LET'S TALK STRATEGY

The national strategy on COVID19 has always been adaptation.

The first step was to gain control of the infection rate so that our health systems were not over-run. This was a health imperative.

It was also the only way to give us the time and space to adapt our nation socially and economically to function despite the virus.

This is a sensible approach, because eradication is impossible until we have a vaccine, which may be two years – or never.

Health Mission Accomplished!

As I started to write this yesterday, media were reporting only nine COVID19 patients in the whole of Australia occupying an ICU hospital bed.

Geographically, NT and SA are reporting zero new cases – in fact SA’s last COVID19 patient has been discharged from hospital. Most of Queensland has no COVID19 cases.

COVID19 caseloads are now being reported by numbers instead of percentages. I suspect it is because with numbers so low, the percentages would be microscopic.

Time to Start Phase Two

We are now in the realm of diminishing returns for each restriction imposed. Realistically, we will never be in a better position to find our courage and start adapting.

We must find the point of balance between COVID19 precautions and the ability of Australians to live, work and play.

This is why I have been encouraging businesses in Gregory to visit the Safe Work Australia website to start adapting their business operations to trading with COVID19.

Adaptation is a big job and everyone has a part to play.

Define Adaptation

Adaptation means changing yourself in order to survive changes in your environment.

We’ve already made a start by changing our social structures for business, schooling, worship and recreation. These changes need to be embedded for the long haul.

We have also started adapting behaviourally by changing the way we physically interact: avoiding crowds, socially distancing, paying attention to hygiene and washing our hands as often as we can. These too must become automatic.

It takes a Team Effort

Adaptation is hard. It takes effort – team effort and personal effort. We really need Australians to stay united on this, because that is how we will win through.

We will all have to adapt in more than one role, too. We will have to adapt as parents, as friends, as volunteers, as club members and church members – even as holiday-makers.

Adapt to Thrive

Luckily, Australians are excellent adapters. Adaptation can mean not just surviving but thriving.  I hope history will show we didn’t just flatten the infection curve. I hope it will also show we quickly adapted our society and saved it.

Bordering on a Farce

These issues are why there is real anger at the Queensland Premier about her decision this week to keep the Queensland border closed for another four or five months.

This seems to be some bizarre political move to keep people scared about COVID19 until the October election.

It certainly won’t help us learn to adapt.

It certainly comes with a big price-tag in economic losses.

No Medical Justification

She presents no medical advice to support these closures – just as she failed to present any medical advice for school closures.

When there are only nine COVID19 patients in an ICU bed in the whole of Australia, then Australia is no longer in pandemic. Yes, we can’t let our guard down, but pretending we have an ongoing health crisis will destroy lives and businesses and de-rail our health system for no gain.

Losing the Window for Bookings

Thanks to the Premier’s wild comments on breakfast TV, Queensland has left the national road map to recovery. Instead of July 10, the Queensland border may remain closed until September.

Australians planning driving holidays will lack any confidence in booking a holiday in Queensland. There is evidence this morning that this is already happening.

Wouldn’t it have been smarter to stick with the plan? If there was a catastrophic outbreak come July 10, tourism and hospitality operators could issue cancellations. They would still have been better off. Now they will lose those bookings altogether.

Forget Gladys and the “Jokes”

No wonder people feel the Premier is playing them for fools. She announced the border closure on twitter, with no notice or preparations. She and her new Deputy Premier Steven Miles make jokes about Sydney being “dreary” and the NSW Premier just wanting her Queensland holiday.

Forget Gladys

This is not about Gladys. Last year 2.2 million interstate visitors travelled to Queensland in the winter months. They spent more than $1.5 Billion while they were here.

The ban on international travel may even see that market grow bigger this year, just when we need it most. Australians spent $20 billion travelling for overseas holidays last year. With international travel banned, we should be offering them a different Australian adventure.

Tourism is a vital part of Gregory’s prosperity. For example, a RAPAD report says domestic travellers injected $68.8 million into the Winton economy. That is just one town. We are still in drought and there are indications coal prices are on the slide. We need our tourism sector.

And it is not just Gregory. In April, Queensland lost 129,000 jobs due to COVID19 restrictions. Every week of lockdown adds hundreds of millions of dollars to the bill. As the Courier Mail said – we must get up off the sick-bed.

Queensland due a “Reality Slap” in July

What really adds urgency is the fact that the Federal programs like JobKeeper finish in July.

They were always time limited in the legislation. This is not some sort of taxpayer funded holiday and National Cabinet always planned for the sick-bed phase to end and the adaptation phase to begin.

In Queensland, these federal programs have been the sole support many businesses have received. So Queensland, in particular, must be “business-ready” by the time they end in July. It is the Premier’s responsibility to get us there.

Sign the Petition Here

With the holiday bookings “window” closing we must plan to re-establish intra-state travel and  to re-open the borders in July. If you agree, you can sign the LNP’s petition to re-open the borders here https://queensland.typeform.com/to/UmLRKn . I hope you do.

Update on COVID19 Restrictions – Guns and Ammo

Licensed firearm dealers and armourers are fully back in business from Saturday (tomorrow). Just to make it really clear, sporting and recreational shooters can once again purchase guns and ammunition.

Back to School for All Grades

All grades will return to school on Monday. COVID19 Management will vary from school to school, but along common themes of no school assemblies, no contact sports and staggered lunch hours. Schools are particularly asking parents to resist gathering at the gate or outside classrooms. They need parents to “drop and go” for social distancing reasons.

I know this will be a big change for younger students to walk from their classroom to the gate by themselves, but the independence may be good for them as well. This is adaptation in action.

Boarding Schools

The two State boarding schools will now return after the next holidays on July 8. There has been no further public statement from the Queensland Education Minister about COVID19 management in our boarding schools, but they all seem to have developed the management plan most effective for their situation. I am very disappointed that there has not been more direction and support from the Queensland Government as it is their responsibility to ensure no student is left behind.

Elective Surgery and Mobile BreastScreen Service

I am advised by the Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service that they have started to reinstate elective surgery, some outpatient services and some oral health services. It is hoped that the mobile BreastScreen Queensland service will re-start in early July.

Category 3 outpatient referrals from GPs remain suspended across Queensland.

Churches and Places of Worship

I have written to the Premier asking her to review the ten person limit on places of worship. If 20 people can gather in a pub, surely the same number can gather for religious ceremonies, with COVID19 management in place. I will keep you updated.

Parliamentary Report

Parliament sat this week with the main agenda being sweeping COVID19 emergency response legislation. The LNP has strived to take a bipartisan approach to COVID19 because it is in the interests of all Australians to be united.

We’ve copped a lot of flak for this, particularly our leader Deb Frecklington who has been accused of being invisible. So, it was particularly insulting to find hidden in this legislation a law to let jailbirds out early because of the difficulty of them getting air flights during COVID19.

I kid you not! Fortunately, the Government was forced to scrap this clause.

The Justice Bill

A justice bill I have been concerned about also came before the House for debate. It contained a clause that lifted the  level of property offences dealt with by the Magistrate’s Court from $30,000 to $80,000.

This would mean that only lesser penalties could be imposed on offences that have a major financial impact on victims. In the context of major increases in this type of crime by juvenile offenders, this was a bad idea – not to mention the increased workload for the Magistrates Court.

The Palaszczuk Government was also forced to back down on this law and drop the clauses.

Industrial Manslaughter for Mining Deaths

The Bill introducing industrial manslaughter laws for deaths in the mining and quarrying industries was also passed this week, with bipartisan support. It is good that the treatment of mining deaths is consistent with the treatment of deaths in the rest of the workforce.

However, I am concerned that the Bill does not properly reflect workforce arrangements in the Bowen Basin as regards Site Safety Executives and self-employed contractors. You can read my speech here https://www.lachlanmillarmp.com/2-parliamentary_speeches

Queensland COVID19 Stimulus Package

The “all-singing-all-dancing” set piece of the week was the launch of a $4 Billion stimulus package. This is not meant to be a political “pork-barrel”. It is intended to re-boot the State’s economy. It has been called the Unite and Recover for Queensland Jobs which sounds like exactly what we all need to do.

You can read the glossy booklet here https://www.covid19.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0025/128194/economic-recovery-strategy.PDF

So, what is in it? It is eight pages – one of which is the cover and one of the pages is actually blank.

There is a picture of beef cattle on the cover but only one mention of agriculture. It is not an initiative. It is just saying it is one of Queensland’s traditional industries, which of course it is.

Small Business Adaptation Grants

These grants are most needed, especially following the debacle of the Jobs Support Loan Scheme.

I have had multiple small business clients in tears over that scheme. It was the only assistance offered to our small businesses. It then closed in a matter of weeks because it was massively oversubscribed.

A second tranche of funding was then added but all the constituents who have spoken to me were flatly denied the opportunity to participate in the second round either.

Grants – Not Loans

This scheme is a much better concept because it will be grants, not loans, of up to $10,000. Businesses with up to 20 employees will be eligible to apply.

 The money can be used for a variety of purposes such as paying bills, investing in new equipment, taking the business on-line – for instance, for hospitality businesses having a website or app that allows customers to order on-line. You will also be able to use the grant for marketing and communications or to receive business advice – be it financial, legal or professional.

For information on how to apply go to www.business.qld.gov.au .

Be Quick to Apply

While all the details have not been made clear yet, applications are now open and will close when funding has been exhausted. The fund is only $100 million so that is only 10,000 grants for small businesses across the entire state.

At risk of being called a whinger, this falls far short of what is needed. It also falls far short of the support other states are providing to their small businesses.

Our small businesses need money to keep the doors open and the lights on.

The Other Stimulus Packages

These comprise four other initiatives.

  • $400 million Roads Package, which frankly looks like a re-jig of the existing road budgets with a few new items added to make it look fresh.

  • $200 million Works for Queensland package of council funding. Again, this is an existing program. It will work in tandem with the other existing council funding called Building Our Regions. That announcement said the state government would partner with 39 of Queensland’s 77 local governments on 48 new council projects which will invest tens of millions of dollars and create 350 jobs.
    Again, nowhere near enough against the 129,000 jobs lost in April.
     What it is not is a full backing of the LGAQ’s $608 million Battleplan for North Queensland.

  • $50 million Tourism Infrastructure Fund to invest in new tourism infrastructure. This is worthy, but the best thing for tourism would be to open the Queensland borders and restore intrastate travel.

  • $14.8 Million Copperstring 2.0

Copperstring is a long-awaited $1.5 billion project to connect Mt Isa to the electricity grid. It will be a major boost for the development of North West Queensland. This $14.8 mill will help progress planning with the hope of commencing construction in 2021.

I can only point out that the Unite and Recover for Queensland Jobs goes nowhere near what the LNP has been asking for or what is needed. There is no Budget and there is no Plan.

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 the Return to School

Good Luck to all the parents and students heading back to school 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 gregory@parliament.qld.gov.au 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.)

Thanks for reading – and continue to stay safe.

Kindest Regards,

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

LINKS:

Federal Government and National Cabinet Measures www.australia.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 Government COVID19 Response Information https://www.covid19.qld.gov.au

Queensland Government Business Assistance www.business.qld.gov.au