West Australians face being trapped indefinitely within their own state after Premier Mark McGowan broke his promise to reopen the state’s borders next month.
Mr McGowan announced the extraordinary backflip during a late-night press conference on Thursday, saying WA’s hard borders will remain in place indefinitely.
He claimed it would be “reckless and irresponsible” to proceed with the planned February 5 reopening given the surge in Omicron COVID-19 cases across the country.
The premier had promised to reopen the borders once the state’s double-dose vaccination rate reached 90 per cent. It is currently at 89 per cent.
More compassionate exemptions will be granted from February 5, when the borders had been due to be brought down.
The decision raises serious questions about the government’s lack of preparedness after almost two years of border closures.
The announcement has drawn mixed responses from the public and politicians alike, with a clear divide being established between those for and against the move.
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg urged Mr McGowan to be more up-front about when the state’s hardline border closures will end.
Mr Frydenberg said more certainty was needed about border measures in the state.
“(West Australians) would be asking, ‘If not now, when?'” Mr Frydenberg told the Seven Network on Friday.
“This is a decision that the Western Australian government themselves have taken, and one for them to explain, but obviously people in WA would be disappointed with the decision.”
However, Federal Labor Leader Anthony Albanese backed the decision made by Mr McGowan
Mr Albanese said while some may have been disappointed by the border decision, the WA premier made the right call.
“I told (Mark McGowan on Thursday night) I respected and supported the decision,” Mr Albanese told reporters in Sydney.