Morrison accused of courting ‘coalition of anti-vaxxers’

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has launched an extraordinary attack on vaccine mandates for people entering retail and hospitality venues, imposed by state or territory governments.

Nov 18, 2021, updated Nov 18, 2021
Deputy Premier Steven Miles speaking in parliament. (AAP Image/Glenn Hunt)

Deputy Premier Steven Miles speaking in parliament. (AAP Image/Glenn Hunt)

Scott Morrison said he believed unvaccinated Queenslanders should be able to go into a cafe for a coffee and that limiting entry to such venues was an overreach.

The prime minister considers vaccine mandates limiting entry to retail and hospitality venues an overreach.

“They should be able to go and get a cup of coffee in Brisbane when you’re over 80 per cent, regardless of whether you’ve had the vaccine or not,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Sydney on Thursday.

“As we get above 80 per cent in particular, when the scientific advice shows us and the research shows us, that means Australians can have their lives back.”

He comments drew a swift and angry reaction from the states, including deputy Premier Steven Miles, who accused the prime minister of stoking division.

“He is so desperate to claw together a coalition of anti-vaxxers for his own political benefit,” he said.

“(Queenslanders) do not deserve to be undermined by a PM more interested in currying favour with coffee baron donors and lunatic backbenchers than the health and the jobs of Queenslanders.”

Describing Morison as backing “dangerous fringe elements” such as the anti-government protesters in Melbourne, Mile said the prime minister was undermining the state’s pandemic response for his own “cynical political interests”.

The prime minister indicated the only mandatory vaccines he supported were for healthcare workers.

“We’re not in favour of mandatory vaccines imposed by the government. Businesses can make their own choices under the law,” he said.

But Miles said the planned venue mandate has boosted vaccine uptake and was a deserved reward for those who had done the right thing and got the jab.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk also weighed in, telling state parliament Morrison was being “reckless”.

“It is extremely disappointing that the Prime Minister of our country is seeking now to undermine Queensland’s strong vaccination program,” she said.

“It is extremely disappointing not standing up for Queensland, and what Queenslanders want and what Queenslanders are doing.

“Once again wanting to undermine the good work that Queensland has done.”

AAP understands unvaccinated people won’t be banned from essential retailers, gyms and swimming pools under the mandate.

However, uncertainty remains about the mandate at mass events at indoor locations that aren’t classified as venues.

The upcoming 2021 Queensland state swimming championships at the Brisbane Aquatic Centre from December 11-17 is of particular concern.

A Queensland Health spokesperson told AAP the details of how the vaccine mandate will apply in different settings are still being worked out.

Queensland will scrap quarantine for fully vaccinated interstate travellers arriving from domestic hotspots who test negative once the state hits 80 per cent.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has revealed that travellers must pay for their own PCR tests, which could cost up to $150 per person.

As she spoke in parliament about how she had to be tested for her controversial Tokyo trip earlier this year, LNP MPs said she didn’t have to pay.

“I was on work, I was on work related,” she pleaded.

Meanwwhile, the viability of the state’s COVID-19 quarantine facility at Wellcamp is in doubt due to a loophole in Queensland’s travel rules for international arrivals.

The state plans to make international arrivals quarantine until the state is 90 per cent vaccinated, but they could avoid quarantine once it hits the 80 per cent.

AAP understand that Queensland will classify international travellers who have been in Australia for more than 14-days as domestic travellers.

That means they could fly into Sydney or Melbourne, where quarantine has already been scrapped, and stay there for a fortnight before jetting north.

International travellers who take that option would still need to be fully vaccinated and test negative before arriving in Queensland.

The latest figures show 83.21 per cent of Queenslanders have had one dose of a vaccine and 71.6 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Queensland recorded no new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday after 9877 tests.

Meanwhile, Victoria will scrap all remaining COVID-19 restrictions from midnight as the state nears a 90 per cent fully vaccinated rate.

Double-dosed Victorians will able to dance in nightclubs and have unlimited visitors to their homes, while cafes and restaurants will no longer be subject to density caps.

The state recorded a slight uptick in COVID cases, with 1007 infections and 12 deaths reported on Thursday.

There were 262 cases and three deaths in NSW, while a further 25 cases were detected in the ACT, the highest daily figure for nearly a month.

No new cases of COVID-19 were detected in the Northern Territory overnight, following a cluster in Katherine and a remote Indigenous community.

The national double-dose vaccination rate for over-16s stands at 84.2 per cent, while 91.1 per cent have had their first dose.

More than 128,000 vaccines were administered nationally on Wednesday.

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