New Border Closures
As you have no doubt heard, from 1 AM tomorrow, Saturday August 8, our southern border will be closed. All travellers from NSW, ACT and Victoria will be denied entry and turned around.
Only Air Returns
Queenslanders wishing to return from these areas can only do so by air. They will not be allowed to cross by road.
Compulsory Quarantine for All Returnees
Additionally, all returning Queenslanders will have to do a compulsory 14 day quarantine in a state government nominated hotel. This will be at your own expense; approximately $2,800 for a single, $3,600 for a couple.
Other States Still Welcome
This is a hard border closure for NSW, ACT and Victoria.
Travellers from Tasmania, SA, and the NT will still be allowed to enter Queensland.
The strong message to Queenslanders is “Stay safe. Stay Here.” The Premier has said exemptions will be limited – including for compassionate reasons.
Victoria in a Grim Battle
The example no one wants to copy is Victoria. As infection and death rates set new Australian records, the latest modelling says they are unlikely to get this community transmission under control before mid-September at the earliest. Victoria is now clearly experiencing a second wave.
Given this situation, the new Queensland border closures have bipartisan and community support.
NSW and ACT Not to Blame
The NSW and ACT border closures do not seem to be based on medical advice.
The ACT has no cases. It has a better record than Queensland.
NSW is suffering from cases imported from Victoria, which turned into clusters. However, new cases have peaked and are now falling. Yesterday saw about 12 new cases.
Dodgy Queenslanders To Blame
The hard border closure seems to be the Queensland government’s response to people successfully dodging quarantine under the current arrangements. There is a report of a Sydney resident travelling to the ACT to fly out of Canberra and lie about his true origin. This was used to justify the ACT closure.
There is also a couple who allegedly crossed the border at Goondiwindi on false declarations. I am not sure if they were Queensland residents, but all the other known dodgers were Queenslanders.
Weipa, Toowoomba, Logan, South Brisbane
We have a 22 year old Weipa man who flew from Sydney to Cairns and then drove on to Weipa.
We had the three ladies from Logan and South Brisbane. Now we have three blokes from Logan who took a holiday in Victoria ,before coming home on false declarations via Sydney.
Then there is the Toowoomba bloke who claimed a quarantine exemption under the Geneva Convention on returning from Afghanistan.
Whoops! Should Have Picked Up the Phone
Unfortunately, Queensland authorities granted the exemption without checking with the Department of Foreign Affairs who would have told them he wasn’t eligible.
Then Queensland Health struggled to trace his fellow plane passengers because domestic airlines aren’t being obliged to retain customers’ contact-tracing details. Can someone address that, please?
An Open or Shut Decision
The Premier is calling this a “hard” closure. That shows that the previous border closures have not really been “closures”.
As I have written previously, there were too many holes, too many exemptions, too many people being waved through. Now it appears there was also an unknown number of deliberate evasions as well.
The government won’t say – and may not know – how many. But you can’t legislate against stupidity and deceit.
It leaves us all with an open or shut decision.
Workforces Need Clarity
It is regrettable that, once again, there was little consultation before the announcement.
No doubt, footballers and celebrities will be untouched.
However, the mining and shipping sectors are vital to earning our income. Both are concerned about the impact on their workforces and are awaiting clarification from the government on how they will be treated.
Their COVIDSafe plans have been very effective to date, so we must be careful not to spite ourselves.
Protestors Need Clarity, Too
The refugee protestors planning tomorrow’s blockade of the Story Bridge need clarity of a different kind.
About 3,000 people have expressed an interest in taking part. It is selfish and reckless for organisers to plan a gathering of this size on the very same day we are shutting our borders to fight the pandemic.
Organisers cannot possibly guarantee that not one attendee has been exposed to the virus.
Their belief in the nobility of their cause does not give them the right to endanger their fellow Queenslanders. Queensland Police have said very clearly the planned gathering is unlawful.
If protestors need further clarity, arrests and fines might provide it. The Premier should allow the police to do their job.
Results Taking Longer
If we needed a further reminder about what happens when we let the virus erupt, the cases of the two groups of evaders from Logan and South Brisbane have provided it.
The good citizens of Logan have come forward and patiently had themselves tested, but media report that the turnaround between test and result has blown out to 72 hours as a result of the increase in demand.
If you are being tested it is vital that you stay totally isolated at home until you receive your result. Just having the test provides no protection against spreading the virus if you turn out to be positive.
Clusters Will Continue
These hotspots were always expected and NSW shows us they can be contained. But it is up to each of us to take responsibility for our individual actions while we are in this health emergency.
This is the only way to minimize the impact of COVID19 on Queensland’s health, lifestyle and economy.
Beware Un-Traceable Infections
At the time of writing, we have one Queensland case that can’t be linked to a known source of infection.
When we have untraceable cases, it is an indication that the coronavirus is running ahead of our efforts to contain it.
Keep Playing Your Part
Every one of us can help by washing our hands, keeping 1.5 metres from others, downloading the COVIDSafe App and using it, obeying COVIDSafe plans in businesses and entertainment venues - and by telling health authorities the truth when they ask.
We are still counting down the incubation period to see if the actions of a reckless few will result in a Logan cluster. We are not through this yet. None of us can assume we won’t come into contact with a carrier.
Answer the Question!
On a different subject, I could have cheered this week when Labor’s own speaker finally forced the Premier to answer an LNP MP’s question about public servants’ bonuses.
It turned out that despite the Premier trumpeting a public service “wage freeze”, some 210,294.99 public servants have received a lucrative $1,250 bonus payment. This at a time when businesses are going broke, private employees are losing their jobs and Australia is experiencing deflation.
We Are Flying Blind
The truth is that Labor is refusing to bring down a state budget, or to submit that budget to an examination by the Queensland Parliament. It means that as a State, we are flying blind in the biggest economic crisis in almost a century.
The Premier’s stunning admission this week that there has been no economic modelling of the impact of the COVID19 border closures further proves Labor has no economic plan.
No Official Road Plans
This has all sorts of flow on effects. For instance, no official state Budget means no coordinated plan has been released by the Department of Transport and Main Roads regarding Queensland’s roads for 2020-21.
Known as the QTRIP (for Queensland Transport and Roads Investment Plan) this is normally released with the Budget. There has been no QTRIP this year, but we do know there was already a huge shortfall in road maintenance funding.
The Auditor-General’s Report No. 4, 2017-18 Integrated Transport Planning identified a $9 billion shortfall in road maintenance funding back then. So, if you are getting a rocky ride on roads in your area, you know why.
Then There is the Bruce Highway Trust
As part of Labor’s road policy at the last election, they promised to create the Bruce Highway Trust, to improve this vital highway. I need not say to you that the majority of the Bruce Highway is in regional Queensland, north of Gympie.
Well, the Labor government has now announced the members of the trust’s newly formed advisory council who will set the priorities for improvements.
Seven of the eight members are from south-east Queensland. The most northern member, and the only member from regional Queensland, is from South Burnett (Kingaroy, Murgon, Nanango).
At least it is an honest reflection of Labor’s opinion of regional Queenslanders and how much say we should actually be allowed.
Bushfire Funding Also in Question
With the last two catastrophic bushfire seasons fresh in our memories, and with the next season practically upon us, it is outrageous that the Labor Government is refusing to outline its rural fire-fighting budget for 2020-21.
Again, no state budget and flying blind.
So, Tell Me What We Do Know
We do know that funding for Queensland’s Rural Brigades was already mean, compared to other states.
SA’s Country Fire Association budget is more than twice Queensland’s. NSW’s Rural Fire Budget is more than $200 million.
By comparison, in the last Budget, Queensland’s rural brigades got $39.1 million out of a total QFES budget of $750 million, according to the Rural Fire Brigade Association of Queensland.
Shaving Back that Slim Slice
We do know that funding to Queensland’s rural brigades was cut by $13 million last year.
We also know that this year the Labor Government drained $16 million from fire levies and used it to pay for COVID19 hotel quarantines. These levies are paid through your council rates to fund local fire fighting.
A Vote of No Confidence
No wonder the Labor Government is refusing to outline the current budget for rural fire-fighting.
No wonder not one of the 18 regional representatives of Queensland’s rural fire brigades voted to support the current structure under QFES at a recent meeting.
Horselovers Have Double Cause to Celebrate
This week marks the “birthday” of all horses – traditionally celebrated on August 1 every year. Last Saturday was a double celebration as the use of electric prodders on horses became outlawed in Queensland.
Anyone who works with horses should be aware that Queensland’s animal cruelty laws do not permit the use of electric prodders, punching, kicking, whipping, tail twisting, the use of sticks, metal pipe, fencing wire or leather belts, excessive shouting or making loud noises.
It is horrible that this has to be legislated, but I know Gregory’s many horse-lovers will find it a great comfort that it has been legislated. The maximum penalty is $266,900 or three years imprisonment.
Auditor General’s Report into Child Safety Department
This week the Auditor General tabled a report into Queensland’s child safety system which exposed major failings.
Some service centres, when receiving a “harm” report about a child, do not even sight that child within a month of the report. The recommended time period is ten days – and that is too long in my opinion.
Lack of Training
Department of Child Safety staff in four out of five regions reported concerns over a lack of induction training and on-going training for child safety officers.
This lack of training may explain why a child safety officer told the coroner’s inquiry into the death of Mason Jett Lee she thought her first priority was to help the mother, not protect the child.
In Queensland you can’t even climb a ladder without “Working at Heights” training. A Department which is sending people into serious situations should be running ongoing training and assessment of all field employees as a normal part of business.
Problems with Foster Care Placements
The report also highlighted that one quarter of children in care have had at least six placements. This is not good for children and the foster care system must be overhauled.
Glossing Over or Covering Up?
Worst of all, the Auditor General found that the Department of Child Safety publishes misleading information about the length of time taken to commence investigations.
Queensland’s child protection system is broken. The LNP knows that and has committed to radically reforming it. This would include embedding experienced police investigators to clear the investigation back-log, recruiting more foster carers and fixing that system, and providing 24/7 access to emergency care for children.
We should be ashamed of the ever growing list of young lives damaged or lost for good due to a failed system.
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. Next week we are back to parliament.
If You Need Help
Remember, 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.