Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has hit back at criticism of her border closure ahead of a meeting of Australia’s national, state, and territory leaders on Friday where the topic is expected to dominate discussions.
Acknowledging the criticisms, Palaszczuk told reporters on Friday: “It is relentless, it is intimidating, but I will not be intimidated.”
The premier dug her heels in and declared she is prioritising the health response to the pandemic, which she says is already allowing for some economic recovery—such as with Queensland winning the AFL Grand Final.
She noted in many places around the world no sport is happening, and that she feels empowered by Queenslanders who’ve written to thank for her putting their health and safety first.
Palaszczuk wants her political counterparts and rivals to focus on stemming the COVID-19 outbreaks in New South Wales and Victoria—the latter of which is currently experiencing a second wave—rather than criticising her about border closures.
Among the criticism has been a concern about double standards when it comes to the chief health officer issuing border crossing exemptions to AFL officials and celebrities. At the same time, people seeking medical treatment have endured confusing delays. One case resulted in the death of an unborn baby.
National cabinet—chaired by Prime Minister Scott Morrison with state premiers and territory chief ministers—is set to meet virtually for its latest pandemic decision-making session on Friday.
Throughout the week, Morrison and federal ministers have outlined their hopes for a common national approach to defining COVID-19 hotspots that allow borders to be reopened proportionally to those people in zones with less risk.
Throughout the week the tourism minister warned the state border closures could cost $55 billion this year, with popular destination North Queensland already losing $7 million per day in what is usually their peak season for domestic travellers.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian described Queensland’s benchmark of 28 days of no community transmission in NSW before removing its border controls as “a pretty tall order.”
“We’ve demonstrated for two months nearly that you can actually maintain a good control of the virus and keep your economy going,” she said.
“I hope other states have the confidence to take their borders down and do the same,” she said.
But Queensland’s chief health officer said: “We can’t afford to have a single case. If we have a single case that comes from New South Wales or Victoria and they go into a high-risk setting like an aged care facility, we could immediately have an outbreak, and we could have deaths.”