News National Premiers are free to ignore national COVID plan: Minister Stuart Robert

Premiers are free to ignore national COVID plan: Minister Stuart Robert

If premiers wish to keep their states locked down, that's their perogative, says Stuart Robert. Photo: Getty
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Federal employment minister Stuart Robert regards the national COVID-19 plan as a guide that may need to be altered if circumstances change.

The plan, which aims to ease coronavirus restrictions once vaccination rates hit 70 and 80 per cent has caused much bickering between federal and state governments in recent weeks about at what stage should internal borders reopen.

So far, more than 35 per cent of the eligible population aged over 16 is fully vaccinated with two doses.

“The national plan is designed to give us a framework on which to operate from,” Mr Robert told ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday.

“We have to give people a national plan as to where we are going and use the international experience as a guide at the same time.”

West Australian Premier Mark McGowan and Queensland’s Annastacia Palaszczuk have been particularly adamant in keeping to strict border controls until they are satisfied the virus is under control.

Mr Robert said these are decisions for the premiers, but the national plan is there to provide guidance.

“At 80 per cent mark, you would be questioning why there are lockdowns,” he said.

But he also conceded the plan may change with circumstances.

“Look at the last 12 months – things have been shifting on a daily and weekly basis. A plan is always a basis for change, it has to be,” he said.

Federal-state cooperation vital

Deputy Labor leader Richard Marles said it is important that the national plan is supported, but he also felt premiers have legitimate questions about where children fit into the plan.

“What’s important is that the federal government is working with the states to bring them along,” Mr Marles told Sky News’ Sunday Agenda program.

Meanwhile, Victoria recorded a further 183 new virus cases on Sunday, 101 of which are linked to known cases and outbreaks..

The state’s chief health officer Brett Sutton continues to urge more people to get vaccinated in order to hold back the “tsunami” of potential cases.

On Saturday, Australia recorded its highest daily COVID-19 infection count at more than 1700 virus cases with NSW posting 1533 new cases, Victoria 190, and the ACT 32.

Queensland Health issued an alert on Sunday after a third truck driver tested positive for COVID-19 in NSW after being infectious in Brisbane’s southern suburbs for two days.