Victoria’s opposition leader, Matthew Guy, says he does not support the repatriation of Islamic State fighters’ relatives from Syria to Victoria, saying it could compromise the safety and security of Victorians.
On Saturday, four women and their 13 children – relatives of IS fighters – arrived in Sydney under a commonwealth repatriation scheme. They are expected to be among 60 women and children repatriated from the al-Hol and Roj refugee camps in northern Syria over the next few months.
On day one of the official Victorian election campaign on Wednesday, Guy posted on Facebook that the opposition did not support the repatriation of “so-called ISIS brides.”
“While I feel for some of them, and particularly their children, we cannot compromise the safety and security of Victorians,” he said.
Speaking at a press conference earlier that day, Guy said he could not support the repatriation efforts “now that we’ve seen a little bit more detail of what’s coming into Victoria”.
Nine newspapers on Wednesday reported a second contingent was expected to arrive in Victoria, but not until after the state election on 26 November.
Victoria’s premier, Daniel Andrews, said suggestions that repatriations had been purposely delayed until after the election for political reasons were “nonsense”.
Andrews would not reveal what discussions Victoria has had with the commonwealth about repatriations.
“It’s not for me to make announcements on behalf of the federal government,” he said.
On Sunday, he stressed that only people deemed to be of the lowest risk category would be brought to Australia.
Anthony Albanese also rejected the assertion that sending families to NSW before Victoria was politically motivated.
The federal opposition leader, Peter Dutton, has criticised the repatriations, saying he does not want to see a terrorist attack in Australia, while the NSW premier, Dominic Perrottet, has also sought to distance himself from the federal program.
A spokesperson for the federal home affairs minister, Clare O’Neil, said the government’s primary focus for any repatriations was to keep Australians safe, and that national security agencies provided advice on the scheme.
In other campaign news, the opposition on Wednesday announced it would freeze service charges on water bills, saving households $100 a year.
They also pledged to build two new hospitals if elected, including a $500m 150-bed facility at Casey in Melbourne’s south-east, and $300m for one in the city’s north-east.
Meanwhile, Andrews announced that if re-elected, the Labor government would slash the price of regional public transport to bring it in line with metropolitan fares.
The commitment would see a daily V/Line ticket capped at $9.20 for a full fare or $4.60 for a concession.
Currently, regional fares are calculated based on the distance travelled. A daily return fare from Bendigo to Melbourne costs up to $68.80, Shepparton to Melbourne up to $53.60, Ballarat to Melbourne up to $45.69 and Geelong to Melbourne up to $27.60.
Australian Associated Press contributed to this report