Tensions are rising within the Berejiklian government’s senior ranks over COVID lockdown settings, as key ministers push back with increased force.
Tensions are rising within the Berejiklian government’s senior ranks over COVID lockdown settings, as key ministers push back with increased force.

Coalition brawl brewing over COVID lockdown

Tensions are rising within the State Government's senior ranks over COVID lockdown settings, as key ministers push back with increased force against chief health officer Kerry Chant's bid to tighten restrictions.

The Daily Telegraph understands Dr Chant has wanted tougher measures imposed amid increasing levels of ­unexplained community transmission.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gaye Gerard
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gaye Gerard

There were 10 new cases diagnosed on Thursday from almost 28,000 tests with all but one linked to known clusters. Three new cases were recorded on Friday.

While Dr Chant has had the ear of Premier Gladys Berejiklian, senior figures in the Coalition have adamantly opposed a further clampdown.

Those believed to have vigorously advocated for opening up include Jobs and Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres and Treasurer Dominic Perrottet.

So too has Customer Service Minister Victor Domin­ello - albeit it less adamantly.

Even Health Minister Brad Hazzard has been agitating for a lightening of the lockdown.

Minister for Jobs, Investment and Tourism Stuart Ayres. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Steven Saphore
Minister for Jobs, Investment and Tourism Stuart Ayres. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Steven Saphore

This is despite him having initially fought to have the whole northern beaches local government area put under the same restrictions out of concern that dividing it along pre-council amalgamation lines would be a bad look for the government because it ­imposed the merger.

That was a battle Mr Hazzard lost.

The tensions were exacerbated when Ms Berejiklian informed Nationals leader John Barilaro that she would be soldiering on through the holiday period, meaning he would not get to be acting Premier.

There are worries Ms Berejiklian is at growing risk of error due to burn out after a ­tumultuous year that included the exposure of her messy private life with former MP Darryl Maguire by an Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry.

Minister for Health Brad Hazzard. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gaye Gerard
Minister for Health Brad Hazzard. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gaye Gerard

"What a hell of a year it's been," the Premier said on Thursday, in yet another COVID briefing. "Hopefully 2021 will be easier on all of us."

In response to a question about Victoria moving to ­impose tougher rules about mask-wearing than her government has, even though it has far fewer active COVID cases, Ms Berejiklian gave an insight into how she has maintained stability despite being pulled in both directions by colleagues and advisers.

"Here in NSW, we always try and strike the right balance," she said. "This is a very unpredictable, contagious disease, but we also appreciate that we don't want to put more burdens on our citizens than we need to. It's a very fine line.

"That's why our approach in NSW is to regularly update our health advice (and) our policy settings. If Dr Chant or the health experts advise us to go down a particular course, we will do that quickly and nimbly and flexibly."

In a bid to quell rising levels of anger among voters on the northern beaches, The Daily Telegraph understands Ms ­Berejiklian's COVID crisis cabinet is considering using the peninsula as the Dine & Discover vouchers trial site.

The vouchers trial was originally due to run in The Rocks.

The value of the vouchers may also be increased from the $100 that was planned.

 

 

 

Originally published as Coalition brawl brewing over COVID lockdown

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gaye Gerard
NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gaye Gerard
NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Jeremy Piper
NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Jeremy Piper

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