What has happened to us?

The Coronavirus Pandemic has seen Aussies reported in overseas newspapers as toilet paper brawlers and grocery hoarders.

While the Brits bang pots and pans to thank their frontline workers, we have seen Aussies abusing our frontline workers – health workers, aged care workers, hospitality workers and retail workers.

The Ugly Australian

The so-called “Bunnings Karens” give little thought to the fact that the very staff they are abusing have put themselves at risk by fronting for work in Melbourne, just to keep the joint operating and make other people’s life in lockdown a little more bearable.

This has shown a degradation of our national character in its ugliest light. Then along came three young ladies from Queensland.

It’s All About Them

There are reports they flew to Melbourne to shoplift luxury goods for resale. They allegedly hosted an illegal party while there. This party was broken up by Victoria’s police and fines were issued. Thank goodness, as it turned out.

The young ladies then returned to Queensland where they allegedly lied to authorities about where they had travelled.

No Attempt to Self-Isolate

For over a week, they went about their normal lives, moving and mingling widely across Logan and Brisbane. It was only when one became ill that the authorities discovered what had happened.

At that point authorities identified the second. However, no-one named the third traveller at all. It was only when Victoria Police handed over the charge sheets from the illegal party, they found out there were three!

I Don’t Have to Tell You

Just when you think this story couldn’t get worse, the second young lady refused to co-operate with Queensland Health contact tracers for an extended period of hours, when every moment lost raised the stakes for all Queenslanders.

Testing Times For All

As a result, schools have been closed, sports and community events cancelled and businesses they visited fear they may never recover their trade or their reputations. The Queensland neighborhoods they live in are home to many of Queensland’s key workers, especially in the transport, logistics and supply industries. Any cluster will have a large ripple effect.

Worst of all, the slow motion train-wreck in Victoria shows that once you let this virus into the community you have real trouble on your hands. And all of this happened on Victoria’s grimmest day so far with a record 732 new cases.

It is All About Contact Tracing

The Victorian nightmare has highlighted the importance of prompt and thorough contact tracing in keeping on top of clusters. There have been reports of people not receiving their results in Victoria until after they had completed their 14 days self-isolation.

This would have led to the high number of people found to be breaking the self-isolation rules.

Queensland’s contact tracing unit and testing clinics have been doing outstanding work with most people receiving their results within 24 hours.

And Testing and Isolating

It has also been cheering to see Queenslanders from the affected locations patiently queueing to be tested. In one Logan gentleman’s case he was queuing for the second day but still determined to get his family tested.

This is the type of character we all need to find in ourselves.

Of course, Victoria’s biggest problem is the infection is now well established in their community. While some cases were imported to NSW, it does look like they are giving it a red-hot go in terms of shutting it down. But it is not easy.

Qld At High Risk for the Next Two Weeks

So, it is infuriating that these selfish women have brought it home to Queensland. The next two weeks will be a very anxious time for all Queenslanders as we wait to see whether we will get community infection like Victoria.

Get a New Grip

It is time for us all to take a deep breath and get a new grip on the situation. We are only six months into this. There is still a long way to go. What happens is very much up to each one of us doing our bit for our fellow Australians.

We must persevere with good hygiene, with social distancing and with co-operating with COVIDSafe requirements.

Be Honest – Be Honourable

It isn’t funny to sign in as “Donald Duck” when you go to a café or pub. Not only do you put the host at risk of a fine, but you risk becoming a spreader of the virus if contact tracers can’t find you.

I am asking everyone to try and bring fresh energy to the daily adjustments of living with coronavirus.

Governments, too, Must Learn

Being a federation of states should allow us to learn from each other and find what works. In Victoria’s case this hasn’t happened. They had seen the Ruby Princess debacle in NSW, and still they set up their quarantine to fail.

Now they have community infection, workplaces are becoming a major transmission site. Yet they have only just started checking that COVID19 patients are complying with the isolation required and not going to work. The ADF have been door knocking this week and has found one in four were not at home.

Watch Queensland’s Air Borders

Now we have seen that Queensland’s air borders are a weak spot. We need to learn from this.

There are stories that travellers coming into Brisbane from interstate are being treated the same as travellers from Rockhampton or Emerald or Longreach. With both the domestic and international airports receiving very few flights, surely there is the capacity to separate interstate from intrastate flights. Then you can process the interstate travellers individually.

 At the very least, air travellers should be required to show their boarding passes as proof of origin.

Are We All in this Together? Government must Act Like It.

We must also see Governments apply COVID19 restrictions fairly and evenly across the community.

Returning Queenslanders can’t be expected to do a hotel quarantine when celebrities and footballers are exempted.

How is it fair to charge a country publican for not obtaining the contact details of four patrons who turned out to be from licensing, but to continue to let protestors in Brisbane go completely uncharged?

We must ask the best of ourselves in this emergency. We must also ask the best from our governments.

Special Dangers for Rural Queensland

I fully endorse the Rural Doctor’s Association’s statements today emphasizing that if this virus gets into rural Australia, it will take very few cases to overwhelm our country towns and their health systems. It is up to us.

Don’t Go to Hot Spots and Expect an Exemption

Please, do not travel to Sydney or Victoria unless you are prepared to spend two weeks in quarantine in a government nominated hotel at your own expense. It is that simple.

First Drive Ins – Now Aussie Call Centres

Not all the changes inflicted by COVID19 have been annoying. It’s been great to see drive-in movies make a come-back. If you are looking for a community fund-raising event, socially spaced movies in the park, or a drive-in movie in a suitable carpark or paddock may be just the thing!

Another cheering change is the return of the Aussie -based call centre. It is so nice to hear a broad Aussie accent at the other end of the line when you call for help. While Westpac announced this week that it was expanding its Aussie call centre by 1,000 positions, my congratulations go to the NAB.

Losing Our Banks Hurts Our Towns

With the move to on-line banking, many towns across Gregory have seen their bank branches become unprofitable. The bank then closes that branch.

This has been happening for at least six years, and many towns have been left without a branch in town at all. This means small business has difficulty accessing floats for their tills and they often lose access for night banking. Our older residents are severely impacted if they have no online access at home.

Well Done NAB

The NAB announced this week that rather than close such branches, they will open for normal business in the mornings. Then in the afternoon the staff will undertake phone banking work. In other words, their Aussie call centre will be distributed across Australia’s country towns.

It keeps the jobs in town, it keeps the full menu of banking services in town and it offers NAB customers all over Australia the ease of talking to an Australian call centre. It could be Donna from Dubbo or Bev from Blackwater, but you will be talking to an Aussie.

Three Gregory NAB branches will convert to the new format – Winton, Capella and Blackwater.

Senate Inquires into Qld Reef Laws

The federal senate held public hearings into the Queensland Government’s “Reef Regulations” in Brisbane this week.

In my opinion the evidence showed that these new laws are not based on science. They are based on green ideology and farmers are yet again being used as scape goats.

Farmers and graziers in any of the Great Barrier Reef catchments (including Gregory’s Central Highlands) will be footing the bill – to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars – to comply with a bureaucratic regime that won’t actually make any difference to reef health.

Is there Science to it All?

Professor Peter Ridd’s experience at JCU has left many thoughtful Queenslanders wanting to see a scientific basis for such laws.

Australia’s peak Great Barrier Reef research organisation admitted to the hearings that it couldn’t even say whether overall coral coverage had increased or decreased over the last 15 years.

Top Reef Risks
Climate change and extreme weather events were identified as the greatest threats to the Reef. Crown of Thorns star fish would also have to be high on the list. Yet the Palaszczuk Government is treating all farmers as Enemy Number One.

Reef Spies Dumped

Only days earlier, the state government dumped a plan to hire contractors to access data about Queensland farmers in these catchments. Under this scheme, information farmers had provided to Departments and agencies for other purposes was going to be collated and trawled through to be used against them.

Possibly this is because the government can’t afford any more contractors, but the “reef spies” plan shows Agforce was absolutely right to destroy all its members’ data in order to protect their privacy.

Consultants Instead

Instead, farmers will now have to employ government-accredited consultants to write up management plans and the farmer will have to implement them.

My colleague, the member for Callide, was rightly scathing when he told the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin:

 “It is conceivable that a grazier who has a property hundreds of kilometres from the Great Barrier Reef could face costs in the vicinity of $50,000 to have a third-party accredited consultant to write up and implement a Best Management Plan.

“Who are these people? And what makes their ideas, in practical terms, better than a farmer and grazier who has spent his lifetime working and managing the land?”

And having paid all that money, how will the government quantify any results?

A Bureaucratic and Fundamentally Flawed Regime

Chairman of the AgForce Reef Taskforce, Alex Stubbs, said farmers had been viciously and unfairly persecuted by the Queensland Department of Environment and Science. He described the laws as “a bureaucratic and fundamentally flawed regime that won’t actually make any difference to reef health.”

These laws were pushed through in September last year. During the debate I told the House that actions speak louder than words and that by its actions Labor has clearly shown regional Queenslanders that it does not govern for them.

They know that this government has repeatedly sacrificed their interests in order to woo green votes in the south-east corner.

Labor’s Interests – Not Queensland’s

I described the Bill as another example of the Labor Party putting its own political interests before the interests of Queenslanders. Every Queenslander loves the Great Barrier Reef. In agriculture, our role as stewards is taken very seriously.

What Has the LNP Done for the Reef?

It was the LNP that brought in serious penalties for environmental harming of the reef, including fines of up to $3.5 million or five years. It was telling that Labor chose to vote against those laws.

It was the LNP that banned oil and gas operations on the Great Barrier Reef.

Under the LNP the Great Barrier Reef marine park was established, allowing World Heritage listing.

It was the LNP that set new international standards in marine conservation by expanding the marine park’s ‘no take’ sanctuary areas.

It was the Labor Party under Anna Bligh that planned to supersize the port of Abbot Point. In what would have been an act of environmental vandalism, Labor planned to dump 38 cubic metres of dredge spoil on top of the reef!

Fortunately, the LNP was elected in time to fix Labor’s mess, scaling back the proposed port, reducing the amount of dredge spoil and insisting that the spoil must be disposed of on land and not on the reef or its waters.

It was the LNP that embedded protections for the reef into Queensland’s port strategies, and it took the LNP to fulfil UNESCO’s recommendations for port development.

The last LNP government worked with farmers and graziers to bring in best management practices for the benefit of the reef, and it is this data that has now been lost to Labor’s vicious preference for prosecuting farmers.

Thanks for Reading

Thank you for reading this and staying up to date. As always, if you have a comment or an issue to raise, you can simply contact me by return email.

If You Need Help

If you need help or advice, please don’t hesitate to ring and we will do our best for you. (Emerald Office PH 07 4913 1000; Longreach office PH 07 4521 5700.)

Kindest Regards – and keep COVIDsafe,

Lachlan Millar MP
Member for Gregory and
Shadow Minister for Fire, Emergency Services and Volunteers.