Daniel Andrews is still angry about New Zealanders making their way to Melbourne, despite Victoria opting out of the travel bubble, as federal and state officials again butt heads over trans-Tasman arrangements.
In recent days more than 60 Kiwis have entered Victoria after first arriving in Sydney.
A few dozen more headed to Western Australia and Tasmania, while South Australian officials confirmed on Monday that five Kiwis had arrived in that state too.
Mr Andrews claimed it was “completely unreasonable” that premiers had “no idea” international visitors were turning up.
But NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard shot back, saying Mr Andrews’ claims were confusing, and that states outside the ‘bubble’ should have known that New Zealanders could arrive within their borders.
The head of the federal Border Force also claimed Victorian officials raised no objections about the plan as recently as Friday.
The travel bubble between NSW, the Northern Territory and New Zealand opened last week. Under the arrangements, Kiwis can fly to those jurisdictions without having to undergo quarantine.
But despite other states not signing up – and Mr Andrews saying he specifically asked for Victoria to be excluded from the bubble – people from NZ have ended up in multiple other states.
Those in WA and SA will have to do the two weeks quarantine that is mandatory for border-crossing arrivals.
On Monday, Mr Andrews torched the federal government for allowing the situation to develop, and for delaying the release of passenger information. Federal immigration minister Alan Tudge fired back, claiming state governments knew visiting Kiwis could travel outside the bubble.
It’s the latest battlefront opened up between Victoria and Canberra, after Mr Andrews and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg traded stinging barbs over the state’s COVID reopening.
On Monday, Mr Frydenberg said internal borders and the restriction of travel were matters for state governments, and that there had been “a comprehensive discussion” among health officials about bubble arrangements.
“The issues were discussed, no major concerns were raised by the Victorian health officials,” Mr Frydenberg said.
“Obviously, the Victorian government seek to portray a different story over the weekend.”
However, Mr Andrews said he didn’t want to be part of the travel group at all.
“Despite the fact that we didn’t want to be in the bubble, it seems like the bubble applies to every part of our country, not just those that said yes,” he said on Monday.
“We are not particularly pleased that we were asked the question, ‘do you want to be in a bubble?’, and it turns out that even though we said no, we are.”
Mr Andrews conceded the Victorian border remaining open to the rest of Australia meant state officials “can’t stop these people coming here”. But he said he was upset that federal immigration officials hadn’t alerted his government to arrivals on their way to Victoria.
The Premier said his concern was international visitors might not know Victoria’s strict lockdown and social distancing measures.
“People turned up without us knowing. People turned up without the WA government knowing. People turned up, I assume, without the Tasmanian government knowing,” Mr Andrews said.
“I think it is completely unreasonable to be putting it to me that somehow it’s my fault or the Victorian government’s fault that, when you are invited to participate in an arrangement and you say no, that somehow people turn up.”
WA Premier Mark McGowan said on Sunday his government, too, was unaware Kiwis might arrive, even after WA oped out of the bubble. He said the incident was “outside of our control”, and called on the federal government to do more.
“We would prefer better management of these arrangements,” he said.
However, Mr Hazzard said the New Zealanders should not have been a surprise to Victoria. The Liberal politician said such a scenario was made clear to national leaders.
“NSW Health have done everything that we were asked to do, and the fact is that NSW has always been the gateway to the rest of the world, and to the gateway of the rest of Australia,” he said.
“It is exactly what Victoria did know. So, hopefully Victoria can sort out their issues.”
Trans Tasman bubble is open! Thank you to Health staff who met the passengers off the first New Zealand to Sydney flight today and screened them. Again NSW leads the nation. @NSWHealth pic.twitter.com/mlK4nhu15I
— Brad Hazzard (@BradHazzard) October 16, 2020
Last week, Mr Hazzard cheered the commencement of the travel bubble.
Australian Border Force commissioner Michael Outram also said Victorian officials knew the potential for Kiwis to cross over from NSW, including being informed again at a meeting at Melbourne’s airport on Friday.
“I am unaware of any objections being raised through any of those discussions or meetings that occurred,” Mr Outram told a Senate estimates hearing on Monday.
“It’s clear that once somebody comes into NSW and they are exempt by NSW Health for quarantine because they are low risk, they are then free to move around.”
Mr Outram said VIC’s Department of Health and Human Services was told at the meeting about the situation.
“This movement of passengers from NSW to Victoria was discussed. So clearly at an operational level the Victorian services recognised what was happening. And no objections were raised,” he said.
It is unclear whether the travel bubble rules will be tightened following the state government complaints.