Northern Territory chief minister and US senator Ted Cruz in Twitter spat over Covid vaccines

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<span>Photograph: Aaron Bunch/AAP</span>
Photograph: Aaron Bunch/AAP

The Northern Territory chief minister, Michael Gunner, has hit back at US senator Ted Cruz who criticised the Northern Territory’s vaccine policy, telling the firebrand Texan conservative “you know nothing about us”.

The spat began when the US Republican shared a video of Gunner announcing the territory’s wide-ranging vaccine mandate for workers.

Cruz lamented the “Covid tyranny of their [Australia’s] current government,” which he said was “disgraceful and sad”.

Related: Queensland promises to reunite families by Christmas under Covid border reopening plan

“Individual liberty matters,” Cruz declared, adding he had considered Australia the “Texas of the Pacific”.

Gunner did not appreciate the feedback, responding on Twitter with a statement sharing a “few facts about Covid down here” and tagging Cruz.

“We don’t need your lectures, thanks mate,” the chief minister began.

“Nearly 70,000 Texans have tragically died from Covid. There have been zero deaths in the Territory. Did you know that?

“We’ve done whatever it takes to protect the Territory. That’s kept us safe and free. We have been in lock down for just eight days in 18 months. Our businesses and school are all open. Did you know that?”

Gunner went on to say that Cruz knows nothing about Australia, and criticised his stance on vaccination.

“You know nothing about us. And if you stand against a life-saving vaccine, then you sure as hell don’t stand with Australia.”

“I love Texas (go Longhorns), but when it comes to Covid, I’m glad we are nothing like you.”

US Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas
US Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. Cruz has decried the ‘tyranny’ of vaccine mandates in the ‘Texas of the Pacific’ that is Australia. Photograph: Michael Brochstein/Shutterstock

News of the Territory’s vaccine mandate which requires essential workers in many industries such as retail, hospitality and education to get the jab, went viral among anti-vaccination circles on social media, which used it as evidence of health order overreach.

NT essential workers will need to get at least one dose of a Covid vaccine by 13 November and be fully vaccinated by 24 December, or they will not be permitted to return to work and could face a $5,000 fine.

Cruz, who has been an outspoken opponent of vaccine mandates, seized on Gunner’s announcement, declaring he loves Australia and its “history of rugged independence”.

Cruz has said that he does support the vaccine, but in a recent statement, criticised US president Joe Biden for ordering the US Labor Department to implement a vaccine mandate on businesses with more than 100 employees.

“While I support the vaccine and have received it, Americans have the right to exercise personal choice when it comes to their health,” Cruz said.

“Getting the vaccine is a decision to be made in consultation with one’s doctor, not forced on Americans by the government.”

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