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Feds hit back over Kiwis, focus on Vic

The federal government has hit back at Premier Daniel Andrews’ criticism of the trans-Tasman bubble reaching his state on day one of its operation.

Seventeen travellers landed in Sydney from New Zealand on Friday then flew on to Melbourne despite Victoria not being part of the one-way, quarantine-free arrangement.

“Who gets to board domestic flights at Kingsford Smith Airport in Sydney is not one of the things I am accountable for,” Mr Andrews told reporters.

“Our position had been very clear – we are not in the NZ bubble.”

Acting immigration minister Alan Tudge said the premier’s comments were a “complete distraction” from the matter at hand in Victoria – the easing of restrictions for social and economic relief.

“Victorians have done their side of the bargain in terms of adhering to very severe restrictions for months now,” Mr Tudge, who is also a Victorian, said.

“We hope the premier will heed his side of the bargain tomorrow and start to open up in a similar manner to what NSW has done.”

He brushed off the idea the New Zealand travellers had done anything wrong, saying onward domestic travel had come up in an AHPPC meeting earlier in the week and no state or territory had raised concerns.

Commonwealth officials responded promptly to Victorian requests for the New Zealanders’ passenger cards, he said.

The southern state on the tail end of a deadly second wave reported just one case of COVID-19 on Saturday and no deaths.

New South Wales recorded seven, of which five were locally acquired. South Australia and Western Australia recorded five between them – all returned travellers.

“Great news for Vic,” tweeted federal health minister Greg Hunt.

“Vic should now be able to move to the next step in line with NSW.”

Despite federal pressure, Mr Andrews has held out on providing any clarity about the easing of restrictions ahead of his much-anticipated Sunday announcement.

Opposition spokeswoman for infrastructure, transport and regional development Catherine King praised her Labor colleague on Saturday for his handling of Victoria’s second wave.

“He’s stayed the course despite incredible pressure from Liberal federal members of parliament who ought to know better,” she said.

On the New Zealanders who came to Melbourne, Ms King said they did the wrong thing but the federal government had been slow in passing on passenger information, as had been experienced by the Queensland government.

Her leader, Anthony Albanese said on Saturday it was not easy being in opposition in a time of crisis.

“When things are bad, Australians want their governments to succeed,” he said.

“They don’t want too much politics. So this year we’ve been constructive.”

Labor is now shifting gears and producing policies to address its three greatest priorities: “Jobs, jobs and jobs,” Mr Albanese said.

Meanwhile, West Australian health minister Roger Cook has told the federal government to “get off their butts” and fix the recurring problem of virus-infected crew members coming into Australian waters.

Two crewmen onboard separate bulk carriers had tested positive, Mr Cook said on Saturday.

The ships are the fifth and sixth such vessels WA Health has had to deal with.

While more Australians are preparing to fly home next week after being stuck overseas for months because of the pandemic, the federal government has announced it will digitise the passenger cards in a step towards reopening international borders.

The cardboard slips, which every traveller must fill in before entering the country, will be online, which will allow for coronavirus vaccination records to be uploaded and shared across jurisdictions. It will be a more efficient contract tracing tool, Alan Tudge said.

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