PM thinks he has agreement with Premier on border, but it’s the CHO who makes the decisions

Sky News has reported PM confident Berejiklian- Palaszczuk border battle will end by Christmas, and PM Scott Morrison has said he has an agreement with both Premiers for Queensland to be fully open to NSW, including Greater Sydney, by Christmas. The Premier said she will look closely at the border at the end of the month, but she hasn’t actually committed to reopening fully to NSW, and you may recall the Premier has previously said she doesn’t make the decisions regarding COVID-related restrictions (see Qld’s harsh border policy – a conversation with Joe Branigan). That’s the job of Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young, who has been granted extraordinary and, in my view, unwarranted powers by the Government during the public health emergency which has been declared since late January.

As I’ve written previously, the border restrictions should be assessed much more regularly than every month and we should see all the advice from the CHO justifying the closure (NSW border policy still lacks solid justification). Without certainty very soon on the border, Queensland tourism businesses will miss out on many interstate visitors who may decide travelling to Queensland is all too hard and they’d better plan to go elsewhere (see ABC PM comment on border closure cost – Qld tourism worried about loss of interstate visitors over Christmas season). I’ve heard that upcoming holiday bookings are strong at many popular tourist destinations in Queensland, but if we’re still locking out Sydneysiders and Victorians, activity won’t be as strong as it otherwise would be, and tourism businesses would miss out on vital revenues that would help them make up for the massive losses of trade they’ve experienced so far during the COVID-recession (see chart below).

We need the leaders of the Government to have a sense of urgency on this issue, and not just delegate these hugely consequential decisions to the CHO.

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