Scott Morrison has rejected suggestions a decision by West Australian Premier Mark McGowan not to attend a meeting of Australian leaders was disrespectful.
The national cabinet gathering with the prime minister in Canberra on Friday was attended by all state and territory leaders barring Mr McGowan who took part online.
Asked if Mr McGowan had disrespected the process, Mr Morrison quipped: “Not at all. We were heartbroken that Mark couldn’t join us here.”
“We understand every state and territory has its rules and those rules need to be held to and so we understand,” he added.
“But obviously (we) miss our colleague and look forward to him joining us next year.”
Mr McGowan remained in WA to avoid coming into physical contact with South Australian Premier Steven Marshall, in line with his state’s health directive.
This requires West Australians to isolate if they come into contact with anyone from SA and advises them to avoid contact if they can.
In a Facebook post, Mr McGowan said he couldn’t ask West Australians to follow the current rules if he didn’t follow them himself.
“So, given our State’s current health advice regarding South Australia, I stayed in Perth and took part remotely.”
Meanwhile, SA travellers no longer require exemptions to enter WA under COVID-19 border changes that came into effect overnight.
But they are still required to self-quarantine for 14 days – meaning the earliest they would be able to escape is 11.59 pm on Christmas Day.
The isolation requirement will only be lifted when SA goes 28 days with no new cases.
Given SA’s current trajectory, travellers willing to roll the dice could be able to mark the festive season in WA without quarantining – but only if they arrive on Christmas Day itself and there are no other cases before then.
Mr McGowan on Thursday denied he was being unnecessarily harsh by refusing to bend the rules.
“We haven’t done it lightly. And I couldn’t imagine this would be something I would do or even consider doing a year ago,” he said,
“We’re very sympathetic and very understanding that there will be people impacted by what we’re doing here.”
Mr Marshall says his state has done an outstanding job in staring down a potential second wave of infections.
SA is the last remaining state to be affected by border restrictions after WA earlier this week fully reopened to NSW and Victoria.