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Premier loses key ally in border war as Tate demands ‘strike a date’

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has lost a key ally in the border wars after Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate flipped on his support to keep the lockout in place, adding to mounting pressure on Queensland to commit to a July reopening.

Jun 12, 2020, updated Jun 12, 2020
Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate.

Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate.

Following a phone discussion with the Premier late Thursday on when the border could open, Tate said he wanted the Premier to “call it.’

“For confidence we want a date. Do your best, strike a date, even if you have to move it people will understand,” Tate said.

“To say you’ll review it and have no date, that’s the frustration because how can you plan?”

He said the Black Lives Matter rally on Saturday was a turning point in his stance, with the protest and number of new cases showing the “scoreboard has changed.”

“While safety is first, livelihood is just as important,” he said.

The backflip brings Tate into line with state and federal LNP MPs, tourism chiefs and business operators who have attacked the Premier’s tough border closure stance ahead of national cabinet meeting on Friday.

Queensland has tentatively set a date of July 10 but it will depend on health advice and the rate of community transmission in other states, particularly Victoria. Deputy Premier and Health Minister Steven Miles today reiterated a decision would be made at the end of June.

Queensland has no community transmission, however the number of active cases increased to four overnight, after COVID-19 was diagnosed in a two-year-old boy who had recently travelled overseas with his family. Other recent cases have originated in Victoria.

After today’s cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said arrangements were being made to allow for the conditional reopen of stadia for major events. He also flagged the resumption of international education, subject to travel, quarantine and social distancing arrangements being finalised, with a veiled threat that Queensland would miss out unless it reopened its border.

“If you can’t come to your state from Sydney, you can’t come to the state from Singapore,” Morrison said.

Chief executive of the Queensland Tourism Industry Council, Daniel Gschwind, backed the urgent call for a firm date and said businesses shouldn’t have to wait for zero infections for the border to open.

“It is almost improbable to suggest there will be no infections for months. There will be infections but our hospitals are ready, we have equipment in place, we have to deal with the reality that we have to manage it rather than expect a miracle of no infections ever, anywhere,” Gschwind told ABC.

“The sooner we can have that announcement the more we can plan and more importantly, the sooner customers can book. No-one is going to book an interstate holiday to Queensland if they fear they may be prevented from coming here.”

Tate found himself in the crosshairs of Gold Coast businesses over his support of the State Government’s border closure, with claims he had deserted locals and jobs while the border closure cost the Gold Coast economy about $310 million every month.

His support was also at odds with a fiery political push by Gold Coast and Queensland LNP MPs, accusing the Premier of devastating businesses.

Queensland-based Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said Friday morning that livelihoods were being shattered as long as borders remain closed.

“People’s business are going broke. People’s houses are being sold from under them,” Dutton told Nine.

“There are some tourism operators who are going to miss a whole year if they don’t get the season now. These people are in real strife.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said states “should go the full hog” and open borders immediately.

“Closed borders cost jobs,” Frydenberg said. “The public wants to get back to work.”

Only Victoria, NSW and the ACT are open to interstate travel. Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory all have closed borders.

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

 

 

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