Barr warns Victorian MPs not to endanger ACT’s safety

Genevieve Jacobs 9 August 2020 20
Chief Minister Andrew Barr

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has warned Victorian MPs that they pose a significant health risk. Photo: File.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, warning him that Victorian parliamentarians who are planning to return to Canberra “present a significant risk” in relation to COVID-19 transmission.

It’s understood that a number of Victorian MPs and their essential staff are planning to travel to Canberra for the forthcoming parliamentary sitting. Both Houses of Parliament are next scheduled to sit from 24 August to 3 September.

Parliament had been due to sit at the beginning of August, but the sitting was cancelled after acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly issued advice saying there was a significant risk allowing politicians to come to Canberra due to increased community transmission of COVID-19 in Victoria and the trends in New South Wales.

“A transmission event could potentially impact the entire workforce of Australian Parliament House and potentially impact the function of Government,” the letter from Mr Barr to the Prime Minister says.

“An outbreak could also adversely affect the broader Canberra community and incur considerable health expense, increases in morbidity and mortality and potential economic cost requiring business shutdowns.

“There would be significant negative public perception and reputational impacts.”

The letter came as dozens of ACT residents were stuck at the Victorian border on Friday despite having valid travel permits to return to the ACT. It’s been revealed that enabling legislation requiring all travellers to return by air to Sydney was enacted at 11:00 pm on Thursday night, just one hour before the closure came into effect.

The ACT has strongly advised Canberrans not to travel to the Greater Sydney region unless for urgent reasons.

READ ALSO: Stranded ACT travellers now have until Tuesday to get home from Victoria

Emails were not sent until the following morning and many local authorities, including the mayor of surrounding Indigo Shire, were not officially briefed about the changes until midway through Friday afternoon, well after travellers had arrived at Wodonga.

In addition to the ACT residents who were affected, hundreds of interstate workers with valid permits were also stranded in Victoria. But it appears Victorian MPs still plan to travel to Canberra.

“While the ACT Chief Health Officer recognises that the safest way to travel from Victoria to the ACT is by private vehicle, we recognise that recent NSW Government decisions regarding the closure of the NSW/Victoria border may make this impractical,” the letter to Mr Morrison says.

Mr Barr has suggested to the Prime Minister that instead of commercial flights, parliamentarians should choose so-called Special Purpose flights, and strongly supports parliamentarians undertaking their full 14-day quarantine in the ACT. This would require them to be in Canberra by Tuesday (11 August).

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman has advised MPs that some proposed alternative arrangements – including quarantining for 14 days in Victoria, or for seven days in Victoria and seven days in the ACT – would pose an increased risk that cannot be fully mitigated.

Full quarantine measures will apply to MPs including random inspections by ACT Police and SES volunteers.

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20 Responses to Barr warns Victorian MPs not to endanger ACT’s safety
O L O L 9:35 am 10 Aug 20

But your not important unless you travel……

Donna Venables Donna Venables 9:01 pm 09 Aug 20

Let them use Zoom. They can find out for themselves how bad the Aussie internet really is. Maybe then, there will be something done to improve it. But I won’t hold my breath on it.

Avril Pounds Avril Pounds 6:28 pm 09 Aug 20

Keep all Victorian MP's out of the ACT. Not worth the risk. Parliament can operate via zoom.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 6:08 pm 09 Aug 20

Amongst other things, the virus has been an impetus for and accelerator (massive in some instances) of changes which might otherwise have happened, but at a much more leisurely pace.

Just as there are people suggesting that a partial solution to this problem might be a virtual parliament, there are others who would very much like to see – for all sorts of reasons – a virtual Canberra, with much of the activity (and the associated dollars) which currently happens here relocated to other parts of the country.

The basic approach taken by the ACT government on this matter makes sense, and is not overly heavy-handed by the standards of the lockdown/lockout arms race which has broken out between the states and territories – but we do need to be careful not to overplay our hand, on the assumption that we can’t be substantially disrupted and replaced.

Debbie Thomsen Debbie Thomsen 4:50 pm 09 Aug 20

Canberra is FULL of Sydney tourists this weekend. A friend was staying at Quest and the people checking in in front of them said they were from Sydney because "....there is nowhere they can go..."!!! WTAF?! And no, the receptionist DID NOT even flinch or ask any further questions as to where they had been, but did say that a lot of people had said that! That is a much bigger risk than pollies quarantining!!

    Scott Lang Scott Lang 5:51 am 11 Aug 20

    I agree, Debbie. But I wonder how much attention the Chief Minister's request not to visit Canberra was given in Sydney? I think one of the issues this pandemic is showing up across the board at present is how diverse people's media consumption is.

    Even if the ABC, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Daily Telegraph, mainstream TV news channels and commercial AM/FM radio carried such a message, how many people don't engage with any of these sources in 2020? I think this might be particularly true in a city as large and diverse as Sydney is.

Lucy Baker Lucy Baker 4:48 pm 09 Aug 20

Huh? Barr is worried about a handful MPs heading for Parliament House and under constant visible scrutiny? Yet he is allowing hundreds of ACT residents to return from Victoria and (supposedly) self-isolate on a trust system! We all know that a quarter of Victorians supposedly self-isolating left their houses – can’t we please learn from that experience? Barr has implemented no plan to have frequent house calls to check up on people. Look out Canberra – our COVID-free bubble will be over, thanks to a lack of sound management by the government.

Amanda Evans Amanda Evans 2:55 pm 09 Aug 20

They shouldn't be allowed to self isolate at home unless they drive to Canberra directly from their home to their digs here.

Ian Wing Ian Wing 1:12 pm 09 Aug 20

The August sitting of Parliament should be conducted using electronic communications technology. The British House of Commons does its sittings largely via Zoom, with only a small number of representatives actually inside the building. Surely our country can do the same! This would reduce the amount of inter-state travel by the representatives and their staffs - and protect many people.

Adrian Sandrey Adrian Sandrey 1:02 pm 09 Aug 20

But the pokies are open again on Monday !!!

Lynne Audsley Lynne Audsley 12:53 pm 09 Aug 20

Thank you for standing up to Scott Morrison and heeding medical advice.

Jim Jim Jim Jim 12:05 pm 09 Aug 20

Mandatory test on entry to Canberra and at 11 days amidst 14 days isolation with zero leaving a premises deemed ‘suitable’ as per WAs border restrictions - no exceptions.

Clearly there’s no faith in the validity of the Covid test - and this is why WA tests people twice ie on arrival and at 11 days in iso (and here as well). Has anyone considered this is why this thing continues to spread? That those tested negative on a first test are still contagious after this time?

    Jim Jim Jim Jim 3:29 pm 09 Aug 20

    Ashley Wright exactly what I said. Logically it makes doing one test invalid if we are trying to show a person does not have corona? This is what Victoria is doing to show it’s clearing the virus out. Single tests by the thousands...

Scott Applebee Scott Applebee 11:19 am 09 Aug 20

Whatever happened to Barr's plan to bring international students into Canberra? Did that get knocked on the head?

Margaret Chalker Margaret Chalker 11:12 am 09 Aug 20

Barr them from entering Andrew.

Rosemary Brooker Rosemary Brooker 11:10 am 09 Aug 20

I think Canberrans should all isolate at home during the period that the fly-in, fly-out politicians visit for Parliament. We have been safe for a while, & we want to keep the ACT safe.

Tammy Britt Welsh Tammy Britt Welsh 11:09 am 09 Aug 20

Well done Andrew

Ken Owers Ken Owers 10:52 am 09 Aug 20

Not to mention the pollies bag carriers and entourage who travel with them. Who will keep an eye on them while they are in Canberra?

Jackie White Jackie White 10:14 am 09 Aug 20

I'm surprised the Sydney region MPs aren't being asked to quarantine for two weeks as well. There's obvious community transmission going on there.....

Roberta Lynne Anning Roberta Lynne Anning 10:02 am 09 Aug 20

And yet he's helping potentially infectious people coming across the border.

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