Anthony Albanese has accused the prime minister of hypocrisy for attacking Queensland’s border closure while states like Tasmania avoid the same level of criticism.
The federal Labor leader said other states with hard border stances had not been subjected to the same level of scrutiny from the federal government as the Sunshine State.
It comes as Scott Morrison is expected to land in Queensland on Saturday to campaign against the state Labor government he has been sparring with as Annastacia Palaszczuk seeks re-election.
Mr Albanese said the prime minister appeared to be specifically targeting Queensland over its COVID closure even though other states had similar border rules.
“If you look at Queensland’s economy, as well as Western Australia’s, it is a fact that the economies that have been doing the best during this difficult period are ones that have made difficult decisions,” Mr Albanese told ABC radio on Friday.
“Tasmania’s border, they announced a long time ago now, would be closed until the first of December … and we haven’t heard one word of criticism by anyone from the Liberal and National parties about that.”
Queensland has set a strict benchmark of 28 days with no community transmission before NSW residents will allowed to cross the border, which has been labelled unrealistic by the NSW government as the state recorded another five five locally acquired cases on Friday.
Mr Morrison heaped fresh scorn on Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk this week, questioning if she was “for jobs or not” over her decision to keep the border shut.
He is set to fly to Queensland on Saturday to help boost Liberal National Party leader Deb Frecklington, who was trailing in the most recent opinion poll ahead of the state election on October 31.
Mr Morrison, who’s popular with Queensland voters, is almost certain to again take aim at Ms Palaszczuk over the state’s border closure which he claims is uncompassionate to families and damaging the economy.
Ms Palaszczuk will also be in the state’s southeast after a flying visit to north Queensland to shore up marginal Labor seats this week.
The premier will hit the hustings in Brisbane or Gold Coast seats, and won’t be afraid to engage the prime minister again over the borders.
Ahead of his visit, she asked why his plan for a national COVID-19 hotspot system – which would allow for borders to reopen sooner – had suddenly been ditched.
“There was a proposal that was supposed to go to national cabinet and for some reason, unbeknown to me, the prime minister decided not to bring that forward,” Ms Palaszczuk said on Friday.
“The AHPPC (Australian Health Protection Principal Committee) had agreed, is my understanding, on a set of terms and conditions and it never proceeded to national cabinet.”
Victoria cases plateau
Strong hopes of an easing of restrictions on October 19 have dissipated as growing outbreaks linked to Chadstone Shopping Centre, a cafe in Kilmore and Box Hill hospital cause daily case numbers to plateau.
Melbourne needs a 14-day average of five cases and no more than five mystery cases during the same period, to trigger the next step out of lockdown.
The city’s current average is 9.4.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said on Friday the plateau was frustrating but he remained upbeat about the overall trend.
“We will get on top of these outbreaks, we always do,” he said.
The Butcher Club cluster at Chadstone numbers 32 cases, up one from Thursday, and has led to five cases nearly 100km away at Oddfellows cafe in Kilmore, after an infected person linked to the Chadstone outbreak dined there.
One Chadstone case who lives in Frankston has led to a cluster of 12 in that suburb, who are mostly family members.
An outbreak at Box Hill Hospital in Melbourne’s east has grown to four cases. Prof Sutton said staff are being tested but could not say how the outbreak started.
Meanwhile, questions continue to be asked about who made the fateful decision to use private security guards for the state’s hotel quarantine program which ultimately led to the second wave.
On Friday, Mr Andrews had to repeatedly brush off questions from Sky News presenter and former chief of staff to prime minister Tony Abbott, Peta Credlin, about his phone records.
She put to him during his daily press conference that he could, of his own accord, release his phone records from March 27 and potentially clear up the question of who decided to use private security.
Mr Andrews said he would not do anything outside the formal inquiry process, saying, “if they want to make a request of me then they are free to do so”.
Meanwhile, Victoria’s former health minister Jenny Mikakos has told the state’s hotel quarantine inquiry the premier’s evidence about private security should be “treated with caution”.
In her response to closing submissions, Ms Mikakos says it is “implausible” to suggest no one made the decision to use private security guards in the botched program.
Lawyers assisting the inquiry have argued the decision was not made by one person or one government department and circumstances instead pointed to a “creeping assumption that became a reality”.
However, in closing submissions to the inquiry on Friday, the hotel where the second wave originated, the Rydges Hotel, submitted that a “creeping assumption” was not supported in the evidence.
“A positive decision from within the Department of Premier and Cabinet is directly supported by the contemporaneous evidence,” the hotel stated.