Premier between rock and hard place on border closure


I DON'T blame Annastacia Palaszczuk for being a bit shirty about the whole border debate.

And she's not happy. Not a bit.

Why should Queensland be dictated to about its border by New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian?

After all, this is the state with the greatest number of active COVID-19 cases, the state where community transmission is still occurring and the state with a health system that was ill-prepared to deal with a pandemic.

And this was the state where the Ruby Princess cruise ship scandal occurred, a monumental debacle that has been linked to 22 deaths and caused additional coronavirus cases almost everywhere else.



Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, Speaker's Green, Parliament House Brisbane. Photographer: Liam Kidston
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, Speaker's Green, Parliament House Brisbane. Photographer: Liam Kidston



NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Picture: AAP/Dean Lewins
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Picture: AAP/Dean Lewins


No wonder the Queensland Premier sniped that Berejiklian would have to cool her heels about heading to our state's far north, which is apparently a favoured holiday destination.

"We're not going to be lectured by the state that has the highest number of cases in Australia," Ms Palaszczuk insisted yesterday.

Good on her. She's right.

As our state's chief health officer Jeannette Young has repeatedly said, opening the borders now would expose Queensland to a second wave of cases.

It would endanger lives, imperil the easing of other restrictions and cause further havoc for business and jobs, a body blow that our economy really cannot afford.

Yet it was Palaszczuk who really dug herself into this hole about the border.

And when she realised she was in it, her response was to keep digging.

For weeks the Premier had been saying that the border closure would be reviewed at the end of each month and health advice would dictate when it would reopen.

But then on Monday she inextricably went off script and threw out that it might not happened until September.

Dr Young backed Palaszczuk in a fashion by saying it may even be later than September.

But she also said it might be sooner which meant she really doesn't know.

That begs the question of where the Premier got her September prediction from to begin with.

More problematic for Palaszczuk is that this came only 10 days after she released Queensland's roadmap for easing restriction which surmised that interstate and further intrastate travel could be permitted from July 10.

Surely the date detailed in the roadmap was based on the latest health advice?

So what changed?

Clearly something went astray.

Tourism operators are understandably aghast at what's gone on.

They'd been briefed by the Government that July 10 was the likely date and begun planning for their revival accordingly.

That date meant they'd be open for the second week of the NSW school holidays and the remainder of the peak winter season when interstate tourists flock to warm themselves in Queensland's sunshine.

But now that's all in doubt without much of an explanation why, other than Palaszczuk got a bit peeved at comments from her NSW counterpart.

Politically, the Palaszczuk Government is now in a real bind over the border closure.

If it persists with its plan to keep Queensland closed until other states record a month of no new coronavirus cases, it may actually be months before the border is fully opened.

That would ensure it's a huge issue come the state election on October 31, even if the border has been opened by then.

Some senior Labor figures reckon this could even cost Ms Palaszczuk the election and have been urging her to retreat.

"If she doesn't back down, we're screwed," was how one summed it up.

With a wafer-thin majority, Labor cannot afford to lose seats where the economy relies on tourism, which includes the foothold it has on the Gold Coast and all the electorates in Cairns.

Keeping the border closed would also have flow on effects for other areas with significant services industries, Brisbane in particular but also Townsville.



A police officer speaks with a driver at the Queensland border checkpoint. Picture: Scott Powick
A police officer speaks with a driver at the Queensland border checkpoint. Picture: Scott Powick



However, while some might be imploring Palaszczuk to act sooner rather than later, a secondary wave of coronavirus cases that cause restrictions to be reinforced could be much more poisonous politically.

Imagine the scenario of the Government having to send kids home from school again and businesses closing for a second time, many forever.

This has happened already in countries that rushed to reopen.

It would be diabolical for the Queensland economy. Worse for Palaszczuk's electoral prospects.

Palaszczuk should have stressed repeatedly that the July date was tentative and never mentioned September.

The real reason she's so cranky isn't because of Berejiklian's grandstanding but because she badly needs NSW to get its cases under control.


Originally published as Premier between rock and hard place on border closure