West Australian Premier Mark McGowan is on a collision course with the prime minister over interstate travel, declaring ahead of Friday’s national cabinet meeting that COVID-19 hotspots are far less effective than border closures.
A bruising showdown is looming during the meeting of federal, state and territory leaders, as Prime Minister Scott Morrison continues to push for the states to fully open their borders.
The federal coalition, which is powerless to reopen the states, wants a national definition of a coronavirus hotspot to guide cross-border travel rules, as the pandemic continues.
But Mr McGowan, who is riding high in the polls ahead of the WA election next March on the back of his hard border policy, has poured cold water on the idea.
“Hotspots are nowhere near as good as borders for protecting our state,” he told reporters on Thursday.
“If you have a hotspot, you basically have a set of postcodes in another interstate city from which people can’t come, and then you rely upon no one else in Melbourne or Sydney having gone through that hotspot.
“You rely upon the honesty or truthfulness of people in terms of where they claim they live.
“It’s a very difficult system to administer and it’s very unreliable.”
A new People’s Voice Poll by Painted Dog Research published in The West Australian on Thursday shows approval of the border closure has risen to 92 per cent.
Support for the policy, which denies interstate travellers entry to WA except under special circumstances, was highest among people aged 18-39 and women.
The survey of 837 West Australians also shows the Labor premier’s approval rating has soared to 91 per cent.
Mr McGowan on Thursday launched a new campaign urging young West Australians to take up regional agriculture jobs, describing it as the opportunity for an “unforgettable adventure”.
He said people who took up seasonal harvest jobs should be given an exemption for losing the JobSeeker payment.
WA’s Liberal opposition lambasted the plan, saying previous pushes for city people to take farm jobs had fallen flat and applicants would need a huge amount of training.
“No farmer in their right mind is going to put a backpacker from the city or new graduate trainee into a $750,000 header and send them out into the paddocks,” opposition agriculture spokesman Steve Thomas said.
The McGowan government also wants airlines to be forced to provide flight manifests to WA authorities so they can screen arrivals, following several prominent quarantine breaches.
The premier plans to raise the issue at the national cabinet.
But the nation’s carriers oppose the idea, saying it’s impractical for an industry that’s had to stand down much of its workforce due to the pandemic.
No new cases were recorded on Thursday, leaving the state with three active cases.