’Collateral damage’: Premier costs Qld millions
Just weeks after Queensland launched a multimillion-dollar campaign urging Australians it was "Good to Go" and holiday in the Sunshine State - Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has locked out the majority of the biggest spenders from doing so.
From Saturday August 1, millions of residents from Greater Sydney - alongside those already banned from the state of Victoria - will be banned from entering the state.
Queensland – You’re good to go! As we recover from COVID-19, we're urging all Queenslanders to explore our state and help support local jobs and businesses hit hard by COVID-19. Learn more about our new tourism campaign: https://t.co/dlrWopVggP #qldjobs #thisisqueensland #covid19 pic.twitter.com/GzxBxRi4iP— Annastacia Palaszczuk (@AnnastaciaMP) June 8, 2020
The decision comes as the state recorded two new coronavirus cases who failed to undergo mandatory hotel quarantine after arriving back into Queensland. The decision to close the state to Sydney was made after a growing number of community transmission clusters were recorded in NSW over the past 24 hours - particularly in suburbs around Greater Sydney which is made up of 34 local government areas.
"We must protect Queenslanders," the Premier said from Brisbane on Wednesday. "Your safety comes first and we are in extraordinary times at the moment.
"We have to do everything we can … When the Chief Health Officer advises the Queensland government and myself to close the border we will close the border."
The move blindsided the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who said she wasn't given prior notice before today about the border closure. However, while surprised by the decision given NSW is recording less than 20 cases each day, Ms Berejiklian said the closure would hurt the Sunshine State more than her own.
"It would have been nice if she told me," Ms Berejiklian told reporters today.
"I note that the cases they have had up there, announced today, are all from Victoria. And the case from South Australia is from Victoria.
"That's a decision for her and in the end, it hurts the smaller states when they don't interact with NSW. It hurts us less if you talk about economy and that's a decision for her.
"The economic consequences in Queensland or South Australia will hurt much more than it hurts NSW, we are in the strongest position in the nation, which we want to maintain obviously."
NSW visitors into Queensland spent around $23.6m in 2019 compared with Victoria, whose visitors splashed out a total of $16.9m in total.
After reopening Queensland's state borders to everyone outside of Victoria on July 10, tourism operators were desperate to claw back at the $5 billion lost in the past quarter due to COVID-19.
Employing nearly 250,000 people and generating $26 billion in revenue for the economy each year, tourism in Queensland is big business with all eyes on interstate visitors to boost the sector until international travel made a return.
And while it's understandable for the state to close its borders with Victoria, which are experiencing a second wave of COVID-19 with almost 5000 cases currently active, was the decision to lock out millions of possible dollars a decision made too soon?
Dr David Beirman, a tourism lecturer from the University of Sydney said the call to shut up shop to Sydneysiders will result in a further blow to Queensland's tourism industry, with operators still reeling from the state's first hard border lockdown.
"The QLD premier has once again sought to kill a flea with a sledge hammer," Dr Beirman told news.com.au.
"[This border closure] is likely to inflict collateral damage on Queensland's tourism industry which is desperately trying to get back off its knees.
"Since Queensland opened its border to controlled visitation from NSW a couple of weeks ago, there have been very few cases of COVID-19 in Queensland resulting from it conditionally being open to NSW visitors."
At what was considered the peak of Australia's pandemic battle, Queensland - along with the Northern Territory, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania - was quick to shut its borders to stop domestic travel.
It was a decision NSW and Victoria rejected, instead keeping their doors open and encouraging regional tourism as coronavirus cases started to dip.
Dr Beirman said Queensland's response to "close the gates" to large parts of NSW because of a handful of cases is "overkill".
"Queensland has been one of the more COVID-19 sensitive states in Australia, along with WA, SA and Tasmania," he said.
"I think it's one thing to 'close the gates' to Victorians considering their daily case rates have spiked and now number in the hundreds. But it's altogether another thing to 'close the gates' to people from Greater Sydney on the basis of 10-20 cases per day (most of which come from identified pockets).
"I would support the concept of Queensland screening Sydney visitors on the basis of hotspots and we have a few of them. However, a blanket closure of tourists from Greater Sydney is overkill."
Ms Palaszczuk acknowledged that while the hardened border with Sydney will have an adverse impact on the tourism industry, "Queenslanders health comes first" and further closures may be on the horizon.
"We do not want a second wave here and we do not want widespread community transmission," she said.
"But when the Chief Health Officer advises the Queensland government and myself to close the border we will close the border. We will be monitoring [NSW] very carefully and the signs we will be looking for is further outbreaks of community transmission in areas outside of Greater Sydney."
Originally published as 'Collateral damage': Premier's big mistake