Omicron: Annastacia Palaszczuk should think twice about closing the borders and ruining Christmas


Annastacia Palaszczuk’s convincing re-election as Queensland premier last year is widely attributed to her government’s tough response to the Covid pandemic. 

By putting in firm border controls quickly and early, Ms Palaszczuk responded directly to the parochial nature of Queenslanders, who have always seen themselves and their state as ‘different’ from the rest of Australia. 

Beyond the anti-vax crowd who’ve turned out to protest in Brisbane in recent months, or the more mixed crowd who protest against the massive inconvenience of restrictions in the border community of Coolangatta-Tweed Heads, the majority of Queenslanders are broadly supportive of the ‘Fortress Queensland’ approach that prevented Covid from spreading wildly in the state.

While southern capitals such as Sydney and Melbourne were portrayed as ‘Covid-riddled’, Queensland was constantly held up as a place where – other than a few snap three-day lockdowns and lots of mask-wearing – normal life went on. 

'We stood strong, Queensland,' Mr Palaszczuk said after being returned to government in October 2020, referring to the pandemic response. 'We stared down critics and we have come out of it all the better for it'

‘We stood strong, Queensland,’ Mr Palaszczuk said after being returned to government in October 2020, referring to the pandemic response. ‘We stared down critics and we have come out of it all the better for it’

In announcing the re-opening plan in October, after 80 per cent of Queenslanders achieved full vaccination, Ms Palaszczuk expressly said it was 'good news' for families wanting to reunite for Christmas. Pictured: A mother reunites with her children at Brisbane Airport after eight months apart when Queensland reached 70 per cent of its population fully vaccinated

In announcing the re-opening plan in October, after 80 per cent of Queenslanders achieved full vaccination, Ms Palaszczuk expressly said it was 'good news' for families wanting to reunite for Christmas. Pictured: A mother reunites with her children at Brisbane Airport after eight months apart when Queensland reached 70 per cent of its population fully vaccinated

In announcing the re-opening plan in October, after 80 per cent of Queenslanders achieved full vaccination, Ms Palaszczuk expressly said it was ‘good news’ for families wanting to reunite for Christmas. Pictured: A mother reunites with her children at Brisbane Airport after eight months apart when Queensland reached 70 per cent of its population fully vaccinated 

‘We stood strong, Queensland,’ Mr Palaszczuk said after being returned to government in October 2020, referring to the pandemic response. 

‘We stared down critics and we have come out of it all the better for it.’

But this time is Ms Palaszczuk in danger of being on the wrong side of public sentiment?

Poll

Should Queensland still open on December 17th?

  • Yes, we need to live with Covid 0 votes
  • No, it¿s too risky 0 votes
  • Wait and see 0 votes

It will be a brave call – even for Fortress Queensland  – to renege on a commitment to re-open the state to interstate travellers from Covid hotpots on December 17 in the wake of the new Omicron variant.

On Monday Deputy Premier Steve Miles said there was, as yet, no change to the plan to allow interstate visitors back by road and air from December 17. 

But neither he, Ms Palaszczuk nor the Acting Chief Health Officer Peter Aitken have yet ruled out the possibility the plan could change. 

How prepared the premier would be to ruin people’s end-of-year Christmas and summer holidays – after giving them the idea firm plans could now be made – remains to be seen.

But such a move would be immensely unpopular with, not only people from NSW and Victoria impatient either for a holiday or to visit family in Queensland they haven’t seen in months, but importantly for Ms Palaszczuk also with Queenslanders desperate to freely travel back and forth to see relatives down south.

The border wall at the NSW-Queensland border at Tweed Heads-Coolangatta. Queensland authorities had not ruled out the possibility its plan to re-open the state to interstate travellers on December 17 could yet change

The border wall at the NSW-Queensland border at Tweed Heads-Coolangatta. Queensland authorities had not ruled out the possibility its plan to re-open the state to interstate travellers on December 17 could yet change

The border wall at the NSW-Queensland border at Tweed Heads-Coolangatta. Queensland authorities had not ruled out the possibility its plan to re-open the state to interstate travellers on December 17 could yet change

Protestors march on the Gold Coast against mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations on November 27

Protestors march on the Gold Coast against mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations on November 27

Protestors march on the Gold Coast against mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations on November 27

As a Queensland resident with two elderly parents in Sydney who I haven’t seen in 18 months, I will be one of those who understood the reasoning behind Queensland’s zealous approach to the border but will fail to see why it should be closed again should a new variant escape in Sydney or Melbourne.

We are nearly there on vaccination, based on the constant urging of politicians and health authorities – what was it for but the possibility of seeing family again?

In announcing the re-opening plan in October, after 80 per cent of Queenslanders achieved full vaccination, Ms Palaszczuk expressly said it was ‘good news’ for families wanting to reunite for Christmas.

She and her ministers have repeatedly warned that the Delta variant ‘is coming to Queensland’ once borders re-open, primarily as a way to motivate laggard Queenslanders to get the jabs. 

That is, she’s guaranteed a variant that has killed over 500 people in NSW will soon spread in Queensland, particularly among the unvaccinated.

Based on the admittedly little we know so far, if Delta is inevitably coming and we’re still re-opening, Omicron is no basis for changing the plan now. 

Tourism operators have perhaps been noisiest in their opposition to Ms Palaszczuk's Covid border restrictions but they will be positively white with rage should the government go back on its commitment to re-open

Tourism operators have perhaps been noisiest in their opposition to Ms Palaszczuk's Covid border restrictions but they will be positively white with rage should the government go back on its commitment to re-open

Tourism operators have perhaps been noisiest in their opposition to Ms Palaszczuk’s Covid border restrictions but they will be positively white with rage should the government go back on its commitment to re-open

In a state where the tourism industry, pre-pandemic, made $28billion per year for government coffers and employed more than 234,000 people (or one in 11 Queenslanders), operators of businesses in the sector have suffered terribly during the border closure.   

Tourism operators have perhaps been noisiest in their opposition to Ms Palaszczuk’s Covid border restrictions but they will be positively white with rage should the government go back on its stated aim to honour the national plan of re-opening at 80 per cent of Queenslanders fully vaccinated. 

They are already upset at having to police the public health orders mandating refusal of service to unvaccinated Queenslanders from December 17, with many avoiding the administration involved by simply not taking bookings from unvaccinated people.

If Omicron gains a foothold in NSW or Victoria and begins to spread, it will either be the bravest or most foolhardy decision Ms Palaszczuk ever makes to respond by closing up Queensland once again. 



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