Australian Minister Called Vic Premier’s Comments a ‘Complete Distraction’

Australian Minister Called Vic Premier’s Comments a ‘Complete Distraction’
Australia's Minister for Cities Alan Tudge at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, on July 9, 2020. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

The federal government has hit back at Premier Daniel Andrews’ criticism of the trans-Tasman bubble reaching his state on day one of its operation.

Seventeen travellers landed in Sydney from New Zealand on Oct 16 then flew on to Melbourne despite Victoria not being part of the one-way, quarantine-free arrangement.

“There are many things the Victorian government can do and many things we are accountable for—but who gets to board domestic flights at Kingsford Smith Airport in Sydney is not one of the things I am accountable for,” Andrews told reporters.

“Our position had been very clear—we are not in the NZ bubble. I’m confident we won’t see more of this.”

Acting immigration minister Alan Tudge called the premier’s comments a “complete distraction” from the matter at hand in Victoria—the easing of restrictions for social and economic relief.

“Victorians have done their side of the bargain in terms of adhering to very severe restrictions for months now,” Tudge, who is also a Victorian, said.

“We hope the premier will heed his side of the bargain tomorrow and start to open up in a similar manner to what NSW has done.”

He brushed off the idea the New Zealand travellers had done anything wrong, saying onward domestic travel had come up in an AHPPC meeting earlier in the week and no state or territory had raised concerns.

Tudge also said commonwealth officials worked hard to respond to Victorian requests for the New Zealanders’ passenger cards and handed them over at midday on Saturday.

The southern state reported one further case of COVID-19 on Saturday and no deaths as Melburnians wait to find out what restrictions will be eased from Monday.

Ironically, the reason for his press conference with colleague Stuart Robert on Saturday was to announce that passenger cards would become digital by this time next year.

Tudge said this was a key step on the path to increasing international arrivals to the country in a COVID-safe manner. When a vaccine becomes available, this information will be able to be linked and shared across jurisdictions.

It would improve the governments’ contact tracing efforts into the future, he said.

Opposition spokeswoman for infrastructure, transport and regional development Catherine King praised Andrews on Saturday for his handling of the pandemic.

“The fact that we’re now at one case, because he’s stayed the course despite incredible pressure from Liberal federal members of parliament who ought to know better,” she said.

“I think the people of Victoria should be very proud of that and very proud of the huge work and huge job they’ve done.”

On the New Zealanders, King said they did the wrong thing but the federal government had been slow in passing on passenger information, as had been experienced by the Queensland government.

Meanwhile, Labor leader Anthony Albanese said on Saturday it was not easy being in opposition in a time of crisis.

“When things are bad, Australians want their governments to succeed,” he said.

“They don’t want too much politics. So this year we’ve been constructive.”

Labor was now shifting gears and producing policies and plans to address its three greatest priorities: “Jobs, jobs and jobs,” Albanese said.

Andi Yu in Canberra