West Australian Premier Mark McGowan has indicated he is considering extending the state’s “controlled border” beyond the COVID-19 pandemic in order to slow drug importation.
Key points:Mark McGowan has flagged extending border controls beyond the pandemicThe Business Council of Australia wants all borders reopenedBut Mr McGowan said fewer drug imports may justify ongoing controls
The Business Council of Australia has stated the national economy should be reopened in line with each phase of the vaccine rollout, describing border closures as “economically damaging”.
But Mr McGowan disagreed, and said stricter border controls could stay in WA beyond the pandemic.
“I think they [the Business Council of Australia] are wrong,” he said.
“We have the strongest economy in the nation, recovered virtually all of the jobs lost during the pandemic, we avoided a recession.
“We have the strongest business confidence, consumer confidence, retail, hospitality, construction, building industries in the country, the strongest mining industry in the country.
“The reason we could do all of that was because we kept COVID out, our borders did that.
“I think organisations like that [the Business Council of Australia] need to understand that.”
Fall in drug use amid pandemic
Mr McGowan pointed to a reduction in methamphetamine importation in WA during the pandemic and said this unexpected side effect could be a reason for ongoing border controls.
“We obviously have a significant reduction in meth usage in Western Australia, and part of that … is the border measures.
“The Police Commissioner and I will continue to talk about what can be done to protect the state from the scourge of meth and other drugs. If necessary, we will look at measures we can bring in should we be re-elected.
“If we can work out how we can keep that reduction in drug usage in place within the law, that is something the Commissioner and I will work on if we are re-elected.”
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Mr McGowan did not rule out keeping the current G2G pass system in place, which was introduced to protect the state against COVID-19 and allowed the government to track people who enter WA.
“I can’t predict exactly what it would be,” he said.
“Our border at Eucla has slowed drug importation.
“On the border, we have staff that check for bananas and avocados, surely we can have people there checking for meth as well.
“And if civil libertarians or the like don’t like that, my argument would be that keeping meth out of WA is very important.
“Obviously, if staff are there checking for bananas, tomatoes and avocados, I don’t think it is unreasonable to have other staff there checking for meth, heroin and cocaine.”
Opposition brands border plan ‘overreach’
Liberal leader Zak Kirkup said keeping strict border controls beyond the pandemic would represent an “immense overreach” by the government.
What is ‘total control’?
“[It] is a taste of what is to come if Labor gets too much control and if there is no opposition from the Liberal party,” he said.
“The Liberal party fully supports the borders to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, but this now — suggesting that we are going to go further than that and somehow treat every Australian who might be visiting our state as a potential meth trafficker — I think is an immense overreach.
“The best way to respond to meth is by making sure that there are stronger laws, more police and effective operations in place to seize drugs off our streets.”
Premier lodges early vote
Mr McGowan was out today casting an early vote in his electorate of Rockingham ahead of the state election.
Mr McGowan, pictured with his wife Sarah, cast his vote 11 days ahead of polling day.(
ABC News: West Matteeussen
“I think what [early voting] does is allow people to get out and vote early in uncertain times,” he said.
The WA Electoral Commission has indicated up to 70 per cent of voters could cast their ballot papers before election day, amid polls indicating a landslide Labor victory and warnings from Mr Kirkup that the party’s MP ranks may be decimated.
What does Antony think?
Read the ABC’s election expert Antony Green’s analysis on the WA election.
Mr Kirkup, who last week said his party could not win the election, told ABC Radio Perth he would stick with tradition and vote on March 13.
“It [encouraging early voting] probably plays into Labor’s strategy here of trying to get people out earlier, rather than consider the messages and consider what might happen over the next 11 days,” he said
“It is unusual, I’ve not seen that before, but … it’s an unusual time, this election.”