Daniel Andrews has fiercely defended Victoria’s lockdown amid backlash over the announcement that the state will not move into the next stage of restrictions before September 28, even if it meets the daily case threshold earlier.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison aired his frustration toward Mr Andrews for the first time today, urging the premier to re-open the economy faster.
However Mr Andrews stood firm on his decision to extend restrictions on ABC’s 7.30, saying even though people were suffering professionally and personally, saving lives came first.
“The point here, is the notion of spending the rest of this year and pretty much all of 2021 bouncing in and out of lockdowns every four weeks or so – there can be no economic recovery until we deal with the health issue. We have to do this in a sequential, logical way,” Mr Andrews said.
Mr Andrews revealed on Sunday that the current stage 4 COVID-19 lockdown – which was due to end on September 13 – would be extended for an extra fortnight in metro Melbourne.
The Prime Minister suggested today that Mr Andrews improve COVID-19 contact tracing, similar to NSW, instead of extending strict measures. But Mr Andrews rubbished comparisons to other states, saying Victoria was facing “different” issues.
“Sydney has not had the amount of community transmission we’ve had. I don’t think that’s a particularly valid comparison, and not a worthwhile one,” Mr Andrews said.
“We’re not in New South Wales. We have got a set of unique circumstances that apply to Victoria and a road map to safely and steady ease out of these current rules, these current restrictions, to find a COVID-normal, to open up and stay open.
“In the last month, we’ve gone from 725 cases – about a month ago – 41 cases today. So, we are seeing very significant reductions in the number of people who have got this virus. The strategy’s working. But if you open up too much, too early, you don’t stay open for long.
“It is difficult to make comparisons with other states, because in many respects, the circumstances we face – the challenge that we face – is very, very different.”
Most of the cases – 99 per cent to be exact – that sparked Victoria’s second wave came from returned travellers as an inquiry into the hotel quarantine bungle is underway. Despite the damaging saga, which included reports hotel guards were sleeping with guests, Mr Andrews sidestepped when asked if he would consider stepping down as Premier.
“My position and the responsibility I have is to see our state through this. That is what I’m focused on,” he said.
“Let me be – as you said in your question and your acknowledgment – let me be as frank as I can be: Politics has never mattered less to me. Leadership is not able doing what’s popular, it is about doing what’s right.
“This is about a fight with only one – one thing. That’s this wildly infectious virus. The politics of this, that is of no value. The only thing that matters is we all stay the course. We all keep following the data, the science and the doctors and get this done. Then move to the biggest economic repair job that our state has ever seen.”
Earlier today, Mr Morrison said he would adopt a “wait and see” approach to further cash assistance for the state, and advised Mr Andrews to bear more of the financial burden for the decisions he is making.
“Lockdowns and borders are not signs of success in dealing with COVID-19. And so it’s important that we put ourselves in a position where they do not feature in how Australia is dealing with COVID-19 on a sustainable basis,” Mr Morrison said.
“The most important thing is ensuring that we build an integrated tracing capability right across the country.
“As I’ve noted, New South Wales is the gold standard. That is where we have to get everybody to ensure that Australia can be open.”
Mr Morrison said the Commonwealth could not step in and take control because it was a matter for the states but he urged Mr Andrews to consider a faster timetable.