The WA Opposition says separated families have been left with no hope of reuniting for Christmas, after the Prime Minister confirmed all states and territories except WA had agreed in principle to open their borders by the holidays.
“This offers no pathway or hope for them,” Opposition Leader Liza Harvey said.
“We need to find a compassionate and safe way to bring all Western Australians home and try to reunite our families again.”
Ms Harvey called for the WA Government to offer more ways for families to reunite and said months of separation would have long-term mental health ramifications.
While Ms Harvey would not be drawn on a date for opening the border because she said the Premier had not given her all the health advice, she wanted to see more options for border-torn families.
“In Western Australia we’ve been given two choices: The virus or the border,” Ms Harvey said.
“There are ways to manage this but we’re not being given any options … and I think that’s very distressing for the families that are separated.”
Borders a matter for McGowan: PM
All state and territory leaders except WA Premier Mark McGowan signed up to the plan to remove border restrictions by Christmas last month.
At Friday’s National Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said those jurisdictions affirmed their commitment.
“By Christmas of this year certainly seven out of the eight states and territories will be open and that will be a great day for Australia,” he said.
“You never know, it might be eight.”
However, he said WA’s “special circumstances”, including the nature of its economy, had led it to take a different approach.
“The [WA] Premier continues to maintain his position on that, that’s a matter for him,” Mr Morrison said.
Mr Morrison said WA would take an extra 140 international arrivals from next month, while Queensland will accept a further 150.
However, he said WA had only agreed to the Federal Government’s plan with “great reservations”.
When National Cabinet committed to the goal in September, more than 26,000 overseas Australians had registered to return home, Mr Morrison said.
“It’s our goal to get those 26,000 [people] home by Christmas but that will be dependent on … flights, on quarantine, on cooperation from state and territory government,” he said.
Closed border based on health advice: Premier
Mr McGowan did not hold a press conference after National Cabinet, but released a statement that said WA would not rush to meet an “artificial deadline” on reopening its border.
“Throughout the pandemic, our decisions have been based solely on the advice of the Chief Health Officer, in the interest of all Western Australians,” he said.
“This approach has worked, and making a rushed decision against health advice to meet an artificial deadline is not in the interest of all Western Australians.”
Mr McGowan backed the Prime Minister’s acknowledgement that WA was in a “special” position because of its economy and six-month record of no COVID-19 community transmission.
The State Government said health advice was being regularly reviewed and updated.
More ship crew in hotel quarantine
Two more crew members from the Al Messilah livestock carrier were taken off the ship overnight, taking to 39 the number of crew in hotel quarantine and leaving 14 on board the ship docked at Fremantle.
One crew member remains in hospital.
Meanwhile, no more crew have been taken off the Key Integrity as deep cleaning of the ship takes place.
Eight crew from that vessel remain in hotel quarantine, while six are still on board.
There have been four COVID-19 outbreaks on ships in WA waters in just three weeks.
Six new coronavirus cases in WA
WA also recorded six new cases of COVID-19 overnight, including one man who was taken to hospital.
The Department of Health said they were all males aged between 26 and 54 who have returned from overseas.
WA Health said there were now 52 active COVID-19 cases in the state.