A political slanging match has erupted in Victoria as players arrived for their 14-day lockdown prior to the Australian Open COVID edition.
A former state premier has slammed current PM over allowing 1,200 or so tennis players and support staff into the country for the quarantined Grand Slam due to start three weeks later on February 8.
Australia has almost completely knocked out the virus after months of no international travel and major restrictions on movement around the country,
Now, former PM Jeff Kennet fears all the good work will blow up.
But current state boss Daniel Andrews fired back by saying if the Open did not go ahead it could easily be lost to – horror – Sydney, or eager Asian nations in the region.
“If the Australian Open does not happen in Melbourne, it will happen somewhere else,” Andrews said.
“It will happen in Japan, it will happen in China, it will happen in Singapore. The real risk then is, it doesn’t come back.
“Just focus on the future of this event – not just this year – but what not having this event this year may well mean.
“There are so many cities around the world that would do anything to have one of those grand slam events anchored in their city.
“Many … might go ahead and build a brand-new facility from scratch to do it. You don’t invite that.”
With new cases at zero throughout most of Australia, locked-down citizens have grown used to the near-return of normal , pre-pandemic life.
Kennett, who ran the state in the 1990s and is current president of the Hawthorn AFO club, is not buying that argument.
“Premier says best practices. Rubbish. Victorians who are clean are being locked out of the State,” Kennett tweeted in reference to months of bottlenecks in allowing Australian citizens to return form overseas.
“Businesses have failed. We are told because health considerations must be given priority What hypocrisy! Lose the Open! How dishonest!
“Every small business person should be outraged.
“Every major sport has been disrupted. Even the Olympics deferred. Our Grand Prix deferred (from march to November). Why not defer the Tennis Open?
“And to make things worse we have prioritised a player coming to Vic who has tested positive!”
Players began arriving on Tennis Australia-chartered planes from Europe, the Middle East and the US, with US outlier Tennys Sandgren somehow allowed to board in LA even without a negative COVID test.
TA medical officials explained the exception by saying he was “shedding” the virus after first testing positive in November and was not a danger.