NCA NewsWire
NCA NewsWire

‘Ridiculous’: PM blasted for border backflip

Scott Morrison has officially backflipped over his calls to keep borders open across Australia and will now support NSW's decision to issue turnback orders for Victorian travellers.

News.com.au understands the Prime Minister has indicated to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian in a phone call this morning that he understands the decision to shut the border with Victoria.

Despite arguing for months that border closures in Queensland and WA were not required, he's now accepted the rising rate of community transmission in Victoria has changed the game.

But the change of heart has prompted angry premiers to demand the Morrison Government drop its intervention in a "ridiculous" High Court challenge being backed by businessman Clive Palmer into the border closures.

Those legal challenges are set to be argued in the Federal Court on Monday, July 13 and 14.

The Prime Minister has consistently argued the health advice does not support border closures, conceding it was up to the state premiers to decide but warning it is costing jobs.

So, what's changed? The simple answer is that the Prime Minister has accepted that the rising rates of community transmission in Victoria - previously unseen in Australia - has justified the first border closure between NSW and Victoria in 100 years.

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From midnight Tuesday the border between NSW and Victoria will close. Picture: Supplied
From midnight Tuesday the border between NSW and Victoria will close. Picture: Supplied

Previously, when Victoria had higher rates of new cases at the beginning of the pandemic it related to foreign travellers returning from overseas.

This time, confirmation that the virus is being transmitted in the community, and in the high rise public housing communities with shared lifts and laundries that have been compared to cruise ships, is a far more alarming prospect.

WA Premier Mark McGowan said it was now time for premiers and prime ministers to stop telling other leaders what to do with their borders.

"I think premiers should be able to make the decision in the interests of their own state without others trying to tell them what to do," he said.

"I've advised all the other premiers and the prime minister that we need to keep our border in place until it's safe to bring it down. Now obviously that's copped some criticism, but I think the cautious, considered and careful approach has paid dividends … and we intend to keep doing that."

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian announces the closures of the NSW state border to Victoria. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Jeremy Piper
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian announces the closures of the NSW state border to Victoria. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Jeremy Piper

The WA premier said the High Court challenge Mr Palmer should now be scrapped.

"The best thing that could happen now is Mr Palmer withdrawing his High Court challenge and the Commonwealth stopped supporting him," he said.

"Clearly there is no basis to this high court challenge now, especially the Commonwealth, so I've written to the Prime Minister today - I've contacted him personally - to indicate I think it's appropriate now they withdraw this legal action."

"Quite frankly, the legal challenge, and especially the commonwealth involvement in it, has now become completely ridiculous."

"This nonsense has to stop, and it has to stop now."

On June 18, the Prime Minister complained that the border closures were costing "5,000 jobs a week".

"This is why borders should be opened up. There's never been any advice which says they should be closed," the Prime Minister told 2GB radio.

"And that's why this is so frustrating. I'm pleased that we've got a timetable at least now. And that's important because that means that particularly the tourism industry up in Queensland can now start planning to take people again when that turns back on.

"But there was no reason for the borders to be shut in the first place. And so they need to be reopened."

Last month, Attorney-General Christian Porter announced the Commonwealth would join the High Court dispute over WA border closures brought by businessman Clive Palmer, claiming "there's a very strong argument that it's unconstitutional".

"Well it's not the Commonwealth Government's action. I mean this is private citizens arguing that the border closure in the present circumstances is unconstitutional and that is their right,'' Mr Porter said.

"(But) calling someone selfish for arguing a constitutional right is something that I strongly disagree with."

The PM has officially backflipped on borders as Victoria’s spike spirals out of control. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Terry Cunningham
The PM has officially backflipped on borders as Victoria’s spike spirals out of control. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Terry Cunningham

Across Australia, the complex state of play of border restrictions is a patchwork across the nation.

The ACT's and Victoria's borders remain open. The NSW border will be closed to Melburnians from midnight tonight and to all Victorians from midnight on Tuesday.

In Tasmania, all non-essential travellers arriving on the island need to quarantine for 14 days. In SA, people travelling from NSW and the ACT are required to self quarantine on arrival.

There are no restrictions for travellers from other states.

The WA Premier said it was clear what was happening in Victoria was new and different.

"The level of community spread inside Victoria is something that we haven't seen before in this country,'' he said.

"There is no doubt about it - as a nation we are entering a new and dangerous phase of this pandemic. Victoria is doing all it can to bring the situation under control."

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who had previously opposed border closures adopted a softer approach on Monday when asked if other states will have to take tougher action.

"Let's see what happens in the next couple of weeks. It is a challenging period," he said.

Originally published as 'Ridiculous': PM blasted for border backflip


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