It’s not exactly duelling pistols at 20 paces. It’s more like a playground argument as the premiers of NSW, Queensland and WA engage in a bout of name-calling and accuse each other of bullying in a tiff over the reopening of state borders.
NSW, Australia’s most populous state and the one with by far the largest number of COVID-19 infections, is pushing strongly for interstate borders to open now in order to facilitate travel.
Federal tourism and health chiefs are on the side of NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s repeated calls for this. But Queensland and Western Australia are having none of it.
Queensland Premier hurls the insults
Neighbouring Queensland has been particularly strident in its opposition.
“Let’s be very clear, on the border issue we won’t be lectured to by the worst performing state in Australia,” said a steely premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. She noted that there are 3 times the number of active cases in NSW compared to Queensland.
Palaszczuk continued her attack: “So, NSW needs to get its act together and get its community transmission down and we’ll all be better off throughout this nation, including in Queensland.
“It’s time for Gladys and the NSW government to get their act together and to start performing as well as Queensland has done on the health front.”
Palaszczuk said she had deferred to Queensland chief medical officer, Dr Jeannette Young, who believed that keeping the borders closed was an important preventative measure.
Western Australia is determined not to be outdone
Not to be outdone, WA Premier Mark McGowan also noted that he would not take health advice from the state where the Ruby Princess cruise ship was allowed to disembark passengers.
“We’re not going to give in to that sort of bullying by the NSW premier or anyone else. We are going to protect the health and the economy of Western Australia,” he said.
“It’s odd, NSW is saying don’t catch public transport in Sydney … yet they’re saying why can’t NSW people fly to Western Australia,” McGowan observed.
Then the NSW Premier fights back
“I just don’t think it’s logical at this stage to maintain those border closures for a prolonged period of time,” Berejiklian told ABC TV on Thursday, 21 May.
“For Australia to really move forward as a nation during this very difficult economic time as well as difficult health time, we do need … to allow people to move between states, to live, to work, to see family,” she said.
She added that communities along the NSW- Queensland border saw it as “artificial”, with a visit to a doctor or family often meaning crossing state lines.