Simon Birmingham leaves door open to curtailing international arrivals, with Victoria and Qld demanding action from national cabinet


Queensland and Victoria will demand drastic cuts in international arrivals at what is expected to be a tense national cabinet meeting on Friday.

The Commonwealth has not ruled out the measure, with more than 12 million Australians taken into custody in an attempt to contain the rapidly spreading Delta variant of Covid-19.

Victorian Prime Minister Daniel Andrews has argued the threat of lockdowns will persist as long as international arrivals are channeled through hotel quarantine, the source of various leaks since the start of the pandemic. He will present this argument to the national cabinet on Friday morning.

The demand to curb international arrivals, backed by Queensland Prime Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk, set up a tense national cabinet meeting on Friday morning after the federal government accused Queensland of “extremist” rhetoric over the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Home Secretary Karen Andrews poured cold water on reduced arrivals on Wednesday, saying “the first response should not be to close our borders.”

But his colleague, Finance Minister Simon Birmingham, left the door open to the idea, noting that the Commonwealth had already significantly curtailed international movements throughout the pandemic.

“We have also shown a willingness to tighten it even more, like during the epidemic in India, if the risk factor is greater. We will always continue to examine this evidence and work with the state and the territories, ”he told reporters on Thursday.

“There is no one perfect model or approach.”

Mr Andrews, the first Prime Minister to go public with the idea earlier this week, had previously insisted on a 75-80% reduction while the vaccination rolls out.

He said Australia lacked a “comprehensive toolbox” to tackle an outbreak, with not enough Australians vaccinated to handle the highly transmissible variant.

“We know where he came from; it escapes from hotel quarantine because hotels are not built as infection control places. They are built to take care of tourists, ”he said.

Just under 35,000 Australians were stranded abroad at the end of April, and Mr Andrews admitted it would be “hopelessly sad” for those who were told they could not return.

“But if you come home for these compassionate reasons, it makes it much more likely that there will be an epidemic, and we will have to lock down everyone, then you have to make that difficult call,” he said. . .

No more than 1,000 arrivals per week have been allowed to land in Melbourne, and no more than 1,300 in Brisbane. This was overshadowed by the NSW intake of 530 per day, or 3,010 per week.

The federal government praised New South Wales for doing the “heavy lifting” on hotel quarantine, and Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian said on Wednesday that international arrivals ceilings were up to the Commonwealth.

But Ms Palaszczuk demanded a 50% reduction in international arrivals, saying her state’s systems had been overwhelmed.

“We are at the final number of beds. We are now looking for additional hotels for our hotel quarantine, ”she said Thursday.

“Our hotels weren’t built to contain it and you can obviously see that our hospitals are not built to contain it either.”


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