With Australians having done an excellent job at reducing the corona virus curve, National Cabinet met yesterday to discuss what a pathway out might look like.
Approach with Caution
The PM, Premiers and First Ministers received expert medical advice, including how the easing of restrictions in countries like Singapore and South Korea had led to a second wave of infections.
For this reason, they are being very cautious in how Australians approach the exit.
At least Another Month
The PM has said the restrictions will be in place for at least another month. He added that the National Cabinet is working towards lifting some of the restrictions by the end of May.
The Queensland Premier’s determination to enforce restrictions in Queensland for six months contradicts this goal. We must hope she will listen to the advice she is receiving as part of the National Cabinet.
Schools and Hospitals Must be First
There is no medical advice that schools should be closed. When asked by the Courier Mail for the medical advice that requires Queensland’s schools to close, the Premier responded that it was confidential. Secret advice is actually useless advice in the current situation.
Many Gregory parents are very anxious about the start of Term 2 on Monday. They deserve to know why they are having to do home-based schooling while trying to stay in their own, paying jobs to put food on the table.
Don’t Sacrifice the Children
Eminent child psychologist, Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, has said that the two key tasks for every child is learning the skills and information they need to progress to independence and consolidating their personality by interacting with other people. A school setting allows them to do both. Lifting restrictions on our Queensland schools is the best way to support our children during the COVID19 crisis – and into a future which is going to be tough for a while.
Get the Hospitals Treating Sick People Again
So, schools first, and then hospitals. The Queensland Health Minister suspended all elective surgery from March 25. This was to ensure our health system could cope with an onslaught of COVID19 patients.
Queenslanders have been so successful in complying with the hygiene and social distancing instructions that, as of yesterday, we have just reached 1,001 cases. There was an increase of only five new cases on the previous day.
The Time has Been Wisely Used
The Federal Health Minister said this morning that the time gained by “flattening the curve” has been used to strengthen our intensive care units and secure locally produced supplies of medical gowns, masks and gloves to protect our health work force.
Given these good outcomes, we need to look at how soon restrictions on non-COVID19 patients can be eased.
Elective Surgery is not about Face Lifts
The elective surgeries are not about frivolous conditions. The ban has postponed any surgery that is not for an immediate threat to life. A tumour may not be going to kill you tomorrow. But “when in doubt, take it out” – because it is going to keep growing.
The same is true of many other disabling and painful conditions from cataracts to back, hip and knee surgeries.
The Waiting Lists weren’t Good Before This
Human compassion requires us to resume treatments as soon as it is safe to do so.
I hope the National Cabinet and the Queensland Health Minister will consider the situation with some urgency, as Queensland’s waiting lists for elective surgery weren’t good before COVID19.
Making the suspension longer than necessary will increase suffering and put us in a slow spiral of continuing delays.
Travel Restrictions and Our Tourism Season
Our tourism industry has been decimated by the COVID19 travel restrictions.
Gregory’s tourism was a vital life-line for our western towns, after 8 years of drought. It is heart-breaking to see our museums, tourism operators, hotels and motels, cafes, restaurants and small businesses denied an entire winter season.
I know people are hoping that it might be business as usual by June, but I must tell you I don’t think it will. Let me tell you why.
International Travel depends on other Countries
Lifting international travel bans – both into and out of Australia – will depend on the corona virus situation in other countries. Some, if not most, of these bans may last until there is a vaccine. Even then, travellers may have to carry a vaccination certificate to prove their status.
What about Australians holidaying at Home?
The PM has said three things need to happen before internal travel restrictions can be lifted. These are wider testing for COVID19, better tracking of COVID19 contacts within the community and a greater ability to respond to localised outbreaks. He said the National Cabinet will be working hard on all three requirements over the next four weeks.
The whole world was taken by surprise in this pandemic. Australians should be rightly proud that international experts have praised our testing regime for its accuracy.
At first, testing was being restricted because we had a limited supply of test kits. This has been overcome and the federal health minister now wants to see the testing expanded to “sentinel” status. That would mean anyone presenting with symptoms would be able to request a COVID19 status.
This is the only way to get a true picture. Until then we must act as if it walks amongst us
When will we have Sentinel Testing in Queensland?
Expanding to sentinel testing in Queensland is up to the Queensland Government. Neither the Premier or the Health Minister have made any announcement as yet.
Currently COVID19 testing is still restricted to health care workers with acute respiratory symptoms and returning international travelers with symptoms or people who have been in close contact with a returned traveller and have symptoms. Health care workers, aged and residential care workers can also be tested.
Tracing and Tracking
The federal government is currently trialling a smart-phone app that will act a bit like the “satellite handshakes” that track international planes on their flight paths.
As I understand it, if you spend 15 minutes or more in contact with someone who has COVID19, and you both have the app, there will be a digital “handshake”.
Nothing will appear on either phone, but when the person is tested and confirmed with COVID19, Queensland Health will be able to call you and suggest you get a test.
You may not even know the person but have been near them in a supermarket or at a cattle sale. The important thing is that Queensland Health will be able to reach out directly to you if you have had contact. Suddenly a very unpredictable virus becomes easier to head off at the pass.
For it to be effective, at least forty per cent of us will need to download it. It hasn’t been released yet, but I will keep you updated.
Other News – Gun Licenses
In a very quiet victory for the LNP, the Palaszczuk Government has expanded the exemptions on ammunition sales for the holders of the following weapons licenses: OCA, OC2, OC3, OC4, OC5, OC6, AC1, AC3, AC4, OCC.
It has also been lifted for RE1, RE2 if you can produce either the most recent Local Government Rates Notice evidencing that the licence holder owns rural land or documentation from a rural land owner permitting the licence holder to shoot on the rural land for a rural purpose or documentation showing you have a current rental or agistment arrangement for rural land.
The previous exemption still stands for the following licenses: PPA, PP2, PP3, PP4, PP5, PP6, PPH, FCA, FC2, FA3, FA4, FA5, FA6, FAH.
You can read the Health Direction at this link: https://www.health.qld.gov.au/system-governance/legislation/cho-public-health-directions-under-expanded-public-health-act-powers/non-essential-business-closure-direction
Jobs and Training
A new Jobs Finder Queensland web page allows jobs seekers to register their details to be matched with potential job opportunities. Job seekers can also access nine free, short, on-line training courses. Click on this link to find out more www.jobsfinder.qld.gov.au .
Anzac Day Arrangements
RSL branches across Australia are organising their own private Anzac Day Services for next Saturday, April 25, but there will not be the opportunity for public participation or parades due to COVID19.
Instead, people are being asked to stand in their driveways, balconies or verandahs at 6 a.m. to observe a two-minute silence in remembrance.
The National Anzac Day Dawn Service will still be held at 5.30 am. ABC TV will broadcast this commencing at 5.00 am and concluding in time for people to participate in the driveway ceremony of remembrance.
We Need to Show that Anzac Spirit
The legacy of the Anzac Spirit should be an inspiration as the COVID19 crisis starts to wear us down. The Anzac Spirit embraced resourcefulness and ingenuity to get the job done. It offered both discipline and a larrikin spirit, where each was appropriate.
I see that today in the way Queenslanders are upholding hygiene and social distancing while still sparking world-wide movements like the “Dress Up for Bin Day” memes on Facebook and Instagram. We still see the job through, while having some fun where we can.
Most of all, the Anzac Spirit is about mateship, courage and endurance. We are the very living legacy of our Anzac diggers when we show these qualities in response to the pandemic. It is the most sincere tribute you can make.
Thanks for the Encouraging Words
Thanks to everyone who has emailed me with encouragement about these updates. It means a lot to me and my staff. I love to receive your comments, although I might not be able to reply to all of them individually.
A special “shout out” to Missy Bright. Missy had to move to SEQ a while back, but she still gets my letters to stay in touch with Longreach. She misses western Queensland very much. You have our sympathies, Missy, because the weather is gorgeous at the moment.
As Usual – Keep Doing the Gregory Waltz
Remember, we have no cure and no vaccine. The only prevention we have is hygiene: washing our hands and staying out of each other’s “splash zones”.
Best Wishes for Term 2
Good Luck to all the parents and students starting home-based learning on Monday. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you need my assistance.
As Always … Feel Free to Share
If you wish to share this information, please feel free to simply forward this email. If you have received this letter from a friend and want to subscribe, email me at [email protected] or visit lachlanmillarmp.com. Previous letters are also on lachlanmillarmp.com.
If You Need Help
If you have a comment or an issue to raise, you can simply contact me by return email. Both my Emerald and Longreach offices remain open, although because of COVID19 we are doing our work by phone and email, rather than face-to-face.
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.)
My suggestion this week is “United We Stand, Divided We Fall” by the Brotherhood of Man. This original clip from 1970 is unintentionally hilarious but the song is great stuff. One chorus is just under 20 seconds so you can give it two if you want: “United we stand, divided we fall and if our backs should ever be against the wall, We’ll be together you and I”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3ScvoMvBK8
Thanks for reading – and continue to stay safe.
Lachlan Millar MP
Member for Gregory and
Shadow Minister for Fire, Emergency Services and Volunteers.
Federal Government and National Cabinet Measures www.australia.gov.au.
Federal Health Department – Corona Virus Information https://www.health.gov.au/
Queensland Government Public Health Directions https://www.health.qld.gov.au/system-governance/legislation/cho-public-health-directions-under-expanded-public-health-act-powers
Queensland Health Corona Virus Information https://www.qld.gov.au/health/conditions/health-alerts/coronavirus-covid-19
Queensland Government Business Assistance www.business.qld.gov.au