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Q+A: Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews issues coronavirus warning, Gladys Berejiklian battles over Ruby Princess


Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has used his appearance on Q+A’s premiers special to issue a warning to Australia that the coronavirus crisis is far from over.

With the nation easing social-distancing restrictions across all states, Mr Andrews suggested Australians must make sure they continue to take things seriously, lest the nation face a similar problem to the former poster-child of how to handle COVID-19, Singapore.

Speaking on the show that also included NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, Mr Andrews insisted Australia must be careful to continue to follow guidelines laid out by politicians.

“Compliance with the new rules will be very, very important,” Mr Andrews said in response to a viewer questioning about whether social-distancing measures were still important.

“This is not over. There’s a long way to run. If we don’t follow the rules over May and into June, we’ll give back all the great progress that we’ve made.

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Mr Andrews also took aim at people who were protesting against social-distancing measures in Victoria on Sunday and suggested they take a look at Europe and the damage people not following social-distancing restrictions has done there.

He was also unhappy that police officers were injured in scenes that saw three protesters charged with assaulting police.

“They were ugly scenes yesterday and I always support people’s right to peacefully protest but there wasn’t much peaceful about it,” Mr Andrews said of the protest, which he described as illegitimate.

“I think some of the protest was about lockdown measures … but this pandemic is very real.

“If you don’t think the Australian experience is something that you should trust, if you need to look further afield, turn your TV on and have a look at what’s happening in Europe and America.

Throughout the pandemic the Victorian leader has been at loggerheads with Prime Minister Scott Morrison over the opening of schools — Mr Morrison has been adamant children should be at school — while Mr Andrews was quick to shut schools in his state, and unlike other states they have not reopened.

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The move was something he stood by on Q+A despite being grilled by host Hamish Macdonald as to why kids in Victoria should continue to stay at home while students in NSW were back at school.

Mr Andrews responded that his state took its position because he thought it was in the best interests of everyone, including teachers, students and parents.

However, that response did not seem to be good enough for the host, who continued to ask him what the difference was between Victoria and NSW.

“We will make announcements very soon about a staged, staggered return back to face-to-face teaching,” Mr Andrews said.

We were clear with parents in order to stop the spread of the virus: plan for the entirety of term two to be from home.”

Still, Macdonald pushed on, asking for a date, but Mr Andrews was having none of it.

“We’re very close. There’s details that have to be settled about the nature of that staggered return. We can confirm tonight that we will have our kids back to face-to-face learning before the end of term two.”

Viewer attacks Berejiklian over Ruby Princess saga

While Mr Andrews issued a warning, it was Ms Berejiklian who arguably had the most difficult night of any of the premiers, due to a viewer who sent in a video question about the NSW Government’s handling of the Ruby Princess case.

Olympia Kwitkowski from Salisbury in Queensland asked why anyone should take advice from Ms Berejiklian or her Government after their handling of the Ruby Princess cruise ship, which resulted in hundreds of coronavirus cases and more than one fifth of Australia’s coronavirus death toll.

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Ms Berejiklian was defiant in her response.

“Well, you’re welcome to listen to your Premier and take her advice,” the NSW Premier offered up, before being pressed on the issue by Macdonald, who insisted a lot of Australians across the country had asked questions about the NSW Government’s handling of the issue.

He then pressed on asking: “At what point is your Government going to take political accountability?”

Ms Berejiklian insisted her Government had done so.

“From day one, I’ve stood up, as have ever everybody in my Government, and said a number of authorities could have and should have done better,” Ms Berejiklian said.

A picture of a huge cruise ship — the infamous Ruby Princess — at what looks like an industrial dock.
The Ruby Princess cruise ship case cluster continues to dog the NSW Premier.(ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale)

The NSW Premier also said “border protection is not something normally the states would be involved in” in response to that question, adding: “We have to allow the commission of inquiry to do its work.”

As she waits on that report, Ms Berejiklian said her Government would learn from it but admitted she “can’t promise there won’t be other mistakes into the future” when it comes to how NSW handles their response.

Palaszczuk ‘didn’t sleep for weeks’

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk admitted to having had several sleepless nights when the pandemic first hit Queensland in January.

“The initial modelling we had was if we didn’t flatten the curve, in Queensland there could have been 37,000 people who lost their lives.”

The Queensland Premier also said she was fearful, like Mr Andrews, of what a second wave of the virus could do in Australia.

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“We know at any time we could be susceptible for another outbreak. We could have a second wave, you only have to look at what’s happening in the US,” she said.

“Thank God we all live in Australia.”

However, for now Ms Palaszczuk hopes Queensland, where tourism is such a big part of the economy, will have people travelling around the state soon.

“Hopefully by June and July, we’ll be able to have people travelling around Queensland,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“But it might be a little bit longer before we see our southerners come back to Queensland.”

Asked when that could happen, she was not sure but said that it could be on a state-by-state basis.

“We’ll be reviewing that at the end of each month because there’s thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs. A $20 billion economy to Queensland,” she said.

Watch the full episode of Q+A on iview or catch it again on the Facebook page



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