Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews says he is “very disappointed” 17 travellers from New Zealand were able to enter Victoria, despite the state not taking part in the travel bubble that started on Friday.
He said he has written a letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison over the incident in which
the travellers entered Victoria after flying into NSW as part of the new deal between Australia and NZ.
Mr Andrews said his office still was not able to obtain travel cards from the Australian Border Force as to “who these people are and where they have gone”.
“We are still waiting for Australian Border Force to provide us with the passenger cards for each of those 17 people,” he said.
“We will be visiting each of those people and making sure that they are fully up to date, as it were, when it comes to the rules, the regulations, the structures that we have in Victoria.
“I can’t tell you whether they are New Zealand or Australian citizens. I know where they came from and how they got here. I don’t know how they got here in a policy sense.
“We’re disappointed this has happened given that I had written to the Prime Minister on this very issue the previous day, saying at some point we will join that New Zealand/Australia travel bubble, but it is not appropriate now.
“We don’t want anything at all to undermine the amazing job that Victorians have done and are doing. Some things have gone wrong here. We are very much at the end of that, not necessarily part of it. We made it clear that we didn’t want to be part – could not be part of the bubble arrangements at this point.”
Mr Andrews said it was “not fair” when Victorians can’t freely move around their own state to have people arriving from another country, “without us knowing”.
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“It is not acceptable to me that people from another country, when we have expressly said that we don’t want this to happen now, are able to get into Melbourne without us knowing. No warning – in fact it is exactly the opposite of what we signed up for,” he said.
Mr Andrews said the travellers had not done anything wrong in trying to come to Melbourne, “but they shouldn’t have been allowed to come here because we haven’t signed onto the bubble.”
“They left the airport within only minutes, really, of having arrived. Our officers have absolutely no power to stop someone, to detain someone in those circumstances, particularly given they were coming from a very low virus part of the world.”
Mr Andrew’s said he wanted to ensure there were no more arrivals in Victoria from NZ.
“There’s a very clear letter from me to the Prime Minister saying we’re not part of this, I’ve then written again today … and said look, let’s just all be clear, there’s an issue here, we have to deal with it and I made it clear, I don’t want to close the Victorian border.
“But if I have to do it, I will. Because I’m just not having people turn up here from another country, and the first we find out about is when they’re already here. And we’ve got no powers, because they’ve come from a place that is really low risk.”
The passengers, who flew into Sydney and did not need to enter hotel quarantine under the new trans-Tasman travel bubble arrangements.
Under the deal between the two nations, New Zealanders are permitted to travel quarantine-free into both NSW and the Northern Territory, under the proviso they’ve not been in a COVID-19 hotspot in the 14 days leading up to their travel.
A spokesman from the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) told the ABC that they were “aware of media reports, but we have not been approached in relation to this matter”.
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On Friday night, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a statement saying it had made it “clear to the Commonwealth that we expect NZ passengers who have not undertaken quarantine will not be permitted to board flights in Sydney bound for Melbourne.
It remains unclear whether the 17 travellers have been allowed to stay in Melbourne or if they have been sent back to Sydney – where they would now be required to isolate for 14 days in hotel quarantine, having entered Victoria.
Marking the first day of the bubble yesterday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was “fantastic” to welcome “our first Kiwis back to Australia for a holiday”.
“We say ‘Kia Ora’ to those Kiwis who’ve joined us, we hope you enjoy your holiday in New South Wales, or the ACT and we look forward to seeing more of you – tell your friends,” Mr Morrison said.
There were heartwarming scenes at Sydney Airport, as family and friends were reunited with their loved ones.
The PM said it was a turning point for Australia, with the arrivals marking our first international tourists in six months.
“Here we are, already, before the end of the year, getting at least to some new point of normal when it comes to COVID-safe travel,” he said.