Josh Frydenberg has let rip with a scorching criticism of Daniel Andrews’ coronavirus response, during a federal Parliament motion praising Victorians for their resilience through one of the world’s toughest lockdowns.
“Six months lost from schooling. Six months that they will never, ever get back,” the federal Treasurer said of his young children.
“I am so happy to join with all those in this place in celebrating the fact that the numbers have come down, but do not pretend there has not been a price.”
Mr Frydenberg, the most senior Victorian federal minister, has been among the loudest critics of the Victorian Premier’s virus response.
On Tuesday, he claimed that he knew personally of people who had taken their lives or self-harmed due to lockdown-associated job losses.
On Tuesday, after Victoria recorded its second-straight day of zero new COVID cases – a milestone not achieved since March – the federal Parliament considered a motion to note the effort of Victorians.
The motion from the Opposition Leader called on MPs to “commend the people of Victoria for the sacrifices they have made” and congratulate them “for their achievement in overcoming the second wave”.
“For Victorians this time has been a time like no other in Australia have really had to endure,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, in supporting the motion.
“It is right for our Parliament to congratulate and to thank Victorians for the way that they have conducted themselves over these many difficult months.”
The PM said he wanted to see state premiers continue to open their societies and their borders, noting again his belief that lockdowns “are not demonstration or evidence of success”.
“As we look to the future, we cannot look to a future of lockdown as a way of managing this virus,” Mr Morrison said.
“What we must do is have the testing and tracing and the isolation and quarantine options.”
Richard Marles, the deputy Labor leader and the opposition’s most senior Victorian MP, used his speech in support of the motion to note how well the state had done in extinguishing its outbreak, compared to other areas around the world.
“On the 30th of July, just 12 weeks ago, Victoria recorded 723 new cases of coronavirus. On that same day in Great Britain there were 846 new cases,” the Member for Corio said.
“Today with zero cases in Victoria, we saw yesterday in Great Britain 20,890 new cases of coronavirus recorded.”
Mr Marles said such a comparison showed “the incredible achievement of bringing under control” the virus.
“Around the world, there is hardly a precedent for it. And the credit for that first and foremost goes to the people of Victoria,” he said.
But it was Mr Frydenberg’s unexpected spray that grabbed the most attention, as he turned the spotlight around to highlight the negative impacts of the lockdown.
The Treasurer didn’t mention Mr Andrews by name, but the target of the speech was unmistakable.
“Victorian people have been magnificent … and it is their victory and no one else’s victory. The Victorian people have suffered so much,” Mr Frydenberg said.
“The pain, the cost, the loss of Victorian people. It should never have come to this.
“The comparison is not with the United Kingdom, the comparison is not with the United States. The comparison is with NSW, Queensland, Tasmania and South Australia.”
The Treasurer spoke of children who had lost education and social time, and the 817 Victorians who have died in the pandemic.
“It all comes back to the failures in hotel quarantine, which we still have no answers for but which we still do,” Mr Frydenberg raged.
“A friend of mine said that a friend of his had taken his own life because he lost his job in Victoria.
“In the same message, he said others had started to self harm. These are not unique cases. These are across the state. This is the price that has been paid during the lockdown.
“I am so happy to join with all those in this place in celebrating the fact that the numbers have come down, but do not pretend there has not been a price. The price has been immense.”
Victorian Labor MP Andrew Giles called it a “nasty speech”.
Mr Albanese’s original motion was passed by the House of Representatives.