Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, 53, convened his Cabinet on Wednesday and ruled out introducing mask mandates, instead urging their compatriots to take personal responsibility. But Labor leader Anthony Albanese, 58, claimed Mr Morrison’s recent announcements on COVID-19 showed he was playing party politics.
The Grayndler MP, who briefly served as Deputy Prime Minister under 64-year-old Kevin Rudd, said: “The Prime Minister just singles out Queensland as if it’s different from Tasmania and South Australia (in requiring a negative PCR test to enter), whereas the rules have been pretty much the same the whole way through this pandemic.”
Tasmania and South Australia both have Liberal Premiers.
Mr Albanese continued: “That just shows a Prime Minister who’s been prepared to play politics, as he is during this period, whereby he’s too frightened of upsetting some of the hard right who are so obsessed by not having any rules in place.
“That he tells everyone you must wear a mask, but he’s not going to actually make it a rule or suggest that stats or territories make it a rule as well.”
He added: “What they’re looking for is leadership, which they didn’t get from yesterday’s national Cabinet.”
Following Mr Morrison’s announcement, Labor-led Victoria joined Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory in altering their rules to bring into place compulsory face coverings.
Mr Morrison has also taken a swipe at Annastacia Palaszczuk, 52, after Queensland’s Labor Premier introduced a PCR requirement for interstate hotspot travellers.
Australia’s 30th Prime Minister suggested Ms Palaszczuk’s policy had been clogging up testing centres across the nation.
Speaking about Mr Morrison’s exchanges with state premiers, Albanese said: “This is a classic example of Scott Morrison trying to blame someone else and defer and issue to say, ‘look over there’.”
The comments come after Mr Morrison said: “As a country, we have got to get past the heavy hand of Government and we have got to treat Australians like adults and we all have our own responsibility in our communities and for our own health.”
He continued: “In the same way as we go into the summer season, people will be slapping on the hat and slapping on the sunscreen.”
But the Labor leader said the analogy was “rather absurd” due to the fact coronavirus can infect other people whereas sunburn only affects the unprotected individual.
Australians will go to the polls in 2022 to decide whether Mr Morrison should serve another three years as the nation’s Prime Minister.
A recent opinion poll conducted by YouGov suggests Mr Albanese is on track to defeat Mr Morrison, with the Labor leader taking a six-point lead in the two-party-preferred vote.
However, Australian pollsters were dealt a bloody nose after the 2019 Election when Morrison overcame dire polling figures, including in the nation’s exit poll, to take a narrow 3-point victory.