The Politics    Friday, October 15, 2021

Border farce

By Rachel Withers

Composite image of NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and Prime Minister Scott Morrison (images via ABC News)

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and Prime Minister Scott Morrison (images via ABC News)

So much for the national plan

The nation was today thrown into a state of confusion, after NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet unilaterally announced an end to quarantine for fully vaccinated travellers entering his state from November 1, with no cap on international arrivals, citizens or otherwise. The announcement was met with joy by those separated from loved ones overseas, and despair from those separated from loved ones interstate, amid concerns it would push back the reopening of some state borders. Victoria has since announced an October 19 reopening to NSW residents, but Health Minister Martin Foley had clearly only just learnt of NSW’s decision. (“We are not aware of the full details of a media release hot off the printer from the NSW government,” Foley told reporters, as he was peppered with questions.) Most of all, however, the news was met with bewilderment, as people tried to wrap their heads around what it meant, not to mention whether the NSW premier could even do what he was announcing. It is undoubtedly a power play by Perrottet, and his first big move as premier against the federal government. Perrottet didn’t speak to the prime minister (or the other premiers, clearly) ahead of the announcement, despite immigration being a Commonwealth responsibility. Scott Morrison was reportedly left blindsided. The decision to include tourists, and to abandon even home quarantine, came as a shock to the federal government, which wants to ensure Australians overseas can come home before tourism reopens. It didn’t take long, however, for the PM to reassert his authority, calling his own press conference to announce that, no, the border would not be reopening to tourists from November 1. “The premier understands this is a decision for the Commonwealth, not the states,” Morrison said. He kept the “fuckwit” to himself this time.

In his afternoon press conference, the prime minister claimed that he was “pleased” with the decision to end quarantine and the removal of arrival caps for returning Australians (“a welcome step forward”), insisting that it was something he and the premier had been discussing. But Morrison quickly put a stop to Perrottet’s idea that tourism would be reopening too (something Morrison definitely wants to be the one to announce). The caps will only be lifted for returning Australians, residents and their families, the PM said, before adding his own piece of good news: the definition of immediate family would be expanded to include parents, something many people have long been lobbying for. “The Commonwealth government has made no decision to allow other visa holders, student visa holders, international visitors travelling under GTA and other arrangements, visiting visa arrangements, to come to Australia,” Morrison added. His comments are a direct repudiation of his NSW Liberal counterparts, who this morning clearly and boldly invited people from other countries to visit or work in Australia. Awkwardly, international publications from the BBC to CNN had already reported the news of Australia’s triumphant reopening, as announced by the NSW premier. Those should make for some interesting corrections.

Morrison clearly understands the terrible optics of opening the border to citizens and noncitizens at the same time, potentially making it harder to secure a flight for Australians who have for so long been locked out of the country due to his ineptitude on vaccines and quarantine. But thanks to Perrottet, he’s been forced to walk back an invitation to the world – and had his authority questioned at the same time. While he was quick to remind Perrottet to stay in his lane, in what some have seen as a “slap down”, there was notably no allegation that his NSW counterpart was “deviating from the national plan”, as he so often accuses Labor premiers of doing, despite NSW’s attempt to leap straight from the plan’s Phase A to Phase D. National cabinet’s so-called national plan is now all but dead. Perrottet has made clear that he intends to push ahead with the far more aggressive reopening strategy that everyone expected of him, and it seems he will do so with Morrison’s backing – so long as the premier doesn’t try to exceed his authority. 

On top of having his authority challenged, Morrison has today lost his edge on another front. As many were quick to note, the NSW announcement has robbed Morrison of his main excuse not to attend the Glasgow climate talks in November, given the prime minister is no longer required to quarantine upon his return. In his afternoon press conference, the PM finally confirmed his attendance. Though one cannot discount the sway the nation’s true head of state may have had on that decision.


“It’s really irritating when they talk but they don’t do.”

The Queen becomes the latest member of the royal family to express her displeasure at those world leaders snubbing the Glasgow climate talks.

“He’ll wait for the IBAC processes to be concluded before he determines his political future.”

Labor leader Anthony Albanese refuses to take further action against confirmed branch-stacker Anthony Byrne, who yesterday resigned as chair of the parliamentary intelligence and security committee.

From a lump of coal to net zero: Morrison’s climate makeover
Four years ago, Prime Minister Scott Morrison wielded a lump of coal in the Australian parliament, demonstrating his commitment to fossil fuels. Now he’s trying to pivot, shifting his government towards a position of supporting net-zero emissions by 2050.

The number of outstanding family and partner visa applicants who remain trapped in Afghanistan under the Taliban, despite many lodging applications long before the fall of Kabul.

“A growing number of Liberal MPs are pushing for the government to toughen up its proposed federal integrity commission, amid criticism from the crossbench and experts that the draft bill is too weak.”

Liberal MPs Celia Hammond, Dave Sharma and Katie Allen want the federal government’s proposed anti-corruption watchdog to have more powers, with Hammond arguing the government should be open to negotiating with the crossbench to improve it.

The list

“The introduction of a paid menstrual leave provision to the Fair Work Act has the potential to improve Australia’s approach to substantive gender equality. Rather than formal approaches to gender equality, which suggest men and women should be treated the same, a substantive approach acknowledges differences between genders, and seeks to adjust structures and systems accordingly. As such, we argue that a paid menstrual leave provision would minimise the disadvantages that women experience because of menstruation.”

“After a week in the wake of Nhial ‘Nelly’ Yoa, surely one of the most prolific and impressive fantasists of our era, I discovered a surprising sub-theme in my notes, an accidentally coined term of my own. I had begun to refer to the people most intimately deceived not as victims or witnesses or associates but as ‘participants’, as though Nelly Yoa was an event, instead of just a person.”

“My influences change so often and depending on each book I have a few touchstone works to look at, and listen to, and read. Every book has some kind of problem inherent to it and I have to work out how to do it. With the one I’m writing now, which is about a woman in an enclosed religious order, there’s a great deal of stillness in the story – or non-story! I was looking at Jude’s pictures and thinking: It’s a still life, I’m writing a still life.” 

Rachel Withers

Rachel Withers is the contributing editor of The Politics.

@rachelrwithers

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