Fresh Scrutiny of Western Australia’s Hard Border Stance

October 14, 2020 Updated: October 15, 2020

Western Australia’s hard border stance is set to face further scrutiny after the state’s chief health officer contradicted claims by the premier.

In evidence before a parliamentary committee on Oct. 14, Andy Robertson said he was open to considering travel bubbles with other jurisdictions that had also gone at least 28 days without community spread.

All states and territories besides NSW and Victoria had met that benchmark, he told state parliament’s Education and Health Standing Committee.

Robertson also said he was generally satisfied with other states’ border arrangements, adding that many had duplicated those of WA.

Speaking in parliament hours later, Premier Mark McGowan maintained that Robertson had “expressed concern” about other states’ border arrangements.

Earlier this month, the premier claimed to have been advised other states’ border arrangements were “not as strong as ours.”

Opposition health spokesman Zak Kirkup said the premier had been “caught out.”

“It’s been made abundantly clear that the border arrangements that are put in place in Western Australia haven’t been based on the health advice but have in fact been a political decision that’s been made by the premier and the government,” he said.

While McGowan has maintained that the health advice has been the only factor keeping the borders closed, Robertson conceded there may be other elements in play.

With people in NSW free to enter lower-risk states such as South Australia, Robertson said he remained concerned about WA’s susceptibility to the virus because restrictions on physical distancing had largely been removed.

“I think it is a tightrope that we’re walking,” he said.

“Obviously as other jurisdictions have got (outbreaks) under control, there’s a lot less cases, the risk has substantially decreased.

“We need to have a better understanding of where the epidemiology is going in NSW and Victoria, whether it continues to fall.”

He also declared it was achievable for all states and territories to achieve 28 days with no community spread by Christmas.

By Michael Ramsey