‘Squandered the gift of time’: Opposition slams McGowan’s efforts to prepare WA for COVID

Headshot of Shannon Verhagen
Opposition Leader and leader of the Nationals WA Mia Davies said the Labor Government had ‘squandered the gift of time’.
Camera IconOpposition Leader and leader of the Nationals WA Mia Davies said the Labor Government had ‘squandered the gift of time’. Credit: Kelsey Reid/The West Australian

The Labor Government has come under fire from the Opposition, slamming the delayed border opening as an “admission of failure”.

Premier Mark McGowan on Thursday night announced the February 5 reopening date would be delayed indefinitely, saying it would be “irresponsible and reckless” to ignore the rising case and death numbers from the mass Omicron outbreak on the east coast.

“It would cause a surge in cases, a surge in hospitalisations and result in thousands of people not being able to work or go to school,” he said.

“It would cripple our community.”

As part of the State’s updated COVID-19 transition plan, WA’s hard border will be reinstated from February 5 indefinitely, however, the exemption criteria will be expanded for those wishing to travel to and from the State.

It has drawn mixed reactions, from relief to frustration and anger.

Opposition Leader and leader of the Nationals WA Mia Davies said the Labor Government had “squandered the gift of time” and left WA’s hospitals ill-prepared for an influx of COVID-19.

“West Australians are being told to continue making sacrifices like forgoing seeing loved ones and businesses must keep suffering from acute worker shortages due to closed borders, to buy more time for a Government that has wasted the past two years,” she said.

“Now that the Premier has indefinitely delayed the reopening date, there is no excuse if our hospitals fail when the borders eventually come down.

“The McGowan Government has shifted the goal posts again and provided no clarity for businesses, families and the community on what rules and restrictions might be in place when WA eventually reopens.”

Agricultural Region MP Steve Martin.
Camera IconAgricultural Region MP Steve Martin. Credit: Tom Shanahan/Countryman

Agricultural Region MP Steve Martin said it would have come as “very disappointing” for regional businesses, exacerbate labour shortages and be “devastating” for families planning reunions.

“WA’s agricultural sector has done a magnificent job for the past two years dealing with the worker shortages, but after a massive harvest farmers, truck drivers and agricultural workers are exhausted and need support from the State Government,” he said.

“Seeding is just around the corner and the worker shortage is only going to get worse because of the lack of certainty around our border arrangements.

“The Premier needs to guarantee that WA’s regional health system will be up to the task.”

Shadow health minister Libby Mettam said the decision pointed to a “failure” to prepare for COVID-19.

“The people and businesses of WA have done everything they were asked, by getting vaccinated and shouldering the burden of lockdowns, yet this Government’s reward was to fail in properly planning and preparing for COVID-19’s inevitable arrival,” she said.

“The Health Minister is deluded if she thinks our health system is ‘world-class’ and the Premier is simply wrong when he claims our hospitals have capacity and are strong.

“The Health Minister’s urgent eleventh-hour efforts to desperately recruit for our under-resourced health system should have happened two years ago.”

Member for Cottesloe David Honey.
Camera IconMember for Cottesloe David Honey. Credit: Carwyn Monck/Kalgoorlie Miner/Kalgoorlie Miner

Leader of the WA Liberal Party David Honey echoed the sentiment.

“The Premier’s announcement is an admission of failure to both prepare our State for COVID and to be honest to Western Australians — now we’re stuck with a delayed reopening date and poorly protected community,” he said.

“I sincerely hope the Premier can now take COVID-19 preparation seriously and do the work his Government has neglected to do over the past two years.”

South West MLC Steve Thomas called for the State Government to release a “roadmap” detailing how businesses would manage the impacts of COVID-19 when border eventually opened — including compensation — by February 5.

“The delay in opening is an admission that the Government has failed to get the State ready for the inevitable arrival of COVID, but it gives the Government more time to do the job,” he said.

“There is now no excuse for not providing business the certainty we have all been calling for.

“With a $5.8 billion surplus last financial year and an expected $15b in surpluses over five years, there is no excuse for not providing business with proper, adequate and standardised compensation for Government imposed restrictions.”

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