Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce declared Queensland to be “beautiful one day and unfortunately run by Anna the next” as he lashed the Premier over her embarrassing backflip on the cost of PCR tests to enter the Sunshine State.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has hit out at the “chaotic” Queensland Premier for making decisions based on whatever is “floating through her head at that time” following an embarrassing feud with Health Minister Greg Hunt over the cost of PCR tests.
Mr Joyce appeared on Sky News Australia on Wednesday morning after Mr Hunt demanded an apology from Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk over a “false claim” she made about the COVID-19 test required to enter the Sunshine State when border restrictions ease just in time for Christmas.
The Queensland Premier had indicated travellers into the state would be required to fork out $145 for the test and a certificate and called on the federal government to cover the cost during a press conference on Tuesday.
Mr Hunt replied on Twitter that evening and confirmed a free text message would suffice, while demanding Ms Palaszczuk apologise for “the unnecessary stress she has caused to Queenslanders and those planning to travel there”.
Mr Joyce said the series of events showed the “chaotic, scatterbrain politics of the Queensland Premier”.
“What on earth is going on?” he told host Peter Stefanovic.
“For 24 hours she goes out there and all of a sudden everyone would have to go to a pathologist, get a written certificate to go back to their home state.
“I don’t get this. Then she tries to pull this swifty, this sneaky little swifty of ‘we want the federal government to pay for it’, she puts out a tweet welcoming that the federal government is paying for it, based on what?”
Mr Joyce added that it is likely based on “whatever was floating through her head at that time”.
The Deputy Premier said the requirements to enter Queensland are back to “where we’ve always been”.
“You can get a PCR test, it’s 50/50 between the state and the federal government, for the person that gets the test it’s free,” he said.
“We’re back to where we started, for 24 hours she’s moved by the spirits… I don’t know what was going on.
“What worries me, she’s running the state and that’s a bit of a concern.”
Stefanovic, who intends to visit Queensland sometime over the holiday period, then asked the Deputy Prime Minister what someone travelling to the Sunshine State would need to do.
“Worry about the next iteration coming out of the Premier’s mouth is going to be,” Mr Joyce quipped.
“I don’t know, stay glued to the radio and decide whether in the empire of Anna things are going to change before you get to the border to go home.
“Queensland, beautiful one day and unfortunately run by Anna the next.”
Overnight Ms Palaszczuk welcomed the Health Minister’s statement that only a text message would be required, saying she was pleased families could reunite for Christmas “as my government had always planned”.
“I welcome the Federal Health Minister’s commitment to fund PCR test required to enter Queensland from interstate hotspots,” she wrote on Twitter.
“I am pleased people can look forward to being re-united in time for Christmas – without additional costs – as my government had always planned.”
But Mr Hunt refuted the Premier’s comments, saying the Commonwealth had always funded 50 per cent of the PCR test as outlined in an agreement Ms Palaszczuk would have signed in the early stages of the pandemic on March 13, 2020.
“The only thing that has changed is that after accepting text confirmation for 18 months and then rejecting it for 24 hours, Queensland is now accepting the same text messages again, dropping their demand for a certificate,” he tweeted in response to the Premier’s post.
He demanded Ms Palaszczuk apologise for causing “unnecessary stress” to her residents and domestic travellers who had set out plans prior to the certificate requirement.
But she was adamant the confusion did not come from her government saying she made it “plain weeks ago” a text message for “most people” would suffice.
The Queensland government and Commonwealth had been at loggerheads in the past few days over who would foot the bill for the tests.
On Tuesday the Premier said she did not want to “fight” with the federal government.
“Now is not the time to fight. Now is the time to work together,” she said.
“Greg Hunt can quite easily make it a Medicare debate. He can do what with the stroke of pen.”
Mr Hunt had earlier written to the Queensland government over his “concerns” of testing travellers and questioned why a rapid antigen was not enough.
He referenced an Australian Health Protection Principal Committee statement saying “large-scale, non-targeted, asymptomatic testing in Australia should be strongly discouraged”.