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The federal agriculture minister, David Littleproud, has told “petulant premiers” to “bugger off” if they can’t work together to resolve border restriction issues.

In a spray on Sky News, the deputy leader of the Nationals also accused WA premier Mark McGowan of trying to score political points ahead of a state election with his remarks about NSW’s Covid-19 strategy.

Readers will recall that McGowan yesterday called on the NSW government to look at “what other states and territories are doing in order to crush and kill the virus”. The WA Labor premier said: “You need to eliminate the virus from Australia. The idea that you tick along with the virus and somehow that is a better model is wrong.”

But Littleproud said McGowan should “just grow up”, and reaffirmed his previous criticism that “our federation is failing this country at the moment”.

Agriculture minister David Littleproud. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Littleproud pointed the finger of blame at “petulant premiers just wanting to act like teenagers, trying to score cheap political points rather than lead”.

“Federation was meant for us to work together, and though it was a line put in a map 120 years ago, and at the moment it’s failing us, because it’s parochial politics. McGowan’s going to an election in March, he’s using it as a political advantage to himself – and I get that, that’s politics. But this is above this; this is a crisis, a national crisis, where we’ve got to back one another …

“So, it’s time for the premiers to grow up – they want to be big boys and girls now and have ownership of a lot of the public health and make all the big calls, but with that comes a responsibility of working together. And unless they’re going to do that, they should bugger off, because effectively the rest of the country’s had a gut full of this.”

Littleproud said he was opposed to “hard lockdowns of straight borders right across the line” but instead favoured localised lockdowns – such as those that occurred in greater Brisbane and Sydney’s northern beaches – so that regional Australia was not punished.

“Instead of just reverting back to old type of having that parochial politics at the state border and looking after your own dung heap, we have to work together.”

Littleproud also accused the Victorian government of “sitting on their hands” over a proposal to allow the entry of workers from Pacific nations to fill fruit-picking labour shortages.

“There is no impediment to us stamping the visas of those people. So, it is in your court. National cabinet, Dan Andrews, big man beat his chest and said this was important, we need these workers in, we will take responsibility. He has been sitting on this since October and still will not make a decision.”

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