Premier Palaszczuk is choosing politics over people. Queenslanders deserve better.
Over the past week we’ve heard stories about some of the Queenslanders stranded interstate by the Labor government’s decision to revoke their right to return home.
We’ve heard how a cancer patient has been stranded on the NSW side of the border, after returning from her mother’s funeral. We’ve heard how a pregnant mother in the process of moving to the Sunshine Coast suffered a miscarriage on her friend’s floor. And we’ve heard how a plane full of NRL families has been exempted from the ban applied to Queensland citizens.
Now Palaszczuk is using the safety of children as a pretence to keep borders closed, saying she will “stand strong” on borders “until I get every child vaccinated”.
The safety of children is always a primary concern. But for Palaszczuk, this is just the latest way to shift the goalposts so she can continue to conceal the real reason for backing out of the National Plan for Covid-19 – her government has run Queensland’s health care system into the ground, and is incapable of running a hotel quarantine system.
Queensland’s healthcare system is in a bad state. After six years of state Labor government, ambulance ramping rates are out of control. The state-wide ambulance ramping rate is now 41 per cent, after doubling in the past year.
This means more Queenslanders are left waiting for the care they need at the time they need it most.
Ramping rates in South East Queensland are a disgrace, with 58 per cent for Logan Hospital, 57 per cent at Queen Elizabeth II and Redlands Hospitals, and 50 per cent at
Gold Coast University Hospital.
These failures are despite the federal government providing record hospital, Medicare, and PBS funding.
But ramping rates are far from the only evidence of Labor’s incompetence. Along with WA, Queensland has the lowest vaccination rates of any state or territory, with just 31.7 per cent of Queenslanders aged over 16 being fully vaccinated. On current projections, Queensland won’t reach an 80 per cent vaccination rate until 9 December – that’s 99 days, the longest of any state or territory.
And as we now know, Palaszczuk’s government can’t manage a hotel quarantine system with 5,000 people entering Queensland at a time.
Even after the rightful public outcry, the best the Queensland government has been able to do is offer 50 additional places in hotel Quarantine. That’s right - just 50 places for the hundreds, if not thousands, of Queenslanders who are stranded.
It’s as if the Premier has confused the Olympic games with the Hunger Games.
This mismanagement is the real reason they’re backing out of the National Plan for managing Covid-19.
This plan will see an end to the endless cycle of lockdowns, and a gradual opening up of state and international borders as vaccination rates increase. It will require learning to live with Covid-19 – with vaccination making symptoms less severe – just as we still live with the strains of influenza descended from the Spanish Flu of 1918.
Yet despite agreeing to this plan just weeks ago, Palaszczuk seems set on sticking to a zero-Covid strategy, even after 80 per cent of Queenslanders are vaccinated.
The idea that lockdowns, border restrictions, and zero-Covid is a realistic long-term approach is fanciful.
It simply isn’t realistic. It would require indefinite isolation from the outside world, relegating Queensland from Australia’s tourist mecca to a virtual hermit kingdom.
Thankfully, this approach will not be tolerated by the Australian people. As the YouGov polling published by NewCorp showed, two out of three Australians believe vaccinations are the pathway back to normal life, and only 22 per cent believing that lockdowns must continue until Covid cases reach zero.
In other words, the path chosen by Queensland is unsustainable – the public simply won’t wear it.
The same polling showed that mental health and financial concerns have eclipsed fear of Covid-19 itself.
This isn’t surprising – 400 Queenslanders are now calling Lifeline every day, with the service recently experiencing three of the busiest days in its 57-year history. And things get worse as more Australians suffer from the economic and mental health hardships that come from state government lockdowns and border restrictions.
Queenslanders know lockdowns and border restrictions can’t continue forever – there must be a pathway back to normal life.
The Morrison Government and agreed on such a plan with state and territory leaders at National Cabinet. This plan will see us end the perpetual lockdowns and border restrictions that have limited our freedom for much of the past 18 months.
Prolonging the status quo indefinitely is irresponsible, and Queenslanders won’t stand for it.