Treasurer slams ‘cruel’ coronavirus decisions in fiery interview

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has hit out at states closing their borders during the coronavirus pandemic in the wake of the nation’s first recession in 30 years.

Just days after a scathing attack on a different Labor premier, Daniel Andrews, Mr Frydenberg took aim at Queensland’s top MP, Annastacia Palaszczuk.

Lambasting Victoria’s response to the pandemic as the “biggest public policy failure in living memory” on Monday, he again didn’t mince his words on Wednesday night.

"I think the Queensland premier's got some questions to answer there," Mr Frydenberg told Channel Nine’s A Current Affair.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has hit out at the Queensland government over its border closures. Source: Nine
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has hit out at the Queensland government over its border closures. Source: Nine

He listed a series of examples of incidents which he said had “cruel and confused implications” as a direct result of Queensland’s border closure to NSW, Victoria and the ACT. He gave as an example the incident of a NSW mother close to the border who lost an unborn twin after travelling to a nearby Queensland hospital proved too complex.

"We've got to look after our fellow Australians, and we've got to implement policies that advance the interest of our fellow Australians and nowhere is that more important than on our borders,” he said.

Mr Frydenberg was full of praise for NSW, a state which refused to close its borders as the pandemic progressed.

“They’ve managed to deal with the virus much better than I think other jurisdictions have,” he told ABC’s 7.30.

NSW has so far managed to suppress the virus’ spread as community transmission lingers in Sydney.

Since the Crossroads Hotel cluster in July, which was linked back to Melbourne’s outbreak, NSW has managed to contain its daily infections to below 20 while offering its residents relative freedom.

Yet a defiant Ms Palaszczuk, who has also clashed with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian in recent months over the border closure, says it will remain closed for all of September with some fearing it could last until after Christmas.

Traffic queued at Queensland's border near Tweed Heads, NSW. Source: AAP
Queensland's border closed in March, and briefly opened in July only to be closed again to NSW, ACT and Victoria as cases flared in southern states. Source: AAP

Recession ‘extremely sobering’

Mr Frydenberg warned the road out of recession for Australia will be "hard and bumpy" after the economy contracted by a record 7.0 per cent in the June quarter.

"The numbers are extremely sobering," Mr Frydenberg told reporters in Canberra.

The June quarter result, the largest quarterly fall since the Australian Bureau of Statistics started plotting the nation's economic growth in 1959, was even worse than the six per cent decline economists had expected.

In the March quarter, the economy had contracted by 0.3 per cent.

A technical recession is defined by two consecutive quarters of negative growth.

Wednesday's release of the national accounts also saw annual gross domestic product shrink by 6.3 per cent, the biggest yearly decline since 1945.

Mr Frydenberg said the pandemic has wreaked havoc on both the domestic and global economy.

And the pain won't stop there, with Mr Frydenberg saying the September quarter could be slightly negative to flat as a result of Victoria's harsh lockdown, given the state accounts for around a quarter of national output.

with AAP

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