Feds urge unity as Vic premier faces heat

Senior Morrison government ministers have declared the focus must be on helping Victoria navigate coronavirus rather than blaming Premier Daniel Andrews.

High infection rates and extreme lockdown measures are fuelling tensions in Australia’s second most populous state.

Mr Andrews has come under fire over the bungled hotel quarantine program largely thought to have triggered the deadly outbreak.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the federal government was focused on striking a balance between keeping the economy alive and stopping the disease.

“In Victoria, it’s a very bad scene in terms of just where people’s anxiety levels are at. We’ve got to do what we can to help them out,” he told 2GB radio on Friday.

Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar broke ranks with federal colleagues, blaming the state government’s decisions for the outbreak.

“Clearly the hotel quarantine catastrophe has led us to this point,” he told Sky News.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said criticising the premier would not help the emotional toll Victorians were grappling with during lockdown.

“My support goes to the Victorian people at this difficult time and we need to all think about that,” he told Sky.

Mr Frydenberg said Mr Andrews would have to address significant failures but cautioned against a political blame game at the height of the crisis.

“As a Victorian I feel so devastated about what has transpired in my state,” the treasurer said.

“It should have never got to this but I’m not serving Victorians or Australians by engaging in a slanging march.”

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said it was important for both levels of government to concentrate on getting on top of the virus.

“It’s not for me to get into the finger pointing at this point,” he told Sky.

“Clearly there will be a time when there’s going to have to be a proper review to find out what happened and why. Right now, we’re focused on the crisis response.”

Federal and state leaders will meet on Friday to be briefed about improvements to coronavirus information sharing.

National cabinet is also expected to discuss border closures, including Queensland’s decision to shut off NSW and ACT visitors from this Saturday at 1am.

Treasury will update the leaders on the latest economic advice, which shows the jobless rate heading to 10 per cent and up to $12 billion stripped from growth because of the Victorian outbreak.

Advice will be received on a transport industry code to minimise virus risks for workers crucial to delivering food and other essentials around the country.

Victoria’s Stage Four restrictions will be closely scrutinised for their potential national impact amid concerns about around food supply chains.

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