State officials are reportedly scrambling to gain access to airline passenger lists to identify travellers who have arrived in the country from New Zealand under the trans-Tasman bubble arrangement.
It comes after flights from New Zealand touched down at Sydney Airport on Friday carrying international passengers who, for the first time in seven months, did not need to quarantine upon arrival.
However, while the arrangements were meant to permit New Zealanders to travel freely into NSW and the Northern Territory, 23 have slipped into WA, and 55 to Victoria without the state government’s knowledge.
Five travellers have also entered Tasmania and are currently in hotel quarantine.
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Victorian officials have reportedly asked the Australian Border Force to speed up the release of passenger lists to prevent a repeat of the surprise arrival when more flights land from New Zealand.
It comes after Department of Health and Human Services issued a statement on Sunday night revealing it had made contact with all 55 travellers to Victoria.
The statement said: “The travellers, some in family groups and most staying in private homes, were provided with information about COVID-19 and the current Victorian health directions.
“Three of the travellers did not cross the border into Victoria and remain in NSW, and one who was in Victoria returned to NSW today.
“Twenty-one of the 55 travellers arrived at Melbourne Airport on Friday and Saturday.
“The remainder arrived using other modes of transport.
“DHHS Authorised Officers continue to meet incoming flights at Melbourne Airport and provide information to arriving passengers.”
Meanwhile, the twenty-three people who “jumped borders” from NSW to WA are in mandatory quarantine.
Premier Mark McGowan first announced on Sunday morning that 25 people had arrived in the state, before the number was officially revised to 23 later in the day.
He called for “better management” after the New Zealanders slipped in without exemptions.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is leaving it to state officials to contact airlines themselves under a decision made by national cabinet on September 18.
“On arrival into Australia from New Zealand, passengers are advised to check the entry requirements for other states, which includes needing to undertake hotel quarantine if they travel to WA,” said a federal government spokesman this weekend.
More flights are due to arrive from New Zealand in the coming days.
DAN ANDREWS ANGRY OVER BUBBLE
On Sunday, Premier Daniel Andrews called on the federal government to “work” with Victoria, saying the state never agreed to be part of the travel bubble.
It comes after Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge claimed the Victorian government “authorised” a group of 17 people who arrived from New Zealand to enter the state.
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.
Mr Tudge savaged the Victoria government, saying: “The fact that people cannot recall being in meetings, people cannot recall emails being sent, people cannot recall making decisions, it is just deja vu in relation to the Victorian government. That just seems to be a pattern now of not being able to recall what is going on, not being able to recall being at meetings, not being able to recall sending emails to authorise such activities”.
However, Mr Andrews has hit back at suggestions Victoria agreed to be part of the travel bubble saying “we can’t just have people wandering into the place from another country”.
He said they had now been informed 55 travellers from New Zealand had arrived.
“We are having to find these people,” he said.
“We are ringing them, one of them was in Byron Bay. And yet we were told they had landed and travelled to Melbourne.”
He said his “advice to Minister Tudge is, instead of stubbornly defending this, work with us and let’s make sure Victoria is not part of a bubble that we never agreed to be in.
“Now, if that isn’t possible, let’s talk about what else can happen. I don’t want to shut our border, but he should have a conversation with his boss.
“He should have a conversation with the Prime Minister, who, I have lost count of the number of times he has said to me, ‘thank you for not closing your border’.
“It is New Zealand today, but who knows what the other that what the next bubble is, who that is with? We have got authorised officers at the airport now, because this has happened. We didn’t think it would happen, but it has happened.
“We are going to follow up as much as we can. But I don’t control the borders and I don’t control what happens at Sydney Airport and I don’t think anyone can reasonably expect me to. I am not looking for a quarrel on this, I just wanted fixed.”
However, Mr Andrews said he couldn’t stop people from coming into the state.
“I have got no power to stop them coming here,” he said.
He said hopefully authorities would have “greater visibility” about the fact that they were coming so that they could they could chat to each of the travellers and make sure they knew what the coronavirus rules were.
‘OUTSIDE OF OUR CONTROL’: ANOTHER STATE STUNG
As Mr Andrews and Mr Tudge exchanged a war of words, Western Australia’s Premier Mark McGowan revealed 23 travellers from New Zealand had flown into Perth overnight, despite his state also not being a part of the arrangement.
All bar one of the arrivals – a child traveller now in a “quarantine arrangement” with a family member – have been put into hotel quarantine.
Mr McGowan told reporters this afternoon the situation is “fluid”, adding his Government was “doing our best to manage it”.
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“We would prefer better management of these arrangements, but this is something that happened that was outside of our control,” he said.
“If New South Wales and the NT want to open up to other countries, there is now an issue as to how to manage those people coming from other countries border-hopping.
“Our system has worked, we’ve managed to pick these people up and put them into quarantine.
“It would just be great if (the Federal Government) were to better assist us in managing these things with appropriate information being provided to the State Government about people who might be catching flights across state borders.”
TUDGE SLAMS VICTORIA
Mr Tudge earlier hit back at the Victorian Government, saying it knew about arrangements that saw 17 New Zealanders try to enter Melbourne on Friday.
Chief health officer Brett Sutton “represented” the state at meeting to discuss what should happen if New Zealanders flew from Sydney or Darwin to another Australian state, Mr Tudge said.
“We further understand from The Age newspaper today that the Premier’s own department had in fact given authorisation to individuals who had arrived from New Zealand to Sydney to then travel on to Victoria,” Mr Tudge told reporters.
“So the Victorian Government was present when it was discussed, they were made aware that this was going to occur, they raised no objections in the meetings, and furthermore, expressly authorised individuals who were arriving into Sydney from New Zealand to be able to travel on into Victoria.”
Mr Tudge asked Mr Andrews to “reveal” the emails that “show, clearly and demonstrably, that they authorised the people to come into Victoria”, which would “completely clear this up”.
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Yesterday, Mr Andrews said he was “very disappointed” that the travellers had been able to enter his state.”
“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,” he said.
“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”.