Scott Morrison has slammed ‘provincial’ state premiers who have refused to open their borders to areas with few or no cases of coronavirus.
In a speech at the annual bush summit in Cooma, New south Wales, the prime minister said border restrictions were hurting regional areas.
He said he has heard examples of farmers being unable to move around their properties because they cross state borders and teachers being unable to get to work in neighbouring states.
‘Borders cost communities and their economies,’ he said.
‘They must be proportionate to the risks and they must only be there when health evidence transparently supports that position and only for as long as absolutely necessary.’
He added: ‘It is reasonable for Australians to have access to medical facilities, to get to work and have access to their own properties.’
Western Australia and Tasmania are closed to all states and Queensland is not letting anyone from NSW or the ACT cross the border, even if they are from ares with no cases.
The prime minister said he feared state premiers were forgetting the federation and ‘retreating into provincialism.’
‘Australia was not built to have internal borders. In fact the very point of federation was not to have them. That was the point of Australia,’ he said.
‘We must be one and indivisible as a nation. We must be Australians first and we must not allow this crisis to force us to retreat into provincialism. That’s not the answer.’
The prime minister has ordered health experts to come up with a definition of a hotspot to guide states on which areas they should shut their borders to.
‘We need to get borders open, taking into account health advice that is conveyed transparently,’ he said.
The prime minister is pushing for a streamlined approach to appeals against state border closures during the pandemic.
He has been a frequent critic of states which have shut their borders without releasing the medical advice informing their decisions.
From Friday, people living or working 40km each side of the South Australia-Victoria border will have restrictions relaxed but remain subject to virus tests.
Farmers and border communities continue to raise concerns with restrictions shutting Victoria off from NSW and SA.
NSW has agreed to make the border zone 50km with an agricultural exemption of 100km.
But red tape continues to frustrate farmers and agricultural businesses trying to move animals and machinery.
‘I will continue to work to ensure we have a transparent and fair process, that there are appropriate appeal rights in place for people who are affected by these decisions,’ Mr Morrison said.
Meanwhile, the national virus death toll rose to 584 on Friday with another 12 victims in Victoria.
While deaths are rising, new case numbers are falling with Melbourne in harsh lockdown and restrictions in country areas.
Victoria recorded 113 cases for the second day in a row, the lowest number since July 5.
Mr Morrison is continuing to dig in behind his beleaguered aged care minister while defending issues in the federally regulated aged care system.
The government has made qualified apologies about issues in the sector while also pointing to problems in Victoria’s coronavirus protection regime and health response.
The prime minister has also downplayed reports of a plan to evacuate stranded Australians from overseas and place them in outback quarantine centres.