‘Much better’: Treasurer picks model state

 

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has championed one state's COVID-19 response over all other jurisdictions, adding fuel to the country's incessant border fire.

"In the last 24 hours, you've seen 17 cases in New South Wales," he told ABC's 7.30 on Wednesday night.

"But you haven't seen their border closed like you've seen in Queensland or Western Australia. They've managed to deal with the virus much better than I think other jurisdictions have.

"You need to take into account the economic impacts of your policies and that's why I've been so vocal, as well as the business community, in calling for Victoria to provide a road map out of stage four (coronavirus restrictions)."

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Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. Picture: 7.30
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. Picture: 7.30

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Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews plans to do just that on Sunday, while New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has announced an expansion of the bubble zone along the NSW-Victoria border to a 50km radius from Friday morning.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, who faces a state election on October 31, this week revealed the state's border would remain shut for all of September.

The Treasurer appeared on 7.30 hours after the country officially plunged into a recession for the first time in 29 years.

GDP collapsed by seven per cent in the June quarter, the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed in its release of national accounts data on Wednesday morning, following a 0.3 per cent decline in the three months to March.

Asked by host Leigh Sales if the Government was going to proceed with "planned tapering" of income support measures from this month, Mr Frydenberg said the program was "always meant to be transitioning over time".

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Host Leigh Sales. Picture: 7.30
Host Leigh Sales. Picture: 7.30

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He noted JobKeeper was legislated for six months but will be split into a two-tiered system in four weeks and extended for another six months.

"I think it's important to transition because outside of Victoria, the jobs are coming back," Mr Frydenberg said.

"Seven out of eight jurisdictions are opening up and easing restrictions.

"Of the 1.3 million Australians who lost their job or saw their hours reduced to zero since the start of the crisis, we're now seeing 700,000 or more than half come back, and of the 340,000 jobs that were created in the last two months, importantly 58 per cent of those have gone to women and 44 per cent have gone to young people.

"So there is some hope. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. We need to get the virus under control."

Former Treasurer Wayne Swan slammed Mr Frydenberg's remarks on Twitter.

"Frydenberg says on #abc730 the economy depends on virus control yet he bags virus control in Victoria and QLD constantly," he wrote.

Mr Frydenberg was also questioned about comments from former Prime Minister Tony Abbott at a speech made in London overnight, when he indicated elderly COVID-19 patients should be allowed to die to reduce the economic costs.

"In this climate of fear, it was hard for governments to ask 'how much is a life worth?' because every life is precious," Mr Abbott said.

"And every death is sad, but that's never stopped families sometimes electing to make elderly relatives as comfortable as possible as nature takes its course."

Sales asked the Treasurer, given there is no cure yet for coronavirus, whether Mr Abbott has a "point" that there are "difficult conversations that need to be had about what is a manageable number of cases, and by inference deaths, in the community at any one time".

"I look forward to you getting all the hate mail for making that comment about Tony Abbott," Mr Frydenberg replied.

"I mean, the reality is Tony Abbott's entitled to his own views, and we heard from two other former Prime Ministers this week from the other side of politics. We need to manage the health response as best as we can. That's what we are doing."

Sales persisted with the remarks, drawing the exact ire on social media that Mr Frydenberg had predicted, however some of the reaction was directed at him.

"Regardless of how he framed them, at the core of it is the point if we wanted zero deaths from coronavirus, we could lock everyone up indefinitely. If you didn't care, you could let everyone out and go with herd immunity," Sales said.

"Presumably we have to land somewhere in the middle of it. Isn't it a conversation that needs to be had about what it looks like?"

It was at that moment the Treasurer heralded the coronavirus response in the Liberal Party-governed state of NSW.

"We've never been seeking to eliminate the virus. That's important to make that point. Our strategy is about suppression," Mr Frydenberg said.

"That's why the contact tracing and testing is so critical."

A HEARTBREAKING DAY FOR AUSTRALIA

Earlier on Wednesday, Mr Frydenberg said the GDP figures were "sobering" and "heartbreaking".

"Behind these numbers are heartbreaking stories of hardship, being filled by everyday Australians as they go about their daily lives," he said.

"Be it the tourism operator in Cairns. The tradie in Melbourne. The cafe worker in Adelaide. The domestic flight attendant in Sydney. They have all been hit hard by COVID-19.

"The road ahead will be long, the road ahead will be hard, and the road ahead will be bumpy."

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the economic figures represented a "heartbreaking" day for the nation.

"This is a devastating day for Australia,'' he told parliament.

"Our Australian economy has been savaged by the COVID-19 global pandemic and recession. It is delivering an awful and heartbreaking blow to Australians and their families all around the country.

"Australians know why we are now in a COVID-19 recession. And they also know, as the government has known, that this day, as I said, would come. The government has acted to protect lives and livelihoods."

Originally published as 'Much better': Treasurer picks model state



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