West Australian Premier Mark McGowan says the “unpleasant” and ”threatening” abuse he has copped for his tough Covid stance is unlike anything he’s ever experienced in his 20-plus years in politics.
The Labor leader announced on Friday the state border would be eased to allow for international and interstate travel from all jurisdictions when 90 per cent of the population aged 12 years and older has had two Covid-19 jabs, expected in late January or early February.
There will be conditions including returning a negative PCR test 72 hours prior to departure while face masks will be required for some high risk indoor settings such as public transport, hospitals and aged care facilities.
He’s clearly bothered by press coverage of the announcement.
“I don’t think there’s a wide understanding in the national press that the borders are open to Queensland, Northern Territory, South Australia and Tasmania currently,” Mr McGowan said on Sunday.
“Whenever they write anything, they seem to think Western Australia is locked off from the rest of the country, which we’re not.
“So I just urge them to be accurate in their reporting of these matters.”
He said the plan would save lives and avoid the need for restrictions over the Christmas holidays, with WA’s full reopening expected to come just a few weeks after the NT’s.
Mr McGowan said his recent ‘snag and jab’ at Bunnings push was helping lift vaccination rates, which are the nation’s lowest for double jabbed (66.5 per cent) and third lowest for single dosed (80.5 per cent), according to federal government figures, which are based on the population aged 16 and over.
Rates are lower in remote Aboriginal communities, so entry may be restricted after the official reopening.
Entire regions may even be restricted.
“The Pilbara is the one that most worries us – it may well be, if we don’t get to high levels of vaccination in the Pilbara, the only people that can come in or out will be those who are double vaccinated,” Mr McGowan said.
He said he’d had many adverse reactions to the plan.
“There’s always lots of emails and lots of phone messages that are unpleasant … but I’m not going to be deterred by that.
“In fact it makes me more determined to get people vaccinated and make sure we get through this period with as little trouble and as unscathed as possible.”
He urged those who engaged in “threatening, intimidatory conduct” to stop because it wasn’t going to change anything.
“And it’s not going to make us any less determined.”
The Premier was reluctant to discuss in detail direct threats he has received, including a recent incident that prompted him to rush back to his family home from an event. At least one matter is before the courts.
“The police have to deal with these things but it’s not something I really want to canvass too deeply.
“I haven’t seen anything like this in my 25 years in parliament, this sort of conduct.
“We’re going to get people vaccinated and the mandates are going to stay in place.”
It’s clear mandating jabs for certain jobs has made him some enemies.
“The mandates just say if you want to work in some environment, if you want to work in some occupations, you’re required to be vaccinated.
“Get vaccinated or work somewhere else.”
Mr McGowan is in the midst of his second term as Premier after Labor’s historic election victory last year and recent polling showed 82 per cent of West Australians backed his border stance, down from 92 per cent just about 14 months ago.