Greg Hunt has moved to ease tensions between the states and territories over their handling of the coronavirus pandemic, insisting the country is moving in “one direction” in easing restrictions.
The Health Minister has spoken out following the emergence of tensions between federal Liberal MPs and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews over the latter’s handling of the crisis.
The political bickering emerged as another death was reported at Sydney’s Newmarch House aged care facility, bringing the nation’s fatalities to 98.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday announced a three-stage plan to lift restrictions across Australia, with the backing of the national cabinet.
Individual states and territories have the final say in when they are implemented.
Mr Morrison is aiming for stage three to be implemented by July, with the lifting of restrictions getting 850,000 people back to work.
Victoria and NSW are not rushing into lifting restrictions, while other jurisdictions are moving more promptly on stage one.
I’ll keep this one relatively short given it’s a Friday afternoon.
I know lots of people are keen to find out when the rules will change.
We’ve just carried out the biggest public health testing blitz in our nation’s history. It’s only logical that we wait for the results. pic.twitter.com/YZYiGAwXob
— Dan Andrews (@DanielAndrewsMP) May 8, 2020
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said it was appropriate for the state and territories to implement the stages when they see it’s appropriate.
“I don’t think anyone wants to see these restrictions imposed for one day longer than is necessary, but they also don’t want to see the health advice of the respective state authorities ignored,” Mr Albanese told reporters in Queanbeyan, NSW on Saturday.
“They want to make sure what we don’t have an opening up one one day and restrictions put back on, perhaps even in a stricter fashion, the very next day because it hasn’t worked.”
Liberal backbencher Tim Wilson agreed, but he said the states have to explain why they are taking different approaches.
He said in his home state of Victoria, Premier Daniel Andrews has to explain why other states are allowing people to visit their mums on Mother’s Day and can send their child to school but Victorians can’t.
“There is actually now a narrative that’s building in parts of Victoria where people are increasingly concerned that he’s probably enjoying the clampdown too much in terms of the authority and power it’s given him, and he’s not as enthusiastic to roll it back,” Tim Wilson told the ABC.
Mr Albanese described Mr Wilson’s comments as “childish” given Australians have died during a crisis that has left a million people unemployed..
“Quite frankly Tim Wilson needs to … think before he speaks,” he said.
A week earlier, Education Minister Dan Tehan – also a Victorian – had said Mr Andrews had failed in his leadership, before withdrawing the comments.
But Mr Hunt insists the states and territories are working as one through the national cabinet and all had agreed to the three-stage road map.
“One country, one direction, different speeds, but all heading towards the common goal of keeping Australians safe but getting Australians back to work,” the minister told reporters in Melbourne.
Aside from the political argy-bargy, Mr Hunt reported 20 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the national total closer to the 7000 mark.