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Local News - Victoria

‘Kick a Vic’ mentality gets short shrift from former premiers


After Queensland’s Labor Party shared a message this month that the state could be “flooded with Victorians” if it opened its borders, NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro suggested on Monday that NSW could step in to host the Melbourne Cup and AFL grand final.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews was quick to bat away Mr Barilaro’s proposal.

“How very kind of him,” the Premier quipped, adding: “I haven’t got time for those really silly games, and that’s what they are.”

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews called talk over the state losing the Melbourne Cup "silly games".

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews called talk over the state losing the Melbourne Cup “silly games”.Credit:Getty Images

Following the closure of the NSW border last week, every state and territory has blocked the entry of Victorians.

While the Northern Territory insists any Victorian who arrives must foot the $2500 bill for their compulsory quarantine, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory won’t let them in at all, except for limited compassionate reasons or if they are granted exemptions for a handful of essential services jobs.

Victoria has recorded 1333 of Australia’s 1423 new coronavirus cases over the past week, or about 93 per cent.

As the state continues to battle outbreaks, with 177 new cases recorded on Monday, former Labor premier Steve Bracks called on Australians to heed Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s message that “we are all Melburnians now”.

“I’m very concerned by the anti-Victorian sentiment coming through across the nation, people almost saying, ‘Well you deserve it in Victoria; we don’t want you here,’ ” said Mr Bracks, who won three elections between 1999 and 2006 before retiring from politics in 2007.

“I think that’s really contrary to what Scott Morrison has pitched. We’ve got to fight this. We don’t want to see US-style division where some states and areas are blamed without really recognising that this could happen anywhere. I think that call needs to be reinforced across Australia.”

Jeff Kennett, who preceded Mr Bracks, compared the anti-Victorian sentiment to when he became premier in 1992 as Australians “laughed at and ridiculed Victoria because of the economic condition we found ourselves in”.

“I hear what people are saying around the country now and I say to them, ‘There but for the grace of God go you,’ because this virus could spread anywhere over time,” the former Liberal premier said.

“But I’m thinking about the future. I would love nothing better than to see Victoria rise from these challenges, as we did before, to give those states that ridiculed Victoria the two-finger salute and prove we can become an exciting destination for all Australians.”

Former Labor premier John Brumby pointed to emerging outbreaks in NSW, where 10 cases of community transmission were reported and a cluster linked to a pub in Sydney’s south-west grew to 21 on Monday, as evidence of how quickly Australia’s coronavirus situation can shift.

“Australia’s effort in tackling coronavirus has been among the very best in the world,” said Mr Brumby, premier from 2007 to 2010.

“Our success going forward will be measured by our continuing capacity to work together. Parochialism and chest-beating won’t stop the virus and certainly won’t help national economic recovery.”

Former premier Dr Denis Napthine said Victoria's situation was "self-inflicted".

Former premier Dr Denis Napthine said Victoria’s situation was “self-inflicted”.Credit:Penny Stephens

However, Denis Napthine, who preceded Daniel Andrews as premier, said the recent anti-Victorian sentiment was “self-inflicted”.

“I don’t blame the other states for saying this is Victoria’s fault and Victoria is dragging the other states down,” the former Liberal premier said.

Mr Napthine, premier from March 2013 to November 2014, accused the Andrews government of mismanaging the crisis.

“Sydney has had a lot more overseas returnees than Melbourne and haven’t had this problem,” he said.

Former Liberal premier Ted Baillieu, who held the post from November 2010 until March 2013, said recent anti-Victorian sentiment had roots in old rivalries.

“I think there’s this quirky, somewhat affectionate but entrenched view that it’s OK to ‘kick a Vic’ and they’re not going to give you trouble for doing it,” he said.

But Mr Baillieu stressed the situation was serious in Victoria and said the Prime Minister was right in saying “we are all Melburnians now”.

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Mr Kennett said Victoria’s leadership must show “excitement, confidence and challenge” to reinstate Victoria as Australia’s fastest growing state in the coronavirus recovery.

“The great risk is a lot of young people, in particular those employed in hospitality and tourism, will seek employment elsewhere and that will have a compounding effect,” he said.

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Premier’s team takes cover over hotel quarantine security guards


At least five travellers from Victoria’s coronavirus hotspots were detected at Sydney Airport, where they face fines of $11,000 or six months’ jail under NSW border restrictions, after flying in on Thursday.

The government is trying to contain outbreaks in the Melbourne’s north and west, many of which have been traced directly back to the isolation hotels.

A $3 million inquiry into the scandal has been set up to find answers about the decision making at the start of the quarantine program.

Details emerged on Thursday of a bureaucratic snarl involving the departments of Health, Jobs, Premier and Cabinet, Emergency Management Victoria and the Victoria Police, which resulted in the decision to hire the private security firms whose employees are being blamed for carrying the virus from the hotels into the community.

The agencies and departments, working under the umbrella of Emergency Management Victoria, have wide powers to make far-reaching decisions when operating in an officially declared state of emergency.

Police and Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville avoided questions on Thursday about which of her cabinet colleagues were involved in the rapid planning of the quarantine hotels program.

It remains unclear if any Labor government minister or Premier Daniel Andrews knew before the hotels began receiving returned travellers for their mandatory 14-day quarantine that private security would be used to guard the sites.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Professor Brett Sutton, said the move to post private security guards at quarantine hotels 'wasn't mine'.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Professor Brett Sutton, said the move to post private security guards at quarantine hotels ‘wasn’t mine’.Credit:Eddie Jim

There are now 415 active cases of the virus in Victoria and there have been a cumulative 332 infections since the pandemic began which authorities believe have been acquired in the community.

Both Professor Sutton and Chief Commissioner Patton said on Thursday that they played no role in the snap decision in May to draft in three private security firms to guard the hotels housing the returned travellers.

Senior state bureaucrats were given little more than 24 hours to put a plan in place to begin receiving returned travellers after the national cabinet approved the policy on March 27, with flights carrying returnees due at Tullamarine from midnight the following day.

The government has confirmed it bypassed the usual tender process when it hired security outfits MSS, Unified and Wilson to deliver security arrangements within the hotel quarantine program, citing the urgency of the effort.

The hotel quarantine program has now been placed under the supervision of prison service Corrections Victoria, while retired judge Jennifer Coate begins her inquiry into the debacle with a reporting date set for September 24.

The terms of reference for the inquiry require Justice Coate and her staff to inquire into the actions of the government, its agencies, contractors and hotels.

Professor Sutton said on Thursday that he had had nothing to do with the decision to hire the private contractors.

“It [the decision] wasn’t mine, I haven’t been involved in the governance and operation,” he said.

“But it was jointly oversighted by emergency management within the Department of Health and Human Services, Emergency Management Victoria and Department of Jobs Precinct and Regions.”

Mr Patton said he had not personally been involved in planning the quarantine effort but indicated that police had a role in the decision making.

Asked if police had refused to have officers stationed inside the hotels, he said he had had no discussions about the program.

“I certainly haven’t had any conversations in relation to the quarantine,” Mr Patton said.

“Decisions were being made with other organisations on what was the most appropriate way for quarantine to be looked after.”

Police Minister Lisa Neville, the only senior Labor government minister to talk to the media on Thursday, was reluctant to speak about the role of ministers in the decision to hire private security, saying the inquiry would look at all aspects of the affair.

The minister stressed the fast-paced environment facing the government’s departments and agencies when they put the quarantine system in place.

“There are a range of people that are involved in making decisions about how you implement a quarantine decision of that nature,” Ms Neville said.

“We did it in 24 hours, decisions were made by various agencies, and I’m not going to throw anybody under the bus, rightly or wrongly.

“Let’s see what the inquiry finds about those decisions.”

When asked why Victoria’s quarantine was run differently to other states, Ms Neville said: “Every state runs their emergency management system in a very different way. In NSW it’s run by the police … that is not the case in Victoria. In health emergencies, it’s health.”

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The secretaries of the departments of Jobs, Precincts and the Regions, Premier and Cabinet, Health and Human Services and the Emergency Services Commissioner either declined to comment on Thursday or did not respond to requests for comment.

Wilson Security said in a statement that it does not provide security services to the Rydges on Swanston or the Stamford Plaza , the two sites confirmed as part of the outbreaks.

The security firm said it used proper hygiene practices and protective equipment at the hotels where it was operating and that none of its workers had tested positive to the virus.

MSS Security declined to comment and Unified Security did not respond to a request for comment.

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Former Victorian premiers call for fast, direct route


They are expected to back a new above-ground link between the airport and Sunshine, with trains to run along existing tracks between the western hub and the city via the new Metro Tunnel.

This will kill a proposal from superannuation fund giant IFM Investors to build a $7 billion tunnel between the city and Sunshine, allowing fast express airport services on dedicated tracks.

Former Liberal premier Mr Kennett – who reserved land for a rail line through Broadmeadows while in power but prioritised the construction of CityLink – called for an express rail link from the city to the airport to ensure the service was competitive with road-based alternatives.

“I think if people are going to use it in large volumes, you’ve got to get to and from the airport quickly,” he said.

“There’s no point in stopping at one or several stations along the way; its self-defeating.”

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Mr Baillieu – who promised to build rail links to Avalon and Tullamarine when he was premier – said, when asked why the project has been put off so long, that the “more direct” airport rail routes had always proven more costly.

“It has been difficult to demonstrate the benefits in terms of speed and time for passengers and, secondly, it seems to be getting more expensive by the day,” he said.

But he believes in the need for “dedicated track” all the way to the airport and easy access points to other transport options at either end of the line, to motivate people to use it.

“Commuters will judge this very quickly and very harshly,” he said. “It will be judged on frequency, speed and cost to them – not to the taxpayer– and what happens at each end. That’ll be it.”

Mr Bracks won the 1999 election promising Melbourne an airport rail link, and he envisioned it would be built under a private-public partnership model.

He said vested interests – the taxi lobby and Melbourne Airport – sought to stop the project.

“Now the airport is a supporter,” he said. “They’ve got so big they can have car parking and fast rail.”

At the time, Labor wanted to investigate opening the line to “suburban commuters as well as airport commuters, so it’s not just businesspeople who use it. If we could capture some of the customers on the way in some suburbs, [we thought] that will help the economic viability of the line.”

The 2001 collapse of Australian airline Ansett – reducing the number of commuters expected to use the line – was the “key” reason for putting the project on hold, Mr Bracks said.

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The former Labor premier, who is also West of Melbourne Economic Development Alliance chairman, said plans to turn Sunshine station into a major hub would be a “great boon for Melbourne’s west”.

Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan said the government would provide a “quick, frequent and affordable service for all passengers”.

“We’re in the midst of the biggest ever public transport investment in Victoria’s history – as Melbourne continues to grow, the projects we’re delivering will ensure our entire network is a reliable, viable and cost-effective alternative to road travel.”

A federal government spokesman said airport rail was a “huge and complex project” and Canberra and Spring Street were working constructively to build it.

“Our ambition is to have a train journey to the airport from the city that is fast, affordable and meets the needs of travellers,” he said. “We want to see it built as soon as possible.”

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Premiers sling barbs at each other over border policies as coronavirus restrictions ease


Opposing stances on coronavirus restrictions related to state borders has exposed rivalries between premiers, with several leaders taking swings at each other as tensions boiled over this week.

The two main agitators, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan, have been squaring up across the country.

Ms Berejiklian wants the return of domestic tourism to help the economy, and has been leading the push to convince other states to scrap travel restrictions.

Out west, Mr McGowan has remained adamant the WA border would remain closed for months, taking exception to being told what to do, and landing a few jabs.

Meanwhile, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk also entered the ring, holding the rope for her Transport Minister Mark Bailey, neither missing a chance to take a crack at the southerners.

Here’s what’s been said as the border issue heats up.

WA — Mark McGowan

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Mark McGowan strongly defends his border closure policy

The WA Premier’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has been well received and, according to Ms Berejikillan, he is bickering with NSW to keep his popularity high.

When Ms Berejiklian said closed states would hurt the national economic recovery, Mr McGowan was quick to suggest NSW was in no place to give advice.

“Do you think I should listen to them? I’m not listening to them.

“Some eastern states politicians don’t like it … but it is based on health advice, it is the best thing for the state.

“It’s odd, New South Wales is saying don’t catch public transport in Sydney, they’re restricting the number of people who can go to a restaurant or cafe far more than Western Australia is, yet they’re saying ‘why can’t New South Wales people fly to Western Australia?’

“We’re not going to give in to that sort of bullying by the New South Wales Premier, or anyone else.”

Mr McGowan said WA would not succumb to pressure from Canberra after Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said if COVID-19 continued to be successfully suppressed states should relax border controls.

“I know the New South Wales Premier is unhappy, I know Mr Birmingham is unhappy. But frankly, bad luck,” he said.

NSW — Gladys Berejiklian

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Gladys Berejiklian responds to the WA Premier calling her a “bully” after her coronavirus border restriction comments

She fired one of the first shots while announcing an end to travel restrictions, positioning NSW as central to the success of the rest of Australia.

“We intend to keep our borders open. We think that’s best for New South Wales but also best for Australia. We’ll play our part as the largest state, traditionally the economic powerhouse of the nation, to make sure we engage as much economic activity as possible.” she said.

When speaking about her opposition to the other premiers’ border shutdowns, said she would “probably feel offended if they told me how to do my job”, but then added:

Ms Berejiklian has suggested closures may be more about politics than health.

“In fact, I’m sure those premiers are getting more popular in their states for keeping their borders closed.”

She has also pointed out that, as international travel ground to a halt during the pandemic, NSW had been the “gateway to Australia”, playing a crucial role in helping people in other states get home.

“The irony is that we have been doing that for all the states, for a significant number of months, so we have been supporting them [other states],” she said.

QLD — Annastacia Palaszczuk and Mark Bailey

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Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says borders must remain closed

At times, Ms Palaszczuk has appeared frustrated when defending the ongoing border closures, which will be reviewed monthly but are unlikely to ease before September.

She has been open to creating a domestic travel bubble with states other than NSW and Victoria.

“Unfortunately, New South Wales and Victoria have that community transmission and they have to get that under control before we allow visitors to come here,” she said.

“You know what, when we get through this together, I’ll be the number one supporter going down there and urging people to come here.”

Mr Bailey took aim directly at Ms Berejiklian, and said his Government “won’t be lectured” by the “worst performing state in Australia”.

“There were 33 times the number of active cases in NSW compared to Queensland,” he said.

Chief Medical Officers don’t want ‘countries within countries’

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Deputy CMO says he’d be ‘happy to meet’ Mark McGowan

While the states have been clashing over what they see as best for their residents, the nation’s top medical officers have stepped in to clarify what they think is the best way forward.

Australia’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly on Wednesday said there was never national advice issued that states should close their borders, but he respected their decision to do so “to protect their own population”.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Nick Coatsworth said decisions about reopening were up to each state.

“At the moment though, with the small number of cases Australia-wide, it is challenging to see the medical benefit of keeping State borders closed for lengthy periods of time going forward,” he told Channel Nine’s Today Show.

“The national strategy is suppression. Which means we are not going for zero cases Australia-wide. So we expect to see small numbers of cases come up now and again.

“Closing the borders may lead to an expectation that you can have zero cases in a particular area until there is a vaccine. I think that would put too much pressure on the nation, of course.

“It is looking for an outcome that we are not even sure that is going to happen. Which is a vaccine that could be 12–18 months away or could never happen.”



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‘A nurse should know better’: Qld premier’s blunt message to ill staffer


Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says a nurse should “know better” after one continued to work at the North Rockhampton Nursing Centre despite feeling sick and later tested positive to COVID-19.

“It is not acceptable for anyone who is sick in this particular pandemic we’re dealing with to go to work if they are sick,” Ms Palaszczuk said in a blunt message.

“If you are sick, stay at home, it is very clear.”

At the facility, 235 staff and residents have tested negative so far with 37 outstanding results, but they will need to be retested given the virus’ incubation period.

Rockhampton locals have been urged to get tested to ensure the area is “under control”.

Image: News Corp Australia



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