In a furious spray on morning radio, the New South Wales deputy premier told the Western Australia leader to ‘stop lecturing’ his government on how to deal with the pandemic.
Over the past few weeks, Mr McGowan has called for Sydney to go into lockdown to eliminate the spread of Covid-19 – but the NSW government is taking a balanced approach that factors in the economy and the mental well-being of citizens.
Western Australia’s border closures have kept families apart. Pictured: A family at Brisbane Airport
Australian cruise ship passengers arrive at the Duxton Hotel in Perth to do quarantine in March
On Monday, Mr McGowan – who faces an election in March – again called for a total elimination strategy, saying: ‘The idea that you tick along with the virus and somehow that is a better model is wrong.’
Western Australia has taken the harshest approach to coronavirus of all Australia’s jurisdictions, only opening its borders to New South Wales for two weeks in December before slamming them shut again due to an outbreak on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
The move left families who had not seen each other for more than a year stranded apart over Christmas and New Year and caused further pain for crippled tourism and travel businesses.
Mr Barilaro, who took a four-week mental health break in October, accused Mr McGowan of fuelling a mental health crisis and defended his government’s approach.
John Barilaro (pictured last week) took a four-week mental health break in October
‘For Mark McGowan, it’s easy. He puts up the borders in Western Australia, cuts off the rest of the nation,’ the deputy premier told 2GB radio in an escalation of the ongoing feud between the states.
‘We’ve had Covid deaths in this nation but we’re going to have more deaths from mental health from people locked away in isolation, people not being able to reunite with family and [that’s what] Mark McGowan stands for.
‘I’m happy to say that this morning and have a go straight back at him. Stop lecturing, look after your own backyard,’ he added.
A study by the University of Sydney in July predicted that suicide deaths would increase by up to 22 per cent over the next five years due to the effects of the pandemic.
Lifeline’s helpline has received 3,000 more calls this year than last, an increase of about 20 per cent.
Gladys Berejiklian (pictured) said eliminating coronavirus was not possible because Australians have to be allowed to return
In 2019, a total of 3,318 people took their own lives in Australia, with government figures for 2020 not yet available. A total of 909 Australians have died with coronavirus.
In a press briefing on Tuesday Premier Gladys Berejiklian said eliminating coronavirus was not possible because Australians have to be allowed to return from overseas where the disease is rampant.
‘Anyone who thinks we’re going to eliminate or eradicate this disease, unfortunately doesn’t appreciate what the pandemic means,’ she said.
She also criticised Mr McGowan for shutting his state’s borders to any jurisdiction that suffers just one Covid-19 case.
I don’t believe keeping your borders closed and inflicting pain and suffering on thousands of people is the way to go
‘I don’t believe keeping your borders closed and inflicting pain and suffering on thousands of people is the way to go,’ she said.
‘In New South Wales, we want our citizens to live as freely as possible, to maintain their livelihoods as much as possible. But in a Covid-safe way. And that’s always been our objective.’
Ms Berejiklian said she was disappointed that Mr McGowan didn’t seem to appreciate that New South Wales has accepted about half of all arrivals from overseas since March.
‘I think that no doubt each state premier has their views of the world. We don’t all agree on everything, which is fine. But I think respect goes a long way,’ she said.
‘And I think just appreciating what New South Wales has done on behalf of Australia in terms in returning 100,000 travellers is a big deal. That’s why overnight, we had 11 cases in quarantine,’ she said.
Nationals Senator Matt Canavan also said an elimination strategy was ‘impracticable’ because Australia’s cases stem from hotel quarantine.
‘If we wanted to adopt an elimination strategy that would mean we’d have to shut off the whole of Australia,’ he told Sky News on Tuesday morning.
‘The only practical way to pursue what Mark McGowan wants is to completely close our borders. I could not fathom that at all.’
Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack, who is filling in while Scott Morrison is on a week of leave, also said Mr McGowan has an easier job than other premiers.
‘Western Australia and NSW are very different states. Look at the NSW border, for instance, there are 57 bridges and openings across to Victoria. The Tweed River area with Queensland is just a massive economic area.
‘Western Australia doesn’t have anything like that, so it’s easier for Western Australia to shut its borders and keep them shut tight.’
- For confidential support call the Lifeline 24-hour crisis support on 13 11 14
In Tuesday’s press briefing, Ms Berejiklian hit back at Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan (pictured)