Answers demanded on Schoolies as calls grow to axe event
GOLD Coast hoteliers are pleading for clarity on incoming schoolies from the Palaszczuk Government - but it says it doesn't "organise Schoolies any more than it organises Christmas".
Hoteliers crippled by the coronavirus say they are confused about taking bookings or not with the official response up in the air to the annual rite-of-passage. It typically sees thousands of graduates descend on the Glitter Strip to party.
Graduates are still preparing to come to city tourism hubs Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach in November - as revealed by the Bulletin early this month - despite the pandemic.
But as of Wednesday, Queensland Police were directing inquiries to the State Government, organisers of the Schoolies.com accommodation site were not responding to media and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk's office was still "carefully considering its response to the event".
Child Safety Minister Di Farmer has saidthe official 2020 Safer Schoolies Gold Coast Response "will be decided and communicated based on expert health advice and best practice for keeping school leavers and the community safe".
A spokesman for Ms Palaszczuk said: "Any Queenslander holidaying anywhere in our great state, not matter their age or the reason, must ensure they follow rules and regulations to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
"Large gatherings are off the table, full-stop. We have seen this week that police will not hesitate to fine people who breach these very important health measures.
"While the Government does not organise schoolies anymore than it organises Christmas, it is very carefully considering its response to the event. The Palaszczuk Government will have more to say about this matter soon."
Her spokesman also added: "The Premier continues to take the expert medical advice of the chief health officer to ensure the safety of Queenslanders.
"The Premier is on the record that she has discussed the matter with the Gold Coast Mayor."
Schoolies.com, which runs a centralised bookings website listing 2020 accommodation options, failed to respond to requests for comment.
Bookings are being taken by some accommodation providers, while others have pulled out of the informal celebrations from November because of the lack of clarity.
The community-run Byron Bay Schoolies Safety Response revealed its event hub would not be operating and "there is no plans for any kind of response". It has already urged school leavers to stay at home in the "uncertain times".
Surfers Paradise's Alexander Apartments manager Alexander Bourne said he was not taking official bookings, despite being listed on the Schoolies.com website, but was open to taking overflow Schoolies bookings.
"We are receptive to taking (graduates) if everywhere is booked out. We're certainly not basing our business model around it.
"It would be super valuable and insightful if the Queensland Government could step in or provide some instructions or more information around Schoolies.
"Schoolies for us isn't really happening. 2020, we decided to pull out," he said.
"It's very lucrative for the hotel industry and we've all been smashed since March, we've been demolished. But we don't want to spur coronavirus, we do not want that."
A Zenith Oceanfront Apartments manager said hoteliers were desperate to hear from the State Government.
"We don't know whether it's actually going ahead. We have pulled our building out of Schoolies. We won't be taking any schoolies at all," she said.
"It's been very difficult. It's difficult for the kids too, they don't know what's going on. It's very confusing. So this year we've decided to give it a miss.
"It's been a tough few months already and we've just been trying to grin and bear it."
Mayor Tom Tate has called for Schoolies to be axed and suggested graduates could celebrate with video chats via Zoom.
Surfers Paradise MP John-Paul Langbroek is calling on Ms Palaszczuk to "cancel" Schoolies, whatever way that could possibly be done.
"Every other major festival, carnival, event has been cancelled because of (COVID-19) health issues, including social distancing," he said.
"How can we have thousands of schoolchildren congregating in Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach for Schoolies?"
Asked how the Government could block graduates from booking and coming en masse, Mr Langbroek said: "The chief health officer can make any ruling she wants, and she's clearly been doing it."
He suggested the government was playing politics.
"This is the first year (most) Schoolies are going to be 18, which means their first opportunity to vote is going to be October 31," he said.
Ms Palaszczuk said early this month she would speak to Cr Tate and seek advice from Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young, but the government would act on health advice at the time of the event.
Red Frogs founder Andy Gourley confirmed his volunteers have been gearing up, but were still waiting for official word from the government.
Originally published as Answers demanded on Schoolies as calls grow to axe event