Chief Minister Michael Gunner has changed his pre-election message suggesting Territorians cancel their interstate Christmas holiday plans, saying the government “gets it” if people want to leave the NT to see their families.
In an interview with ABC Darwin Breakfast radio Monday morning, Mr Gunner told Territorians that if they choose to leave for the holidays, he “certainly understand the call of family.”
He predicted some sort of border controls with other states and territories would be around until potentially late next, which mirrored him telling the national ABC News Breakfast television program on August 11 there would be controls for about 18 months.
However in that interview he said the Territory would have “hard border” controls for 18 months which caused confusion – and people cancelling their holidays – because the NT has never had completely closed borders.
Instead the NT has been operating under the hotspot policy, which means people entering the NT from declared coronavirus hotspots will have to be quarantined for 14 days.
“I think the toughest thing during coronavirus has been to be apart from family,” he told ABC Darwin.
“Having not being able to grieve, the way we would normally [do], and not being able to celebrate the way we would normally celebrate together.
“I think all of us can understand that if come Christmas time you want to see your family, we kind of get it. My only advice will be, the Territory’s probably the safest place in Australia…if you don’t need to leave don’t.
“But if you do leave, and I certainly understand the call of family.
“Make sure you got some plans up your sleeve around how you’ll handle coming back in case you’re [the place people have travelled to] are declared hotspot.
“Now we’re tracking well for there not to be hotspots, the country’s doing magnificently.
“You got to have some plan in place, I think, because it’s realistic that there may be a hotspot declared and lifted quickly while you’re away in the area that you are.”
Mr Gunner was not asked about, nor brought up, that he had previously told people to cancel their Christmas holidays. And while on Monday he did encourage people to stay in the Territory if they could, his language was significantly toned down from his August interview.
In the lead up to the August 22 election Mr Gunner was criticised for scaremongering and politicising the coronavirus pandemic.
There were also reports before the election of how Mr Gunner’s behaviour and language had changed where he had become more ‘blokey’.
“We’ll have our hard border controls in place for at least the next 18 months and we’re resourcing until we can do [lift] that,” Mr Gunner told ABC News Breakfast in August.
“My advice to every Territorian is if you can stay in the Territory. You’re safe here, don’t go.
“If you can, cancel your Christmas holiday plans and stay here in the Northern Territory.”
Mr Gunner’s office did not respond to questions from the NT Independent.