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Planned weekend rollbacks not enough: PM demands borders must open

Queenslanders are expected to be able to travel within the state under the fast-tracked lifting of travel restrictions to be announced this weekend, but the Prime Minister has demanded it’s not enough and the state needed to justify its decision to keep the border shut.

May 27, 2020, updated May 27, 2020
The border between Queensland and New South Wales is closed to non-essential travel. (Photo: Array)

The border between Queensland and New South Wales is closed to non-essential travel. (Photo: Array)

Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk is expected to give the green light on Sunday for travel within Queensland, combined with the easing of the 20-person limits allowed in cafes, bars and restaurants.

The move would give some relief to ailing businesses furious over the Queensland border remaining shut to interstate travellers.

But Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the border barriers should be “removed as soon as possible”.

“The National Cabinet has never agreed that there should be borders closed in Australia,” Morrison told Channel Nine.

“That was never the medical expert advice that came at any time.

“Premiers and their governments in states, whether it is South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, Queensland, have all made their own decisions and so they have got to justify those decisions.

“There is no doubt that those sort of borders do harm the economy, they do harm jobs and it is important that we get those removed as soon as possible.”

The Premier on Tuesday refused to back away from the Government’s refusal to open the border, based on medical advice and due to active transmission of coronavirus still being recorded in southern states.

“I don’t want to see everything we’ve done in Queensland put at risk because there’s been active transmission in NSW and Victoria,” Palaszczuk said.

“I want to get people back into work as quickly as possible. But if I don’t do it safely it could cripple our industry for years to come and take us backwards. No one wants to go back to a lockdown.

“So I say to NSW and Victoria: get your cases under control so we can open everything.”

Following a meeting with tourism and business chiefs at the Gold Coast, which estimates its tourism industry has suffered a crippling $4 billion in losses as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate said he backed the Premier’s border stance.

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“Nobody would think we’d be down to 12 cases within 10 weeks when the rest of the world has a second wave and Brazil can’t bury people quick enough,” Tate said.

“So my point is that it is a huge price to pay to make sure that we get down to a COVID-free state, but we really have no choice, because if you don’t do it right this pandemic will ignite again. And I back the Premier.”

But President of Gold Coast Central Chamber of Commerce Martin Hall, who was among the industry representatives at the meeting, said the borders needed to be open for our businesses to survive.

“It was disappointing we didn’t walk out of there without some more definite milestones,” Hall said.

He said travel within the state would “go nowhere near filling the void that borderless travel would allow” and business needed a firmer date for the lifting of all domestic travel restrictions.

“We can’t keep treading water endlessly. We need that light on the horizon to swim to,” Hall said.

“You’ve got to be mindful that even if the borders were opened up today businesses can’t mobilise that quickly. We need that horizon, we need that vision to be able to see and plan because even the smallest business has a supply chain to think about.”

This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas

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