Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has weighed in on the Victoria state government’s Pandemic Bill that would see Premier Dan Andrews given unprecedented power to declare pandemics and grant himself the emergency powers that have been controversially enforced in recent months.
Speaking to Neil Mitchell on 3AW Friday, Morrison refused to be drawn to criticise the move but pointed out that Victoria was going in the “opposite” direction than the Commonwealth.
Without naming the Victorian government, Morrison said in general terms that he understood why Victorians were frustrated that other states were reopening while “governments are maybe seeking to have more involvement in their lives” than the Commonwealth.
He noted the Commonwealth was about “opening up and giving people back what is theirs.”
The prime minister said that Australians, particularly in Victoria, had “kept their side of the deal” when it comes to the national plan.
That refers to the plan that each state and territory would lift COVID-19 restrictions once the 80 percent vaccination threshold was reached.
“Frankly, I think we should be getting on with it, not seeking to put more controls on people,” Morrison said.
However, because Australia is a federation, Morrison indicated that as prime minister he couldn’t intervene because the proposed laws were “entirely a matter” for the Victorian parliament, and its government, politicians, and people.
“That’s the thing about the federation. We’re all responsible for the things we’re responsible for, and we’re accountable,” he said.
Morrison conceded that he had concerns that some state government were “continuing to want to be involved more and more in people’s lives.”
“As prime minister, I respect the federation. I work with all the premiers and chief ministers. But the clear message is this, your call, your responsibility. And don’t expect the federal government to go and argue your case.”
90 Percent of Australians Receive First Jab
During the interview, Morrison said that it was “extraordinary” that 90 percent of Australians have now had their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
“We’re going to have one of the highest vaccination rates in the world,” Morrison said. “That goes with having one of the best records in the world on saving lives.”
He added that Australia had one of the lowest fatality rates from COVID-19 in the world, as well as one of the strongest developed economies despite the pandemic downturn.
“Those three things together show an extraordinary performance by Australians throughout the pandemic,” he said.