Former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett has unleashed on Daniel Andrews after he failed to ease coronavirus restrictions on Sunday despite hinting during the week the hospitality and retail sectors would be handed a much-needed lifeline.
Mr Kennett lambasted the the premier’s control over the state during a fiery appearance on The Sunday Project, likening it to a Communist regime.
On Sunday Mr Andrews delayed a planned reopening of restrictions as he awaits more than 1,000 test results from an area of north Melbourne where health authorities look to contain a growing cluster.
The state recorded seven new cases on Sunday however, metropolitan Melbourne’s 14-day rolling average has now dropped to 4.6, well below the trigger point of five set for Step Three of the initial roadmap out of restrictions.
“We have a population of 6.4 million people. And for seven cases, 6.4 million people are continued to be held hostage by this Premier,” Mr Kennett told the show.
Mr Andrews hinted the delay may only be a matter of days but when asked if such a delay was damaging to businesses, a furious Mr Kennett had a fiery response.
“The Premier only two days ago gave an indication that a lot of our small businesses would be able to reopen from the middle of next week, so therefore that doesn’t happen instantaneously.
“People have started to clean the places, hire staff, order in food.”
The 72-year-old was pressed on his comments linking the Andrews government to Communism, and while admitting his comments were a step too far, he continued his attack of the state’s top MP.
“It’s a dictatorship... he doesn’t listen to people in his own party. He doesn’t listen to business community and health officials. He is making these decisions on his own,” he said.
“This can’t go on without there being years of damage, both to the mental welfare of a lot of our community, but also to our economy.”
When host Peter van Onselen continued to call out Mr Kennett on his “inflated rhetoric” and insisted Mr Andrews could be removed by his own government, a tense back-and-forth ensued.
With Onselen describing Mr Andrews’ governance during the pandemic as simply “over the top”, Mr Kennett suggested the host was far more fortunate than the “hundreds of people, families, small businessmen who have lost their income”.
“You’re very lucky because you’ve still got a job,” he said.
“You keep drawing your salary, my friend.
“You are very, very fortunate but I tell you what there’s a lot of people here in Victoria who will never ever recover from the way we’ve handled this virus.”
Earlier in the day Mr Kennett had taken to Twitter branding Mr Andrews’ lack of action on Sunday as “criminal”.
“He cares not for your welfare, health or financial. He is out to destroy!” he wrote.
What the Premier has done today is criminal
Encourage businesses to prepare to open and then again slam the door in their faces.
I say open up businesses, and let this control freak through us all in jail.
He cares not for your welfare, health or financial.
He is out to destroy!
— Jeff Kennett (@jeff_kennett) October 25, 2020
Test results come back negative, more to be processed
Department of Health and Human Services testing chief Jeroen Weimar confirmed on Sunday no additional cases linked to the northern metropolitan outbreak had been detected among 1135 tests.
Another 1400 new swabs from the area on Sunday have been taken to laboratories, with testing continuing into the evening.
Mr Weimar said about 250 close contacts had been also tested on Saturday, with a further 60 being followed up on Sunday.
Six of the seven infections reported on Sunday were linked to the cluster, which has swollen to 39 cases across 11 households.
Mr Andrews acknowledged the community would be frustrated by the "cautious pause" of 24 to 48 hours, but still hopes to unveil rule changes for Melbourne by Tuesday.
Former Victorian health minister Jenny Mikakos, who quit amid the scrutiny of the government’s handling of the botched hotel quarantine scheme, said Sunday's delay was "unnecessary" after hitting the five-case benchmark, and was evidence of "paralysis in decision-making".
Mr Andrews would not be drawn on her comments, while chief health officer Brett Sutton noted she and other detractors were not "in the tent".
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