Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has fired a brutal spray at NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner over quarantine requirements for overseas mango pickers.
Farmers in the territory have called for workers from Vanuatu to be allowed to serve their two-week quarantine periods on farms to enable urgent harvest needs to be met.
But the NT government is sticking to health guidelines and insisting the isolation periods are completed at a mining camp near Darwin.
Mr Littleproud said the situation was embarrassing for the chief minister.
“If Michael Gunner’s going to do something he better do it quick because otherwise the mango industry in the Northern Territory is buggered,” he told reporters in Canberra.
“He will be the cause of it. He needs to understand his responsibilities.”
The territory has been successful at stopping the virus from spreading, with just 34 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic, all of whom have recovered.
More than 320 farm workers from Vanuatu have already arrived in the NT, with a second plane touching down in Darwin earlier in the week.
Mr Littleproud said Queensland was allowing workers to quarantine on farms while also picking, and urged Mr Gunner to follow the Sunshine State’s lead.
“There’s mangoes falling on the ground as we speak and that is a lot of money that is going out of the agricultural sector,” he said.
The minister added the NT is $8 billion in debt with a population of around 220,000.
“They’ve had a fat old time but at some point they’re going to have to pay it back,” Mr Littleproud said.
“That means they’ve got to get agriculture going, they’ve got to get resources going and Gunner’s doing three-fifths of bugger all.”
States and territories have been urged to spend more money during the coronavirus pandemic after the Morrison government spent up big in last week’s federal budget.
“Dead set, do they want us to hold their hands, all these states? They want all the power, responsibility and the glory but then they won’t act on it,” Mr Littleproud said.
He accused premiers and state ministers of using the “old business model” of blaming Canberra while also treating the Commonwealth as a cash machine.
“The ATM is shut. We’ve just spent it on the budget. It is time the states started to spend something,” Mr Littleproud said.
“This is time for Gunner and Co. to lead, not bleed this nation.”