Right at the end of his press conference, Premier Daniel Andrews was asked whether his making it “very clear” that Victoria wasn’t part of the travel bubble was “the same as saying don’t let people on planes”.
“Well, I read it to be the same thing. We’re not part of the bubble, these 17 people have turned up, that means something’s gone wrong. It didn’t go wrong in Victoria, it went wrong somewhere else,” he responded.
“Again, we can’t change that. Let’s just make sure we reach out to these people, and that we don’t have any more people arrive in the same circumstances.
“There’s a very clear letter from me to the Prime Minister saying we’re not part of this, I’ve then written again today…and said look, let’s just all be clear, there’s an issue here, we have to deal with it.
“And I made it clear, I don’t want to close the Victorian border. But if I have to do it, I will. Because I’m just not having people turn up here from another country, and the first we find out about is when they’re already here.
“And we’ve got no powers, because they’ve come from a place that is really low risk, but this is a game about very low risks at the moment.”
In some rather fortuitous timing, acting immigration minister Alan Tudge has announced a digital passenger arrival card.
It comes just moments after Daniel Andrews slammed the Australian Border Force for taking more than 12 hours to give him the passengers cards of 17 New Zealanders who entered Melbourne via Sydney last night.
During the announcement, Mr Tudge said the Premier’s comments are “a complete distraction” and that Mr Andrews should focus on “keeping up his side of the bargain” and “start to open up Victoria (like) NSW”.
“The concept that people may be arriving into NSW and then potentially going on to other destinations was explicitly raised in the meeting (of the AHPPC),” he said.
“And no official from any jurisdiction raised any concerns.
“There was an understanding that when Kiwis…coming from a country with zero transmissions…once they arrived in Sydney they would be treated like every other person in NSW and be able to travel into any other jurisdictions that their visa enables them to travel into, including Victoria.”
Mr Tudge said the passenger cards had been delivered to the Victorian Government at midday.
As coronavirus restrictions continue to ease, Victoria Police have expressed their concern over a potential rise in “street gang” offending.
Deputy Commissioner Rick Nugent said this morning that officers have made 251 arrests over the past month as part of an operation designed to drive down crimes like home invasions, carjackings and aggravated burglaries.
Those arrested were mostly male, aged between their mid-teens to mid-20s.
“The restrictions have made it easier for police to detect offending given less people are out in public,” Mr Nugent said.
Picture: NCA NewsWire/David Geraghty
“We are concerned about the move back, the easing of restrictions, in that offending space.
“Certainly we are looking forward to the easing of restrictions for families and businesses and all the other social components but in terms of offending, that’s one of the reasons we are really focusing on embedding systems and processes around gang-related material. So that when restrictions ease…we are well placed to prevent offending.”
Mr Nugent said the rising levels of unemployment and disadvantage were also being considered by police, regarding to their effect on crime rates and community safety.
“We too are concerned about post-COVID and the impact on people’s families, businesses and the community. They will be doing it tough. They are doing it tough now,” he said.
“We are concerned about what that would mean…what does that mean in terms of community safety and other offences.
“It’s really challenging times for all of us and the sooner we can move out of it the better, but safely.”
Professor Sutton was also quizzed over new emails that The Age has described as “contradicting” his account before the hotel quarantine inquiry.
He says the emails do not show that he was aware of the decision to use private security – and he “did not register” that private security was mentioned.
Picture: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images
“My statement to the inquiry was true,” he said.
“I was not aware, that is what I said to the inquiry and that is what I stand by.”
Asked by a reporter about an email where he said “thanks” to a correspondence mentioning private security, Prof Sutton said: “This particular email was a response to the Commonwealth where they had asked some questions. It was passed to someone in the command structure for the hotel quarantine…they responded to the Commonwealth.
“I thanked them…and I clearly did not register that anything was being said about private security.”
Mr Andrews chimed in on Professor Sutton’s more “constrained” take on Health Minister Greg Hunt’s tweet this morning.
“If Minister Hunt is genuinely suggesting that we are keeping this lock down on because somehow we think Victorians are enjoying it or it is a choice that we are making, this is just – it’s just wrong,” Mr Andrews said.
The Premier took his criticism a fair bit further – also referencing Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s repeated demands that Mr Andrews relieve conditions for businesses to reopen due to the drop in economic activity.
Mr Andrews said their actions are “an insult to the sacrifice that Victorians have made. It’s politics. And Victorians are sick of it”.
Picture: NCA NewsWire/David Crosling
“I will boldly predict that whatever I stand up here tomorrow and announce, there will be members of that Federal Government, some who are from Victoria but I don’t think they’re for Victoria, who will be out there saying, ‘It is not enough, you should have done more’.
“No matter what I announce tomorrow, and what that says to me is that we’re not going to be pressured, we’re not going to be engaging in what I think is a political exercise. It does no credit to those involved in it.
“I will say it again, politics, this sort of stuff doesn’t work, it doesn’t work against this virus. Other Governments, other ministers, people, they are entitled to have their view, but no-one should be suggesting that the chief health officer and I and others are keeping the restrictions on any longer than they need to be, any longer than the advice says to us this is an appropriate response so we can open up. We aren’t going to risk everything that Victorians have sacrificed.
“Whilst people are entitled to different views, some people should reflect on the fact that they are in fact a Health Minister and that actually requires a certain standard, I would have thought.
“We will see this thing off and we will do it properly. I have probably said more than I frankly intended to and more than I am inclined to about people who are, I think, playing games. This is not a game. The stakes are too high.
“Everything that has been done, everything that has been given need to count for something and that is why this strategy is not about racing to open up, running to COVID normal, it is about safe and steady steps.
“Tomorrow, just tomorrow we will make significant announcements and we will have more to say about what the next weekend looks like and the weekend after that.”
Professor Sutton is asked for his take on Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt’s tweet this morning, in which he wrote the needs “have now been firmly met” to pretty well open up completely.
“Minister Hunt is not an epidemiologist, he speaks to others who might have differing opinions,” Prof Sutton responded.
“We are not in an equivalent position. It is fantastic to have a two and a one in the last two days, fantastic. We were at 15 a few days before that…We will be making announcements tomorrow and there will be an easing and we will continue to go through that process, which I have optimistically referred to as a one-way process.
Great news for Vic- the rolling average of new cases is now well below 10. The epidemiological conditions for a Covid Safe reopening of hospitality, movement & family reunions among others, have now been firmly met. Vic should now be able to move to the next step in line w NSW https://t.co/x04HdZjgoo
— Greg Hunt (@GregHuntMP) October 16, 2020
“We want to go to an easing, where there is no backwards step, where we do it with the confidence that it can stay that way and that everyone can enjoy that into the long term. We will do that for this weekend and in the days ahead.”
Prof Sutton said the consequence of jumping the gun “has already played out in Victoria”.
“We don’t want to play with unreasonable risks. We have taken a slow and steady approach for a reason and it has borne out in regional Victoria, in terms of maintaining that status where they’re not getting ongoing local transmission.
“They have had introductions into regional Victoria but otherwise appear to be free of the virus. That is fantastic. The same for metro Melbourne, to be gradually going in this one positive direction is a remarkable achievement.”
Both Mr Andrews and chief health officer Brett Sutton have warned that mystery cases “remain a challenge” for the state.
“Chasing up of mystery cases is critical,” Professor Sutton said.
“All of the things that are in place for these restrictions are also an important part of driving the mystery cases down. They have typically been at about 10 per cent of our total cases right through. We are at a point where we only have a tiny handful of cases each day but the mystery cases are still averaging one a day.
“They are making up a bigger proportion of our daily total, in part because they are the hardest ones to find. They’re not so identifiable as the ones that we discover going through the close contact tracing process. That is a much more straightforward process.”
Mr Andrews has said there’ll be – as anticipated – restrictions announced tomorrow.
“These numbers today are a credit to every single Victorian,” he said.
“These restrictions are painful, there is hurt out there, I know that.
“What this makes possible is tomorrow we will make announcements about easing. We will give people a clear sense of what next weekend and the weekend after will look like.”
There’ll be meetings tonight that will finalise “what is possible tomorrow”, Mr Andrews said.
“There will be easing tomorrow and it is a credit to the hard work and sacrifice…Victorians have proved themselves to be as stubborn as this virus,” he told reporters.
“That makes opening up possible, but this is still not over and we can’t just throw open all the doors, get rid of all the rules and run towards COVID-normal. We have to do this in a safe and steady way. That is what we will do.”
Moving on, Mr Andrews said regional Victoria could soon be opened to NSW and SA after recording only one case.
He said it was an aim for both him and Prime Minister Scott Morrison that this happen by Christmas.
“We’re very close to having a situation where regional Victorians will be able to travel into New South Wales and into SA as well. Those arrangements are for other Premiers to announce. (But) we are closer to that,” he said.
“Once we’re in a position to bring down that ring of steel between metro Melbourne and regional Victoria, then there will be greater freedom of movement within Victoria and then there can be further interstate travel.”
Asked if Victoria should consider shutting its border to prevent another slip-up like this, Mr Andrews said he knew the PM would be “very disappointed” if that happened.
“That is what he is trying to avoid and that is why I wrote to him this morning and made it clear that we need to get to the bottom of this and have the requisite assurances that this won’t happen again and that would then avoid us doing that,” he said.
“I don’t want to do close our border. It has remained open – I want us to play our part and one case today and now active cases down under 150. We are playing our part in getting the borders across the country open. We don’t want anything to jeopardise that.”