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New Zealand travellers who flew to Melbourne via Sydney still in Victoria, authorities say

ABC Health logo ABC Health 17/10/2020

The Federal Government says "there was an understanding" that travellers who arrive in New South Wales from New Zealand would be allowed into other states if their borders aren't closed, despite Daniel Andrews stating Victoria was not part of the new trans-Tasman travel bubble.

Mr Andrews said Victorian officials had "absolutely no power" to detain the 17 travellers from New Zealand who arrived in Melbourne via Sydney last night.

The passengers flew to Sydney on Friday, on day one of the new trans-Tasman travel bubble, then caught a connecting flight to Melbourne.

Passengers from New Zealand now do not need to quarantine upon arriving in New South Wales, but Mr Andrews said Victoria was not part of the bubble arrangements.

"Somehow, something has gone wrong at Sydney, I think, to allow people to travel on beyond the international flight," he said on Saturday.

The Premier said he had written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison to ensure more arrivals from New Zealand do not travel on to Victoria on Sunday.

"We're disappointed this has happened, given that I had written to the Prime Minister on this very issue the previous day, saying at some point we will join that New Zealand/Australia travel bubble but it is not appropriate now," he said.

In the letter, Mr Andrews reiterated that Victoria could not accept any foreign travellers until mid-November, after the hotel quarantine report is delivered.

"I urgently request your action to prohibit onward travel of passengers under the Safe Travel Zone Arrangements into Victoria," he said.

"This action would avoid the need for Victoria to close its borders — an intervention I have resisted throughout this pandemic."

However, the Federal Government has made a statement contradicting the claim that travellers from New Zealand should not be allowed to fly into Victoria.

Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge said when the trans-Tasman travel bubble was discussed at a Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) meeting on Monday, "no official from any jurisdiction raised concerns" about arrivals from New Zealand potentially travelling to other destinations.

"There was an understanding that when Kiwis arrived into Sydney, coming from a country which has zero community transmissions, that there'd be no need for quarantining," he said.

"And that once they had arrived into Sydney that they would be treated like any other person in New South Wales, any other Australian, any other visa holder, and therefore travel into those jurisdictions which enable people to travel into them — and that of course included Victoria."

In an earlier letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Andrews said while Victoria wanted to give further consideration to allowing arrivals from New Zealand, it was not possible until international flight arrivals recommenced.

Victoria has not accepted international arrivals since early July, but its domestic borders have remained open.

When asked whether Victoria should consider shutting its domestic borders, Mr Andrews said he did not want to do that.

"I know that the Prime Minister would be very disappointed if that happened," he said.

"That is what he is trying to avoid, and that is why I wrote to him this morning and made it clear that we need to get to the bottom of this, and have the requisite assurances that this won't happen again."

'They could be Victorians for all we know'

The Premier said the 17 travellers from New Zealand travelled to Melbourne at about 5:30pm on Friday.

"They didn't spend very long at the [Melbourne] airport. They left the airport within only minutes, really, of having arrived," Mr Andrews said.

"Our officers have absolutely no power to stop someone, to detain someone in those circumstances, particularly given they were coming from a very low-virus part of the world."

The Premier also said on Saturday morning that Victorian officials did not know who the travellers were or where they were going, because the Australian Border Force had not handed over the passenger arrival cards.

"Because we don't have the cards, I can't tell you whether they are New Zealand or Australian citizens," he said.

"They could be Victorians for all we know."

However shortly afterwards, Mr Tudge said the passenger cards had been handed over to Victoria.

Mr Andrews said it was also unknown whether the people who arrived knew about the restrictions in place in Victoria.

"We're not asserting or inferring that they have done anything wrong," he said.

"Something has gone wrong in this system, we are not supposed to be part of this [travel bubble] arrangement."

Victoria Police said they would visit the travellers on Saturday to perform welfare checks.

Police Deputy Commissioner Rick Nugent said the passengers were in Melbourne and not under any detention orders.

In a statement issued late last night, Victoria's Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) said its authorised officers did not have legal authority to detain travellers on arrival.

"Victoria has not agreed to a travel bubble arrangement with New Zealand and did not expect to receive international travellers as a result of NSW making that arrangement," DHHS said.

"The Victorian Government has made it clear to the Commonwealth that we expect NZ passengers who have not undertaken quarantine will not be permitted to board flights in Sydney bound for Melbourne."

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