Victorian Premier Dan Andrews has urged all political leaders, including the Josh Frydenberg, to quit “playing politics” with COVID-19.
The plea comes after the Treasurer did the rounds of breakfast television, appearing on multiple programs, to attack the state’s coronavirus crisis and its economic impact.
Mr Frydenberg compared the situation with “a car crash” and urged a clear roadmap out of the restrictions.
Mr Andrews was asked for his response at his daily news conference.
“I’m not here to argue with Josh Frydenberg. I haven’t got time to have an argument with him or a debate – or even a discussion. I’m very focused on getting the job done,’’ Mr Andrews said.
“I just make the point I made yesterday – none of us, none of us, have the luxury to be playing politics with these things. That’s – I’m just not going to do that.
“Our nation and our state requires all leaders of all political persuasions to work together. That’s what I’m doing and that’s what I’ll continue to do. I’m just not interested in having an argument or a fight with anything or anybody other than this wicked coronavirus.”
Mr Frydenberg clashed with ABC News Breakfast’s Michael Rowland during a fiery interview over whether or not his push for a road map out of Victoria’s virus lockdown is a plan to “let it rip.”
The Morrison Government has ramped up pressure on Mr Andrews to declare how many cases are low enough to reopen the economy and “manage the virus.”
“What we need to hear from Daniel Andrews is – what is the appropriate level of new cases in Victoria for him to open up stage 4 restrictions? It’s only two weeks to go,’’ Mr Frydenberg told ABC News Breakfast.
“The mental health impacts are immense. I mean, kids are not seeing their friends.
“Grandparents are not seeing their grandchildren. Families can’t go to work. Businesses have their doors closed. We’re subject to curfews in Victoria. You can’t move more than 5km from your home. The damage is immense. Yet, the Premier has not provided a road map out.”
But the ABC breakfast host, who is also living under the lockdown with his own family in Victoria, then questioned whether it was too early to relax restrictions.
“I hear you Treasurer. My kids can’t see their friends. I’m lucky enough to have a job. I’ve got heaps of friends who have lost their jobs. But I’ll go back to where I started. What is the alternative?,’’ he asked.
“Do you honestly believe Daniel Andrews would keep the lockdown in place one day, one hour longer than he needed to?”
“We haven’t seen a definite plan from the Victorian Premier, and just yesterday, he said it’s too early for that,’’ Mr Frydenberg said.
“I disagree with him on that and so do Victorian businesses and many Victorian families.”
“OK, what is the medical advice you’re getting? What is an acceptable level?,’’ Rowland then asked.
But Mr Frydenberg refused to nominate his own number for how low cases need to be in order to reopen Melbourne suggesting this was the Victorian Premier’s job.
“Don’t you want answers? Don’t you want answers Michael?,’’ Mr Frydenberg said.
“Again, we need to hear that from the Premier. What I do know is that yesterday, there were seven cases in New South Wales. Yet, that economy is open.”
“Do we let it rip with infections still at more than 100 a day?,’’ Rowland then responded.
The Morrison Government is insisting other states have “managed the virus” and Victoria’s hotel quarantine program is to blame for the second wave in the state.
Citing new figures that reveal it’s smashing the economy with spending in the state plunging by more than 30 per cent, Mr Frydenberg said 400,000 people have joined the unemployment queues in the state.
“Now, if these statistics from the Australian Treasury are not enough to bring forward an economic plan from Daniel Andrews to take Victorian out of stage 4 restrictions – I don’t know what will,’’ Mr Frydenberg said.
Labor’s treasury spokesman Jim Chalmers accused the Treasurer of simply trying to dodge responsibility.
“We have a Government which spends all of its time blame shifting and finger pointing,’’ he said.
“The Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was at it again this morning. This guy only ever talks about the Labor Party or the Victorian State Government, and that’s because he has no ideas of his own for how to deal with this jobs crisis which has emerged on his watch.”