Andrews threatens border closures over Kiwi arrivals
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Andrews threatens border closures over Kiwi arrivals

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State border wars have reignited after 17 people arrived in Sydney from New Zealand and flew on to Melbourne on Friday, the first day of the one-way trans-Tasman ‘‘travel bubble’’.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews threatened to close his state’s borders unless federal authorities stop travellers who use the bubble from boarding planes for Victoria.

Premier Daniel Andrews has attacked the federal government for allowing travellers from New Zealand into Victoria.

Premier Daniel Andrews has attacked the federal government for allowing travellers from New Zealand into Victoria.Credit:Chris Hopkins

Acting federal immigration minister Alan Tudge said the arrivals should not have surprised the Andrews government because it had been discussed by the nation’s top health committee on Monday where he said Victoria's Chief Health Officer was present.

That contradicted Professor Sutton’s claim that he was not present at the meeting. "I wasn’t there on Monday," he said on Saturday.

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But Mr Andrews said he had previously told the federal government Victoria was not part of the travel bubble and blamed federal authorities for the arrivals, saying he did not know they were coming and they should have been stopped before they boarded flights to Melbourne.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian made it clear her government would not prevent passengers travelling to Victoria, with a spokeswoman saying the issue was a matter for the southern state. Victoria’s borders are not closed to NSW but anyone returning to NSW from Victoria must enter 14 days of hotel quarantine.

The stoush follows months of skirmishes over internal borders and sets up a tense day on Sunday, with two more planes from New Zealand due to touch down in Sydney.

Victorian authorities spent much of yesterday trying to track down the travellers, with Mr Andrews conceding the state’s health department had no power to stop passengers, detain them or force them into quarantine if they had arrived from interstate, rather than overseas.

One Australian permanent resident, who flew into Melbourne via Jetstar from Auckland on Friday, said he told multiple ground staff at Sydney airport he was planning on travelling to Melbourne, but he was not stopped or detained after passing temperature testing.

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"There was nothing saying you couldn’t enter Melbourne once you’re in the country, only that you had to fly to New South Wales," said the resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared he would be sent back to NSW to quarantine.

On Saturday Qantas changed its advice, telling its customers the situation was "evolving". "You may be turned back upon arrival or be required to quarantine at your own expense," it texted travellers.

Mr Andrews wrote to Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Saturday requesting "urgent" action to halt any onward travel from Kiwi arrivals.

The Premier also advised the Prime Minister that Victoria wanted to push its moratorium on inbound international flights out until mid-November.

A spokeswoman for the federal Department of Health confirmed Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton was present at a meeting on October 12 when the matter of onwards travel of New Zealanders from Sydney to Melbourne was discussed. Mr Tudge also tweeted that Professor Sutton "did not raise any concerns" in the discussions.

It also emerged Mr Andrews’ own department had given one of the arrivals from NZ the green light two weeks ago to travel onward to Victoria although the advice, from the Department of Premier and Cabinet, was issued before Mr Andrews had officially declared his state was not joining the travel bubble.

The Age has also seen an email from the Premier's Department, sent on October 12 in response to a query about travel from NZ via Sydney, that clearly advised that Victoria's borders were open and that the traveller was free to arrive in the southern state.

Mr Morrison’s office would not comment yesterday but senior government sources said there was no reason Victoria should not allow travellers from NZ as there were so few cases of the virus in that country.

The eruption of the border wars came as NSW recorded five new locally acquired coronavirus cases on Saturday, all linked to known clusters, as well as two cases in hotel quarantine.

Victoria recorded just one new COVID-19 case, and Mr Andrews will on Sunday announce the relaxation of some restrictions after months of one of the world’s harshest lockdowns.

Professor Sutton has been contacted for a response.

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