Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has called Queensland’s Deputy Premier “a stumbling, bumbling lightweight that no one’s ever heard of” in a scathing attack over state border closures.
Deputy Premier Steven Miles accused Mr Frydenberg of lying on Thursday when he said Queensland hadn’t asked for an extension of the Australian troop deployment on the NSW border.
The withdrawal of Australian Defence Force troops on October 1 will come a day after Queensland opens to more than 150,000 extra NSW residents when a border bubble is widened.
Mr Miles provided documents on Thursday showing Queensland twice asked for an extension until October 19 and said the withdrawal was “a political attack”.
Mr Frydenberg said the withdrawal wasn’t political and lashed out at Dr Miles.
“He’s a stumbling, bumbling, lightweight that no one’s ever heard of who’s just made it up as he goes,” the Treasurer told Nine’s Today show on Friday.
“I was asked a question on radio yesterday whether the government’s movement of ADF troops was designed to deliberately damage Queensland’s border policy. And I said that was absolutely rubbish and then he goes and holds a press conference asking me to apologise. For what?”
“This guy, just as [Home Affairs Minister] Peter Dutton said earlier, is just seeking to pick a fight, to play politics, to play politics with the pandemic … to play politics with the deployment of ADF troops. I mean, that guy should just grow up.”
The federal Coalition government and Queensland’s Labor government have been caught up in an ugly stoush over the border closure ahead of the October 31 state election.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has refused to cave in to pressure to reopen to all of NSW, saying the state’s chief health officer has advised her that all of the southern state is a COVID-19 hotspot.
But critics say that doesn’t make sense with few cases of community spread outside of Sydney.
Mr Dutton claimed Ms Palaszczuk was acting for political advantage rather than on health advice.
“It was always based on the fact that Queensland is going to an election in a few weeks and the Premier was desperate to make sure there was no outbreak,” he told Today on Friday.
His comments come a day after Mr Miles said there was “a conga line” of federal ministers attacking the Queensland government over its “strong and effective” measures against the virus.
Finance Minister Mathias Corman added his voice to the federal pressure, telling Sky News on Friday that Australia was not designed to have hard state borders.
He said ADF personnel would be redirected to help manage quarantine arrangements.
“In the end it’s the states that want to impose state borders,” he said.
“If that’s what they want to do and that’s what they think is warranted, then it’s a matter for the states to ensure they’ve got the means and tools in place to manage those borders.’
From Queensland, the state will allow up to 30 people to gathering without a COVID-safe plan and people can visit aged care homes and hospitals.
As well, ACT residents can now fly to Queensland without having to go into quarantine.
Queensland Police Deputy Commissioner of specialist operations Steve Gollschewski reminded visitors from Canberra they could arrive only by air and must have a pass.
“They can fly in, they can expect to be still processed at the border. Police will check they have a valid pass,” he told Today.
Queensland has recorded no community spread of the virus for more than 14 days and reported just five active cases on Thursday.