PANDEMIC FORCES THE PACE – MARCH 31, 2020

A week is a long time in a pandemic, so I am contacting you again to provide further updates on changes to restrictions and supports due to the corona virus.

Because silly people keep ignoring the social distancing guidelines, restrictions on public gatherings have been tightened further. We have to do this if we don’t want the tragic scenes occurring in Europe and the US.

Three’s A Crowd

Both indoor and outdoor gatherings, including on private property, are restricted to only two people. This does not apply to family members living in the same household.   Flat mates in a share household are treated the same as a family household.

Additionally, there should only be one visitor to the household at a time. A visitor is anyone who does not normally live in the household.

Remember, the aim of the restriction is to prevent the spread and flatten the curve. When you abide by the rules, you are doing it for your fellow Australians.

Stay Home As Much as Possible

From 11.59 pm on Sunday March 29, Queensland residents must not leave their home except for the following permitted purposes:

    1. to obtain food or other essential goods or services;
    2. to obtain medical treatment or other health care services;
    3. to engage in physical exercise, either alone or in the company of no more than one other person; or in the company of a family group who ordinarily live in the same Household;
    4. to perform work on behalf of an employer that is engaged in an essential business, activity or undertaking, and the work to be performed is of a nature that cannot reasonably be performed from the person’s principal place of residence;
    5. to visit a terminally ill relative or to attend a funeral, subject to any applicable restrictions under other relevant Public Health Directions;
    6. to provide assistance, care or support to an immediate member of the person’s family;
    7. to attend any Court of Australia or to comply with or give effect to orders of the Court; or
    8. to attend a childcare facility, school, university, or other educational institution, to the extent care or instruction cannot reasonably be obtained in the person’s principal place of residence.

The Queensland Chief Health Officer may grant an individual exemption to part or all of these directions on compassionate grounds or for other exceptional circumstances. If you need to make an appeal and you need some help, please contact me.

Can the Kids come to the Shops?

Yes. If you are going to get food or to the chemist, for instance, you can take the kids with you. In fact, by law you can’t leave children, aged 12 and under, unsupervised at home. But if your partner is home and can watch them, leave the kids at home.

If you are someone who relies on a carer or friend to drive you when you are doing essential errands, yes, you can be accompanied by one unrelated person.

Keep It Short, Sharp and Sweet

There is evidence that it is not just contact that counts with corona virus. Length of contact counts too.

So, to be on the safe side, we need you to get your errands done and go straight home…and wash your hands when you get back.

Shop Local, Shop Small, Don’t Chat

Our supply lines are continuing to function well, so the best thing you can do for your town is to be shopping local, to support as many local workers as you can.

Shop small – get in and out and get home. Wave to that friend rather than stopping for a long chat. You can always arrange to have an on-line chat or a phone chat.

Avoid Crowded Shops

Our local retailers are doing everything they can to stay in business and it is important that they do. This will be our base from which to restart our local economies when this is over. If people flood into local businesses, they run the risk of being told to shut down.

If it looks more crowded than one person per 4 square metres, come back another time.

Fossicking Ban

Last time I told you about the camping ban. Last night the Queensland Mines Minister also banned fossicking.

The camping and fossicking restrictions apply to all state-owned land and will affect Gregory’s gem fields on the Central Highlands, as well as our western opal fields. Clermont’s gold fossicking is also affected.

Fossickers will still be able to fossick on private property with the landholders’ permission – and as long as they obey the social distancing rules.

I fear both the camping and fossicking ban have been necessary because of the high numbers of “grey nomads” from hotspots in NSW and Victoria still trying to cross the border to spend the winter in Queensland.

I realise this is sad for the people who do this every year, but we have no cases in Gregory as yet and I hope we can keep it that way. This is the year for our southern friends and visitors to stay home.

I cannot advise how long this ban will be in place, but the better we observe the restriction – the sooner it is likely to be lifted.

Now for the Good News! Telehealth For All!

Previously telehealth consultations were restricted to possible COVID19 patients, the vulnerable and the elderly.

Now the PM has announced that bulk-billed, telehealth consultations will be available to the whole population.

This is tremendous. To access this, call your GP. Make sure you say you want a bulk-billed consultation.

There will still be some conditions that require a physical appointment for the doctor to properly assess and treat. However, for people needing prescription repeats, this is a good alternative that will allow our GPs to manage their workloads.

It is also a good example of how the national Cabinet is scaling up their measures as the crisis evolves.

JobKeeper Payments to Help Businesses and Families

Yesterday, the federal government announced a world-first assistance package to keep family breadwinners paid and able to return to their employers when this is over.

It will also help businesses scale down while we weather the corona virus storm.

This is absolutely historic – and frankly, I think it is genius. I hope it will allow us to re-boot the economy more quickly than would otherwise be possible.

It is “Opt In”

The JobKeeper Scheme is an Opt-In Scheme. Employers must elect to participate. You can do this through the Australian Tax Office. This is the link https://www.ato.gov.au/general/gen/JobKeeper-payment/

Who Does It Cover?

Eligible businesses include companies, partnerships, trusts, sole traders, the self-employed and not-for-profit entities like charities.

Eligible employees include full-time, part-time and long-term casuals and stood-down employees.

To be eligible, the employee must have been on the employer’s books on March 1 2020 and continue to be employed now. Employees that are re-engaged by a business that was their employer on March 1, 2020 will also be eligible.

When Will the Money Flow?

The JobKeeper Payments will start on March 30, 2020 with the first payment to be received by employers in the first week of May 2020. Please note, employers must pass this payment onto their employees.

Thank You for Your Efforts

Thank you for taking the time to read this and keep up to date with the COVID 19 changes. As I said a few weeks ago, in a pandemic change is the new normal.

Thank you also for your personal efforts in social distancing and hygiene and thank you also for the help you are all providing to your loved ones, friends and neighbours. Gregory’s towns are staying strong.

I hope we will start to see some flattening of the curve in Queensland and that will be the best reward.

Feel Free to Share

If you wish to share this email, please feel free to simply forward it. 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.

If you have an issue you wish to raise, you can contact me very simply by return email or by calling my Emerald Office (07 4913 1000) or Longreach office (07 4521 5700).

Please take care and continue to “fight the good fight”. We will get through this together.

Kindest regards,

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