NADIA MITSOPOULOS: Well, there is an orchestrated campaign underway to pressure the McGowan Government into opening up the WA border once 80 per cent of you are vaccinated. Now, it is no coincidence that 81 top tier companies – including West Farmers, BHP, the big banks, Optus, Programmed – signed an open letter about this. On the same day the Federal Attorney-General warns the Constitution may not protect WA again if there was another court challenge to the hard border. I spoke to Michaelia Cash a little earlier this morning.


MINISTER CASH: Good morning, Nadia.

NADIA MITSOPOULOS: So, what is your warning to Mark McGowan and his desire to keep the WA border closed? Even after we’ve reached 80 per cent vaccination?

MINISTER CASH: Well, in the first instance, what I’d say is the Government has no plans to challenge state border closures in the High Court. But what we would say, to all of the states and territories, is we need to honour all of our agreements to the national plan, and we need to open up safely. In the first instance, for many states, that will be when vaccination rates hit 70 per cent. But then in WA’s case, because we have been very fortunate – we don’t have COVID in Western Australia – when we get to 80 per cent vaccination rates. That was the national plan, agreed to at National Cabinet.

And what I’d say to Western Australian’s is, the question we now need to ask ourselves is, if not at 80 per cent, when are we going to open up?

NADIA MITSOPOULOS:   And so, is it your legal advice that if we didn’t do that, the Constitution would not protect our right to keep our border closed if we chose to, and we were legally challenged again?

MINISTER CASH: Look, if someone was- so for example, if Clive Palmer wanted to legally challenge the border closure- What happened last year in the Clive Palmer case is that the High Court, when it brought down its decision – and they decided that closing the Western Australia border was a necessary and proportionate response to COVID-19. And what the High Court said at that time was: there’s no known vaccine, and there’s no treatment presently available to mitigate the risks of severe medical outcomes of COVID-19.

A lot has now changed in Australia, and in fact in the rest of the world, since November last year. So for example, we now have the AstraZeneca, we have the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines – they’re registered for use in Australia. And as you can see, those vaccination rates in Australia, we’ve now hit 19 million doses – that is absolutely fantastic. I think now, over 50 per cent of Western Australian’s have had their first dose – that is sensational.

Things have fundamentally changed. The National Cabinet have agreed to the national plan to open up safely, and for Western Australian’s, what that means is when we do get to that 80 per cent, what are we going to do. And if not at 80 per cent, then when.

NADIA MITSOPOULOS: The Federal Attorney-General, Michaelia Cash, is my guest this morning on ABC Radio Perth and WA. You have said that the Federal Government would not consider a legal challenge to our borders. But what if somebody else did? What if it was Clive Palmer again? Or another company, another person? Would you back that?

MINISTER CASH: Well, at this particular point in time we have no plans to challenge the state…

NADIA MITSOPOULOS:   But what if somebody else did? Would you support that if somebody else did?

MINISTER CASH: That, that’s a hypothetical and I, I’m not going to, you know, talk about hypothetical situations. Where we are at the moment is, the Prime Minster, the states and the territories, we have a national plan to open up safely at 70 per cent vaccination rates, and then 80 per cent vaccination rates. That is what we should all be focussed on. And I, I look at, you know, the vaccination rates in Australia. It took us 45 days as a nation to get to the first million doses. It took us four days to grow from 18 million doses to 19 million doses. What that says to me is, Australian’s understand that vaccination is the key to backing the national plan; vaccination is the key to reopening. And they understand we’ve got to get to, in some instances that’s 70 per cent, for Western Australia because we don’t have COVID, the 80 per cent realistic. And when we get to 80 per cent, the question becomes, if not 80 per cent, then when?

NADIA MITSOPOULOS:   And the Premier has constantly argued that he is sticking to the national plan, because it reserves him the right to keep his border closed. Is he interpreting that correctly?

MINISTER CASH: Look, Mr McGowan is entitled to make the decisions that he makes. And certainly, to date, we have been very lucky in Western Australia. The life we live is fundamentally different to the life that so many are living in the rest of Australia.

But when we look at the national plan, and in particular when we do hit that 80 per cent vaccination rate, if we don’t, as a country, adhere to the plan that, again, National Cabinet agreed to- you know, when you look at the cost in terms of lives and livelihoods, it will be unacceptably high and unnecessarily high.

You know, I look at those small businesses who are desperate to have the certainty that when we get to 80 per cent vaccination rate and higher, they know that they continue, they can continue to open with the necessary precautions being put in place. And again, the question we just need to ask ourselves is, if not at 80 per cent, then when? When is Mr McGowan going to open up Western Australia to the rest of the country? If it’s not 80 per cent, then what is that figure?

NADIA MITSOPOULOS:   And we can ask listeners on 1300 222 720. If not 80 per cent, when? Michaelia Cash is the federal Attorney-General and my guest on Mornings this morning. Are you confident you speak for the majority of West Australians?

MINISTER CASH: I think, on the whole, you look at Western Australians and without a doubt we say we have been very, very lucky to live in Western Australia. I think on any analysis the State Government – the McGowan Government – has done well to keep COVID out of Western Australia. But we are now in a different phase of COVID-19. We now have a national plan that is backed by the science, by the Doherty Institute, the modelling that they’ve done, that sets out a safe way to open up. And that safe way for Western Australia is, we need to hit that 80 per cent vaccination threshold. I agree with that. But then we need to know if Mr McGowan, once we hit 80 per cent, what are our plans to open up to the rest of Australia? And I just pose the question, if not 80 per cent, then when?

NADIA MITSOPOULOS:   Minister, thank you so much for your time.

MINISTER CASH: Great to be with you, Nadia.