Prioritising ‘Non-Essential’ Australian Open a Risk, Says Federal Politicians

January 18, 2021 Updated: January 19, 2021

The Victorian government is accused of misplacing their priorities as the Australian Open draws ire from federal politicians after dozens of international players were put in strict quarantine due to several CCP virus cases.

Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon told Nine Network’s Sunrise on Monday, that while Victoria may need the Australian Open for its economy, he believed that “suppressing the virus needs to be a number one priority.”

“Victoria needs the Australian Open for its economy; the fans want it, I want it. I think everyone does, but what is the correct balance here,” Fitzgibbon said.

Fitzgibbon also noted that he did not blame Victorians who are currently locked out of the state to be angry about the tennis players coming in from other countries when they can’t get back into the own state.

Liberal Party MP Barnaby Joyce shared Fitzgibbon’s sentiments saying that welcoming players and staff from around the worldwide poses an “unacceptable risk” to Australia.

“Why are we bringing people in when there is another strain out there we are trying to keep out,” Joyce said.

“If this next strain gets in its capacity and virality is much higher than the current COVID strain, and then you have to start asking questions if the new strains come in is the efficacy of the vaccine we are developing going to work for that strain,” he said.

The Australian Open 2021 was meant to mark Victoria’s recovery after hard lockdowns stymied the economy. But currently four tennis players and staff have tested positive for COVID-19, and 72 players are in hard quarantine unable to train outside.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews disagreed with both Fitzgibbon and Joyce saying that all potential risks haven’t been mitigated.

“All of us as Victorians know what we’ve been through, how precious this thing that we’ve built is. But we have to find a way towards something approaching normal,” Andrews said at a press conference on Monday.

Andrews noted that “nothing is more important than following the public health advice and keep the state safe.”

Epoch Times Photo
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews during a press conference in Melbourne, Australia on Nov. 12, 2020. (Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

“The arrangements for the tennis are based on public health advice, and if there was a sense from the public health team that the balance could not be struck, that it was too high a risk well then, we wouldn’t have had the event,” Andrews said.

Australian Open CEO Craig Tiley says despite the fact that many players have been confined to their rooms, the majority have told him they are “pleased and happy to be in Melbourne.”

Farmers Forgotten in Favor of Big Ticket Events

Meanwhile, federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has pointed out a double standard from the Victorian government.

“The Victorian government has accelerated bringing in tennis players but forgotten about farmers,” Littleproud told Sky News. “We are seeing billions of dollars worth of produce in Victoria that will simply go to rot.”

Littleproud
Minister For Agriculture David Littleproud during a press conference in the Mural Hall at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, on June 12, 2020. (Sam Mooy/Getty Images)

Littleproud said all other states and territories except Victoria have set up quarantine protocols allowing seasonal labour to commence. He also noted that the federal government had informed the Victorian government there was no impediment to bringing in the Pacific farmworkers.

“Greg Hunt himself has advised the Victorian Health Minister that what Aspen Medical and industry have put forward is totally acceptable. And we will continue to stamp the visas of the 25,000 pre-vetted, work-ready men and women that we found across 10 Pacific nations. There is no impediment whatsoever,” he said.

“This is simply a stalling tactic. And for Ed Husic to come in and try and give them cover and say we’re playing politics, well you know, what we’re doing is holding them to account,” Littleproud said.