn’t budge, Lambie decided she’d had enough.
“What is the reasoning that at your status you are not answering this question? You are getting paid more than enough,” she said.
“Give us a goddamn answer.
“Give us a decent answer as to why you won’t say a set date.”
According to the Australian, Keneally’s question was prompted by a ministerial briefing from March she had seen using the Freedom of Information Act that suggested international borders would open on 1 November.
“Since the time of that publication, the decisions taken by the National Cabinet in relation to the four phase or step approach,” Pezzullo said.
“There are different components that step you out to a reopened border, very gradually.”
Gallagher told the committee she could not understand why the date had to be kept a “state secret”, but Pezzullo remained tight-lipped on the matter.
The tense exchange came shortly before Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced an update to the National Cabinet’s four-pronged “pathway out of COVID”, taking into account modelling by the Doherty Institute and economic analysis by the Treasury.
Morrison said vaccine thresholds had been agreed to in principal, with the country able to progress to Phase B once approximately 70 per cent of the adult population is vaccinated, and Phase C once that number cracks 80 per cent.
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