Premier says she is sick of being criticised for ‘doing the right thing’

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has challenged the Federal Government to identify which countries Australians would be allowed to travel to under expectations the nation’s international borders will reopen by December.

Sep 23, 2021, updated Sep 23, 2021
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says the next 24-48 hours will be crucial after a second unlinked case has emerged on the Gold Coast. (AAP Image/Russell Freeman)

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says the next 24-48 hours will be crucial after a second unlinked case has emerged on the Gold Coast. (AAP Image/Russell Freeman)

Federal Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister Dan Tehan this week flagged the likelihood the international border closure would be lifted “at this rate, by Christmas at the latest”, failing to explain whether Australia would reopen to all of the globe at once, in stages, or via travel bubbles with countries that have low rates of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

A bubble arrangement with New Zealand, allowing quarantine-free travel between the two countries, was suspended in July due to virus outbreaks.

Palaszczuk said the Federal Government needed to explain whether Australians would be permitted to travel to countries still in a “state of emergency” due to COVID-19.

“I look forward to the day when families can be reunited,” she said. “I look forward to the day when we can freely travel across the world again. Everyone’s talking about that.

“But it is not the way we used to travel. It is not the world we used to know. We are in a world pandemic here the likes of which we have never seen before.

“The Federal Government need to identify where Australians and Queenslanders can travel in the bubbles of the countries that they put together. Where are you going to go? Are you going to go to India?”

The premier faced a barrage of questions on Thursday over whether she would reopen the state’s borders once 80 per cent of eligible residents had received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I’m sick of Queenslanders being attacked for doing the right thing,” she said. “The reason we have tough border measures in place is because there is a massive outbreak at the moment in NSW and Victoria and their hospitals are going to be overwhelmed.

“They are going through a horrendous time. It’s very tough down there, where families can’t see each other, kids aren’t getting to school and people aren’t working. That’s taking a toll on a lot of people’s mental health. I don’t want that for Queensland. Everyone needs to take a really deep breath here because what we are trying to do is protect this state and to keep Queenslanders healthy and out of hospital.”

Palaszczuk foreshadowed the possibility of further lockdowns for the state.

“If we get a Delta outbreak here, we’ll all be in lockdown and no businesses will be operating,” she said.

Australia’s road map out of the pandemic will be discussed again at a national cabinet meeting on Friday week based on the latest Doherty Institute modelling into expected case numbers, hospital admissions and deaths once different vaccination thresholds are met.

Palaszczuk warned of tough decisions ahead once the new modelling was publicly released.

Queensland case numbers, hospital admissions and deaths are expected to swell after borders reopen even with 80 per cent of eligible residents fully vaccinated.

“I want everyone, when the national plan gets finalised and the Doherty research gets publicly released … to have a good hard look at that, because we’ve got some very serious issues to talk about over the next few months and that is the health of Queenslanders and their families, but also too making sure that our economy can continue to operate,” the Premier said.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath urged people to prepare for a COVID-19 outbreak as they would for a cyclone.

“We do a great job in Queensland in preparing for natural disasters,” she said. “We know what to do, we know what to have ready before it hits. Let’s not wait until we’ve got a major outbreak, let’s get vaccinated now.”

She said a Delta variant outbreak of more than 56,000 cases that had spread across NSW, the ACT, Victoria and New Zealand, including 276 deaths, had started with just one case on June 16.

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