Share

Premier delivers cruel Christmas blow

Western Australia is tightening its border rules even further in the final week before Christmas, forcing every interstate traveller to quarantine, but the Premier denies he is being a Grinch.

Tasmanian travellers, who have enjoyed the loosest restrictions in WA, will be subject to two weeks of quarantine from 12.01am on Monday when the state is elevated to “low risk”.

Meanwhile, Queensland will transition to “medium risk” from 12.01am on Monday, which will return WA’s hard border arrangements with that state and means travellers must obtain an exemption.

“We’re doing everything we can to ensure that we keep WA Covid-free to at least when we bring down the border on February 5,” WA Premier Mark McGowan told reporters on Friday.

“We want to try and get through the Christmas/new year period without any spread of the virus in WA.

“We don’t want to see the pandemonium and chaos that is occurring in states in the east occur here over this crucial period for families and small businesses.

“We want our small businesses to be successful over the Christmas/new year period – hospitality, tourism, the retail sector – they rely upon this period for a great proportion of their sales throughout the year.”

The Northern Territory is classified as low risk, while South Australia and the ACT are medium risk.

NSW will join Victoria on Saturday as extreme risk states.

WA recorded no new cases of coronavirus overnight and the state’s first-dose vaccination rate will hit 90 per cent for people over the age of 12 later on Friday.

Mr McGowan said the double-dose vaccination rate was also surpassing 81 per cent.

Asked if he felt like a Christmas Grinch, Mr McGowan flatly rejected the suggestion.

“I’d much prefer to be in our position than the position they’re in in the other states,” he said.

“There’s mass dislocation and a great deal of chaos in the other states – they’ve got all sorts of mask wearing and other rules in place … NSW has thousands of cases a day now and that will cause huge trouble.

“We are at this point in time Covid free, we can have a great Christmas … and we can have a summer holidays which are entirely normal.”

The Premier also assured children that Santa Claus would be allowed into WA.

“Santa’s a very special person and I think he has an exemption on basically everything,” he said.

“I can assure every West Australian child, Santa will be allowed in, he won’t have to quarantine and I’m sure he’ll deliver many presents on Christmas Eve.”

Roger Cook (left) has been stripped of the health portfolio. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Sharon Smith

Roger Cook (left) has been stripped of the health portfolio. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Sharon Smith

Mr McGowan also announced a cabinet reshuffle on Friday, stripping Deputy Premier Roger Cook from the health portfolio after 13 years while in opposition and government.

Amber-Jade Sanderson will take on health and mental health, while Mr Cook will instead focus on diversifying the economy by adding tourism and commerce to his economic portfolio.

It comes after Mr Cook was blamed by some for WA’s hospital crisis.

Asked if Mr Cook had wanted to move away from the health portfolio, the Premier said: “I think 13 years in one portfolio is long enough and health is very, very gruelling … we had a range of discussions about it.”

Stephen Dawson will become emergency services, innovation and ICT, medical research and volunteering minister.

David Templeman will gain international education and also take on sport and recreation.

John Carey will add homelessness to his housing and local government responsibilities as well as lands.

Finance Minister Tony Buti will gain racing and gaming as well as Aboriginal affairs.

Reece Whitby will take on environment and climate action.

Don Punch will add small business to his responsibilities and Bill Johnston will return as industrial relations minister.

What you need to know about Qld borderTravel Updates

What you need to know about Qld border

Queensland is easing its border restrictions just in time for Christmas. Here is everything you need to know about the changes.

One group locked out of AustraliaTravel Stories

One group locked out of Australia

As international travel becomes the norm for Australians, one group of people are still struggling to find a way back into the country.