Federal Gippsland MP Darren Chester has urged Victorian authorities to show compassion and get residents stuck in NSW home.
The Nationals minister on Monday told Sky News that the “chaotic” snap border closure between the two states on January 1 should not have occurred.
“If I had my way those border closures would not have happened, but I can’t make premiers do something they don’t want to do,” Mr Chester said.
“I’d be urging the Victorian health authorities to show some compassion here to work with these people who did nothing wrong.
“Don’t blame them for going on a holiday when they’ve been locked up for months … you find a way to get them home.”
Thousands of Victorians waited hours to get across the NSW border before it closed at midnight on January 1. Picture: Simon DallingerSource:News Corp Australia
Victorians who did not make it back across the border before it closed have been left in limbo after being told they were only able to return to the state with a “rare” exemption – granted for limited reasons – or if they were a permitted worker.
But Mr Chester said Victorians stranded in NSW should be able to get a COVID-19 test and quarantine in their own homes.
He also defended the federal government’s decision not to get involved in the latest border woes.
“It’s a bit unfair to be blaming the federal government for decisions made by the states which have a direct impact on people’s lives and their livelihoods,” Mr Chester said.
“The Prime Minister can’t stop the states from acting within their constitutional rights.”
Darren Chester said he had a lot of sympathy for Victorians forced to return home early. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary RamageSource:News Corp Australia
Scott Morrison has rejected calls for an urgent national cabinet meeting to be held, saying the next one was scheduled for February.
But the tourism industry is the latest group to join Labor in demanding a national approach to border policies.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese accused Mr Morrison of lacking leadership.
“Scott Morrison has shown consistently that he’s a follower … he waits for others to make decisions and lead and then makes a decision over whether to support it or criticise it,” Mr Albanese said.
“It would be far preferable if we had some form of national co-ordination and national leadership of these issues.”
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