Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews did his best to fob off a question about a “critical” press release issued by the Prime Minister.
Mr Andrews announced on Sunday that Melbourne’s strict COVID-19 lockdown, which was due to end in mid-September, would now be extended for an extra fortnight.
After the announcement, Prime Minister Scott Morrison released a joint press statement with the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Minister for Health Greg Hunt which said: “Today’s announcement from the Victorian Government to extend lockdown arrangements will be hard and crushing news for the people of Victoria, and a further reminder of the impact and costs that result from not being able to contain outbreaks of COVID-19, resulting in high rates of community transmission.”
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The statement continued: “The proposed roadmap will come at a further economic cost. While this needs to be weighed up against mitigating the risk of further community outbreak, it is also true that the continued restrictions will have further impact on the Victorian and national economy, in further job losses and loss of livelihoods, as well as impacting on mental health.
“Of course the Federal Government would like to see restrictions in Victoria lifted as soon as it is safe to do so, but at the end of the day these are decisions solely for the Victorian Government to determine and the roadmap released today is a Victorian Government plan.”
Mr Andrews appeared on The Sunday Project and was asked how he felt about the language used in the press release.
“The Prime Minister, Treasurer and the Federal Health Minister issued a joint release, calling the announcement that you made ‘hard and crushing news’, which kind of sounds critical,” co-host Peter van Onselen said.
“But on Friday, the Prime Minister, he did say he wouldn’t want Victoria to get out of lockdown too soon.
“Where do they stand on this: are they with you or against you?” Onselen asked.
“Well, you’d need to speak to the Prime Minister about the words he chooses in media releases,” Mr Andrews said.
“I spoke to him this morning before I made these announcements. Our partnership is a very important one, there’s no time for politics in this.”
Onselen pressed again, asking the premier: “What do you think of the words he (Scott Morrison) has used?”
“Prime Ministers and Premiers need to be focused on the job at hand and that’s not trying to interpret media releases,” Mr Andrews said.
“That’s working together as closely as we can to get this job done, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
LISA WILKINSON’S TOUGH QUESTION
Mr Andrews was also asked a tough question by The Sunday Project’s Lisa Wilkinson who grilled the premier about the “strong and varied reactions” to his lockdown extension.
“Jennifer Westacott from the BCA (Business Council of Australia) thinks businesses that already had working COVID-safe plans and no transmissions should be allowed to reopen. Why can’t they?”
“Lisa, I’ll just say this: it’s not so much whether a business has had a history of infections, we simply can’t allow their customers out of their homes as if this virus didn’t actually exist,” Mr Andrews said. “It is not about the business setting – it is important – but it doesn’t begin and end there.
“It is about how many customers, how many citizens, can we have moving freely throughout metropolitan Melbourne, throughout regional Victoria, and that point seems to have been missed.
“Ultimately we need to do this in a steady and safe way,” the premier said. “If we could do more faster, if we could have made different announcements today, if the science, the data and
the medical experts had recommended something different, then of course I would have announced something different.
“We can’t ignore the reality we face. Just because we want this to be over, we can’t pretend that it is.
“There’s a lot of pain out there, I understand that, but there will be even more pain if we are open for just a few weeks and then shut down again for months.”