Queensland business owners have warned the state’s Premier that if she delays the opening of the border past November, multiple industries will cause irreparable harm to the economy.
On Sunday, Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles said the government will review its decision to open its borders to NSW at the end of the month.
The state government had previously said it would reopen the border with NSW on November 1 provided there was 28 days with no community transmission of coronavirus.
With NSW recording several days of community cases, when the border between NSW and Queensland will now open is unknown.
Speaking to the Australian Financial Review, tourism business owners have slammed Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s ongoing stance to keep the border closed with NSW, despite the state having very few community transmission cases.
Border closures in Queensland have been ongoing since the start of the pandemic. Picture: Steve Holland/NCA NewsWireSource:News Corp Australia
Billionaire businessman Chris Morris, who has multiple tourism assets including Orpheus Island near Townsville and the Daintree Eco Lodge in Far North Queensland, said the closure was simply political.
“It’s all about the election,” Mr Morris told the Australian Financial Review.
“A lot of Queenslanders think it’s keeping them safe. But it will never be opened up under the rules they have at the moment. I don’t think some of her decisions have been very logical.”
Flight Centre chief executive Graham Turner, who announced earlier this month the closure of 99 more shopfronts, said the opening and closing of a border was doing more damage than good.
“This is all about politics. It’s not about statistics or policy,” Mr Turner told the publication.
“People aren’t stupid. You can have three or so untraceable cases out of a state (NSW) with 7 million or 8 million people. It’s pretty ridiculous. If they had a few hundred cases every day you’d be worried, but they don’t.
“I’ll be very surprised if they don’t open up on November 1. I’ll be very surprised if there are any more border closures after that, regardless of any number of infections.”
Flight Centre managing director Graham Turner said ongoing border closures are damaging for the tourism sector. Picture: Liam Kidston.Source:News Corp Australia
Mr Miles said that while the State Government was working to a November 1 reopening, no decision about borders will be “locked in”.
“Nothing we do in this pandemic is locked in, if there are new outbreaks, if there’s new clusters, then we’ll need to address those whether they’re here or in another state,” he said.
Dr David Beirman, from Sydney’s University of Technology, said the ongoing Queensland border closure was “overkill”.
“Queensland’s totally understandable concern to contain COVID-19 has resulted in measures which actually cause greater harm to the viability of Queensland’s economy, and especially its beleaguered tourism economy, than contributing to any meaningful containment of COVID-19 in the state,” Dr Beirman told news.com.au.
“In fact, since Queensland opened its border to controlled visitation from NSW (in July) there have been very few cases of COVID-19 in Queensland resulting from it conditionally being open to NSW visitors.
Queensland Health Minister Stephen Miles. Picture: Tim Marsden/AAPSource:AAP
Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: Sarah Marshall/NCA NewsWireSource:News Corp Australia
The Queensland Premier has once again sought to kill a flea with a sledge hammer and in the process, is likely to inflict collateral damage on Queensland’s tourism industry which is desperately trying to get back off its knees.”
Meanwhile, Western Australia’s hard border may well stay in place until mid-2021.
Mark McGowan Government released their financial blueprint for the next year, which indicated the state may remain closed to the rest of the country until at least April 1 – or as late as June 30.
“Treasury has adopted the working assumption that interstate borders reopen from the June quarter 2021,” that footnote of Treasurer Ben Wyatt’s budget documents stated.
“It is stressed that these are Treasury assumptions for forecasting purposes only, rather than government policy.”
But Mr McGowan shut down the forecast, insisting the statement was not to be taken as gospel.
Queensland is tipped to reopen their border on November 1. Picture: Steve Holland/NCA NewsWireSource:News Corp Australia
“It is a Treasury assumption, not government policy,” Premier Mark McGowan said. “If you actually read it, that is what it said.”
Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief economist Aaron Morey told the ABC that waiting until April 2021 would not be feasible and place even more stress on the business community.
“We could be living with the virus for a very long time,” Mr Morey said.
“For many businesses it is untenable to wait that long, we must strike a balance and invest in a world-class contact-tracing regimen so we can move forward as an economy and as a society.”
Despite criticism of the ongoing border closure, Mr McGowan said the hard border is what has kept his state safe since the pandemic erupted around the world earlier this year.
“If we get a second wave in Western Australia, that is the biggest risk to our state,” Mr McGowan said.
“A second wave will mean people are thrown out of work and people will die.”
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