As expected, the Queensland Government has brushed off One Nation MP Stephen Andrew’s e-petition to “Restore Democracy in Queensland”, citing the “enduring emergency” from COVID-19. The Government still claims the emergency powers it gave to the Chief Health Officer in early 2020 are “temporary”, although by the time they expire on 30 April 2022 they will have been in place for over two years, and who is to say they won’t be extended again? How’s that for “temporary”? For information, here is a link to the Health Minister’s response to the e-petition which was circulated to people who signed the petition:
I was a supporter of the petition (e.g. see my 21 July post), and I originally spoke out against the perpetual extension of “temporary emergency powers” back in January (e.g. see my 14 January post), because what the Government has done over the last 18-20 months has clearly breached traditional norms of parliamentary democracy. While our state government has been nowhere near as bad as Victoria’s, it has still enacted undemocratic measures and has treated people locked out of Queensland, including many Queenslanders, with cruelty. The Government claims it is all for the greater good, but I expect many more of us will come to doubt that as the years pass. Gigi Foster and Paul Frijters make a strong case that many countries, including Australia, were overcome by a wave of panic last March in their excellent book The Great COVID Panic, co-authored with Michael Baker.
We now await the inevitable spread of COVID in Queensland, particularly in our regions with low vaccination rates (e.g. Mackay, Rockhampton, parts of FNQ, and the Gold Coast relative to Brisbane). Will our stressed public hospital system cope? Will the Government impose regional lockdowns, threatening the viability of hospitality businesses if they can’t trade over the holiday period? I really don’t know, but I know senior people in industry are worried. I spoke at Capricorn Enterprise’s Major Projects Forum in Rockhampton last Thursday and QRC boss Ian Macfarlane gave an impassioned plea for people in regional Queensland to get vaccinated, as did Robert Sobyra from Construction Skills Queensland. Broadly speaking, Queensland’s economy has been recovering better than expected, but there’s always the chance of the Government imposing some new lockdowns as COVID spreads, setting us back again.
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