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Australian News

Border closure decision hated by 20 million Aussies


Of all the rules that Australia’s states and territories have introduced since the COVID-19 pandemic struck seven months ago, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s hard border closure has been one of the most contentious.

From breakfast television hosts and Prime Minister Scott Morrison to Ms Palaszczuk’s NSW counterpart Gladys Berejiklian, a barrage of criticism has been flung at the Sunshine State’s call to keep its southern neighbours locked out for the better part of 2020.

Ms Palaszczuk, who will seek her third term as Premier on October 31, has been dubbed the “Queensland version of Donald Trump … building the wall keeping all of the Mexicans out from down south”, destroying jobs and the economy by maintaining her “silly” and “cruel” stance.

“It’s not evidence-based. It’s simply I think off the back of her election. She wants to look tough for Queensland residents,” NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said earlier this month.

“If she keeps this up and we don’t have a vaccine, we don’t have a treatment, this could go on for years. This is a silly game you shouldn’t be playing. She’s playing with people’s lives.”

RELATED: Follow our live coronavirus coverage

Despite the rest of Australia hating the rule, Queenslanders have come out in support of the closure – which won’t be going anywhere, even if Ms Palaszczuk isn’t re-elected.

The latest Newspoll, conducted for The Australianin mid-September, found that 53 per cent of voters found the border controls “about right” – compared with 37 per cent, who said the restrictions were “too strict”.

Under the rule, Queensland won’t reopen to NSW or Victoria until the states have gone 28 days straight without any cases of community transmission.

When asked last week if she thought that was “achievable”, Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington said her party would follow the health advice.

“The health advice is that it is 28 days … we accept that advice,” Ms Frecklington told reporters in Townsville.

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However, Ms Frecklington said while she accepts the guideline, her stance on the borders was different.

“I have always said it can’t be set and forget … I’ve always said that borders shouldn’t be closed for a day longer than they need to be,” she said.

“But that is current health advice and we accept that.”

She chimed in on Mr Hazzard’s calls that Ms Palaszczuk was “playing politics with the border and playing politics with the pandemic”.

“With me as premier, you would have a premier that would make decisions with compassion, consistency and common sense,” she said.

The PM said yesterday that while Ms Palaszczuk’s hard border closure had decimated Queensland’s tourism and hospitality industries, Ms Frecklington “has a plan to get Queenslanders working again”.

“The real difference I think is whether someone’s actually got a plan to get Queenslanders back into jobs,” he told reporters.

“(Deb has) thought very carefully about the way that Queensland can grow back out of this COVID-19 recession.”

RELATED: Palaszczuk’s ‘cruel’ move a stroke of genius

Queensland was pegged to at last reopen to NSW on November 1 – the day after the election – but a growing number of cases of community transmission in the latter state could throw the decision into jeopardy.

The Courier Mailreports that the chief health officer Dr Jeanette Young will make the call the week before the slated reopening, based on the latest information.

Dr Young told reporters last Friday that while NSW had made “extremely good” progress in tracing the latest clusters, “we need to wait a bit longer (to decide) whether or not we need to change the plan to open to NSW. At the moment, it’s planned for November 1.”

“We will continue to monitor … although they are finding the contacts … they are getting continuing cases. So we will have to watch and see what happens,” she said.



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Australian News

WA could face harder domestic border restrictions, Premier Mark McGowan says


WA Premier Mark McGowan has warned that West Australians could face more strict restrictions if the state opens its borders with the rest of the country.

Mr McGowan compared West Australia’s restrictions to other states, which have been more strict than in the west, and said it would be difficult for West Australians to live under increased restrictions long-term.

He says those tougher restrictions could be needed if WA’s hard border dropped and last week claimed a travel bubble with other states would only result in the west losing tourism money.

“These are the sorts of things you need to consider before you bring the border down, so we haven’t made any final decisions on that, we haven’t made a final decision on phase 5,” he said on Sunday.

“While people think it’s an easy decision, it isn’t. There are lots of considerations in order to keep people safe.”

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The Premier has long said the health advice was that the hard border should only be removed when there was no community transmission for 28 days across the country.

Victoria and NSW are nowhere near that target.

WA’s Chief Health Officer Andy Robertson said this week that travel bubbles with other low risk jurisdictions had “always been a consideration”, although it would mean WA was reliant on their restrictions.

“We are probably one of the more susceptible states if we were to get a case,” he told 6PR radio.

“If we get one or two cases, we could get a substantial outbreak and that would obviously require considerable effort to get it back under control.

Two more return travellers in quarantine have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the state’s total to 15 active cases – not including a potential new case from a crew member on a Port Hedland ship who is currently in isolation while tests are being confirmed.

WA recorded more new coronavirus infections on Monday than Victoria – the first time a state has since June 6 – after months of soaring numbers which crippled the southern state.

That brings the total cases in WA to 694 – including 670 recoveries.

PORT HEDLAND OUTBREAK

The WA Health Department declared a new coronavirus outbreak in Port Hedland only a day after settling another virus-infected ship problem.

A crew member of the Vega Dream iron ore cargo ship anchored off the WA coast feared to be infected with coronavirus has been was transferred to a nearby health campus while COVID tests are being confirmed.

Officials are concerned the new cases could be a ticking time bomb for the community and the resource hub dubbed the “engine room” of Australia’s economy.

Health Minister Roger Cook said a crew member on board the Vega Dream iron ore carrier returned a positive result to a rapid COVID-19 test which is still yet to be confirmed.

The crew member is currently isolated while results from a second test which has been sent to Perth are confirmed tomorrow.

This comes after the Patricia Olderdoff cargo ship leaves Port Hedland after 18 of its 21 crew members tested positive to COVID-19.

The ship arrived in Australian waters from Manila last week.

Mr Cook said the two outbreaks show its time for the Federal Government to step up.

“The Commonwealth Government has to actually make sure that it works with its international partners so that we don’t have these situations continue to emerge,” he said.

He added that if it gets out into the community it will create a disaster – worse than what’s been seen in Melbourne.

AMA president Omar Khorshid issued a severe warning that the outbreak could prove to be a “death sentence” if not managed correctly.

“If the virus gets out into the Port Hedland community, particularly into the Indigenous community in Port Hedland, we would expect a catastrophic outcome that would be worse than what we have seen in Melbourne with severe illness and death resulting in an outbreak,” he told The West Australian.

— with Angie Raphael



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Australian News

Prime Minister Scott Morrison hits out at border “double standards” in Queensland


Prime Minister Scott Morrison has hit out at the Queensland Premier for “double standards” on border restrictions while on the campaign trail for the state’s election.

He joined Liberal National Party leader Deb Frecklington to visit Neumann Steel at Currumbin on the Gold Coast on Saturday afternoon ahead of the Queensland election at the end of the month.

Mr Morrison took aim at Labor leader Annastacia Palaszczuk when asked to comment on a Courier-Mail report about multi-millionaire tennis executive Janyne Hrdlicka being given an exemption to hotel quarantine because her husband had cancer.

“When state governments have made those decisions that have been done in a consistent way there can’t be double standards; there needs to be a clear understanding of how these rules work,” Mr Morrison said at a press conference.

He had “no quibble” with border restrictions being put in place in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic but he said there should be transparency.

“I’m just saying that wherever possible that’s got to be clear, they’ve got to be transparent, and they’ve got to be done without double standards,” he said.

It was important to limit the economic impact of strict border restrictions, Mr Morrison told reporters.

More to come



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Australian News

Morrison slams Palaszczuk over coronavirus border dispute


Prime Minister Scott Morrison has come out swinging against the Queensland Premier, slamming her again for the ongoing border dispute.

Annastacia Palaszczuk and her deputy Steven Miles have given NSW 48 hours to trace the cause of the three community transmitted coronavirus cases revealed on Wednesday.

If the health department fails to do this, it will reset for another 28 days before the state border is reopened, infuriating the Liberal NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and the Federal Government.

“Is she for jobs or not?” Mr Morrison said on 2GB in Sydney on Thursday morning, questioning the Queensland Premier’s main pledge ahead of the October 31 state election.

“The other day she was saying she was all for jobs but being all for jobs means you’ve got to balance the risks that you face like New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian is.

RELATED: Queensland’s ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ jobs boom

“They’re managing to basically keep cases to an incredibly low level, they’re doing a great job with their testing and tracing regime … dealing with outbreaks, getting New South Wales open.

“Queensland can do the same thing.

“I want to see people back in jobs … the number of people who have come back in to jobs in New South Wales since we hit the pit of that COVIDrecession is a 70 per cent increase.

“In Queensland, it’s 44 per cent.”

The Federal Budget unveiled earlier in the week was heavily structured around job creation, but the Prime Minister said Australians can’t capitalise on this until borders are open.

“We need Queenslanders back in jobs,” he said.

“That’s why we’ve done the hiring credits, that’s why we’ve put in the incentive for investment, that’s why we’re bring forward tax cuts, and that’s why we’re bring forward infrastructure projects.

“I want to get Queenslanders back in jobs just like I want to get New South Wales people back in jobs but for that, you’ve got to be open.”

The Prime Minister also said he’s keen to head up to the Sunshine State to throw his support behind the Liber-National Party contender Deb Frecklington.

“I would love to get up to Queensland,” he told 4BC.

“In Queensland, in particular, the tourism and hospitality industry and the aviation industry has taken an enormous hit and so that’s why I’ve been keen to see things open up in Queensland.”



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Australian News

NT to ease coronavirus border restrictions with regional Victoria


People living in regional Victoria could be able to travel to the Northern Territory without undergoing mandatory quarantine from next month.

The NT Government announced on Monday it was set to revoke its coronavirus hot-spot declaration for most of the state from November 2.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner said all but four council areas in regional Victoria would be struck from the hot-spot list, as its rolling average for cases falls to 0.3 – or “next to nothing”.

“All the numbers basically amount to this – regional Victoria has crushed the coronavirus,” Mr Gunner said.

“The critical factor for making this decision is regional Victoria’s success in easing their restrictions without spreading the virus.

“They are stepping out of lockdown while still staying safe.”

The four areas to remain on the watch list are Greater Geelong, the Macedon Ranges, Mitchell Shire and East Gippsland Shire, as they have all recorded at least one positive case in the last fortnight.

However, Mr Gunner said those areas could be also be removed as declared hot spots by November 2 if they continue to suppress new cases.

“That’s likely to happen but it’s not something we are confirming today,” he said.

Metropolitan Melbourne will remain a declared hot spot for the foreseeable future despite Mr Gunner remarking it appeared the city was on the “cusp” of crushing its deadly second wave.

He tried to allay any fears from Territorians worried about letting Victorians past the NT’s strict quarantine controls, saying police would still be patrolling borders and airports to vet all arrivals.

But he said his advice for locals wanting to travel interstate remained the same: “Think twice about it, think hard about it. Don’t travel if you don’t need to, and stay safe if you do.”

More to come



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Australian News

WA Premier stands firm on hard border


The WA Premier has once again defended his state’s hard border, after Tasmania announced it would open to low risk jurisdictions.

Mark McGowan said he understood family dislocation “as much as anyone” with his elderly parents and brother living in NSW.

However, he said the state’s hard borders were what kept West Australians safe and living a normal life.

“Our approach has been very careful in dealing with COVID. As a as result of our carefulness, we’ve had an economic boom in WA,” Mr McGowan said.

“We’re the only state that didn’t go into a recession. Victoria and NSW are going backwards in their jobs growth and we have the strongest growth in eight years.

“In Victoria, they have lockdowns everywhere. In NSW, they have the 4 sqm rule and all sorts of restrictions. (SA) is today celebrating they can stand up and have a drink like that’s some kind of achievement.

“We’ve been able to do all those things and more for months.

“I’m comfortable we adopted a cautious approach, which has kept the health outcomes good and the economic outcomes outstanding in WA.”

He said borders would “come down eventually” but the state would remain cautious and careful in how that would be done.

“If we rushed it the way people wanted us to, the virus would have come back.

“The other states still have all sorts of restrictions … on dancing, weddings and funerals and pubs and bars and gatherings.

“We don’t have any of that so we have created within WA the strongest economy in the nation and are one of the freest societies in the world.”

The state has been without community transmission for more than 175 days and recorded no new infections on Friday.

Earlier, Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein announced the island state would open its borders to “low risk” jurisdictions, which included WA.



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Queensland to reopen border to NSW on November 1


Queensland has announced it will re-open its border to travellers from NSW — but the deal comes with a strict condition.

As part of the state’s easing of restrictions announced this morning, Queensland’s borders will open to all of NSW from November 1, with visitors and returning travellers not needing to complete mandatory quarantine.

They will still need to have a valid border declaration pass to enter the state.

However, the plan will only go ahead if NSW achieves 28 consecutive days of no locally acquired cases of COVID-19 without a known source.

NSW could record cases of community transmission during that time, but they must not be from a mystery source.

RELATED: Follow the latest coronavirus updates

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Today, NSW marked its seventh straight day of zero community transmission, with four new cases all confirmed as returned travellers in hotel quarantine.

Currently, Queensland’s notoriously strict border rules only allows travellers from the northern NSW areas of Tweed Shire, Ballina, Byron, Lismore, Richmond Valley and Glen Innes and a handful of border postcodes.

Queenslanders are able to visit these regions and residents can apply for a border pass to travel into Queensland.

All other approved NSW travellers to Queensland have to complete 14 days of self-funded hotel quarantine.

If NSW avoids mystery cases of community transmission over the next month and the border reopens on November 1, it will be the first time all travellers from NSW will be able to enter the Sunshine State quarantine-free since were briefly allowed access in July.

After months of locking down the state during the pandemic, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk welcomed back interstate travellers on July 12 but by August had black-listed all of NSW and the ACT following a spike in local cases.

The proposed lifting of the hard border with NSW on November 1 will happen one day after Queenslanders head to the polls in the state election.

Queensland’s border with Victoria will remain closed as the southern state continues to get its deadly second wave under control.

Ms Palaszczuk’s tough stance on borders has been a hallmark of the state’s fight against COVID-19.

While the premier’s approach has been attributed to getting on top of community transmission in the state, it was also expected to have cost millions of dollars in lost domestic tourism revenue, which was expected to hit holiday regions such as Far North Queensland particularly hard.

NSW visitors into Queensland spent around $23.6 million in 2019 while Victorian travellers splash out of $16.9 million.

“(This border closure) is likely to inflict collateral damage on Queensland’s tourism industry which is desperately trying to get back off its knees,” tourism lecturer Dr David Beirman from the University of Technology, Sydney previously told news.com.au.



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Business

Flight Centre to close another 90 stores as border closures bite


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The company said it was already shifting its leisure business towards call-centres and online, and the additional closures would “reduce overlap between shops in higher density areas”, with 95 per cent of its customers still living within 5 kilometres of a retail store.

“Without question, the past six months have been the most challenging period in our almost 40 years in business,” Flight Centre Travel Group Australian managing director James Kavanagh said in a statement.

“We are incredibly sorry that some of our great people are not able to continue on their Flight Centre journey with us at this time but we are taking steps to preserve as many roles as possible for the future, while building a smaller but stronger overall network.”

Flight Centre said the fresh wave of closures will leave it with 332 branded stores. Including the company’s other brands such as Travel Partners, Student Universe and Travel Money the group it will have about 400 Australian stores, compared to 944 at the start of the year.



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Local News - Victoria

NSW could open border to regional Victorians but not ‘Mellbourne-ites’


On Monday the rolling 14-day average fell to 1.6 cases in regional Victoria. The last time regional Victoria recorded any new infections was on September 17 when a single case was reported.

NSW recorded four new cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday, including three from returned overseas travellers now in hotel quarantine and one linked to other known cases.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews speaking to the media on Monday.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews speaking to the media on Monday. Credit:Justin McManus

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said he had not discussed opening up borders to regional Victoria with the premiers of NSW or South Australia.

“No I’ve not had that conversation because I think I know what the answer will be,” he said.

But Mr Andrews said he was pleased that neither the NSW nor South Australian governments had changed their bubble arrangements for their borders after restrictions were eased in regional Victoria last week.

“So they don’t see it as a higher risk environment than what it was a week ago,” he said.

The Colac Otway Shire currently has the greatest number of active cases across regional Victoria with 10, followed by Latrobe on four and then Greater Geelong, Macedon Ranges and Moorabool on two each.

While just 11 new cases were reported in Melbourne on Monday, the 14-day rolling average was still 34.4.

The Australian Medical Association’s Victoria president Julian Rait said the low infection rate in regional Victoria meant it was safe to allow its residents to travel in NSW.

“There’s almost zero cases now in the regions so that’s perfectly sensible, if not overdue,” he said.

Police stop and question drivers at a checkpoint on the NSW-Victoria border in Albury.

Police stop and question drivers at a checkpoint on the NSW-Victoria border in Albury.Credit:Getty Images

Victorian Tourism Industry Council chief executive Felicia Mariani said any move to open up safely to regional Victoria would be welcome.

“We would love to see the borders opening to have an exchange of tourism,” she said. “Both of our states will have to rely on interstate tourism.”

But she said the most pressing issue was the fate of Murray River operators – some of whom were unable to reopen because they fall under NSW maritime law even though they are based in Victoria.

“They should be allowed to operate at least on the Victorian side.”

Victorian Nationals leader Peter Walsh said all residents of regional Victoria should be allowed to travel to NSW.

“A lot of regional Victoria has no COVID. Why should they be excluded from travelling?” he said.

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Tourism and Transport Forum chief executive Margy Osmond said Ms Berejiklian’s comments would allow the industry to begin planning for the next step.

“It’s highly appropriate now to be talking about how we plan for that to happen,” she said.

Rural Councils Victoria deputy chair Jenny O’Connor, who is also the mayor of Indigo Shire in the state’s north-east, said it was safe for Ms Berejiklian to open up to regional Victoria because numbers were so low.

“I would urge her to look at the numbers, at the fact we’ve been able to keep regional Victoria almost COVID-free, certainly in our area,” she said.

“We are at a point where we need to start on the long road to recovery.”

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Reopening Qld border to ACT will help LNP with PM allowed to campaign


The Queensland Government’s decision to reopen the state’s border to the ACT will be a huge fillip for the LNP with Prime Minister Scott Morrison now able to go on the hustings at the state election, says a senior political commentator.

Labor on Friday changed its long-held position of only reviewing border closures at the end of each month when Deputy Premier Steven Miles announced the state would welcome visitors from the ACT from next Friday.

However, they can only arrive by plane and must have remained solely within the ACT for 14 consecutive days beforehand.

Griffith University’s political commentator Dr Paul Williams said if federal politicians had not been on the hustings it would have severely hurt LNP leader Deb Frecklington’s chances of toppling Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk at the October 31 election.

He said the PM had a good rapport with country voters, as did Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. He said opposition leader Deb Frecklington had failed to cut through in regional areas.

Mr Morrison showed his appreciation for Queenslanders after his shock election victory in May last year when he trumpeted: “How good’s Queensland?” at his victory speech to the chants of “Queensland! Queensland! Queensland!” from supporters.

“Morrison obviously has pulling power across the country because of his increased esteem from case management of the pandemic, especially in regional Queensland where he is still very popular,” Mr Williams told NCA NewsWire.

“If Morrison, Frydenberg and a couple of other high performers couldn’t campaign in regional Queensland it would be problematic for Deb Frecklington.

“There would be a struggle for traction even in regional Queensland where the party doesn’t struggle, but she does.”

He said Labor’s federal opposition leader Anthony Albanese would not have “the same pull” on the hustings for Ms Palaszczuk.

Ms Palaszczuk told reporters that Mr Morrison “can come if he wants, it doesn’t worry me’ to campaign on behalf of the LNP.

Had the borders remain shut and no federal politicians were on the hustings then that would have worked more in Labor’s favour, Mr Williams said.

Even though federal politicians are permitted to travel to Queensland from the ACT, provided they have spent 14 consecutive days in the nation’s ‘capital’, it would not necessarily add a lot colour to the election campaign.

Mr Williams believes the state election will be as vanilla as the March Brisbane City Council election when pre-poll and postal voting was massively high.

Almost four times the number of voters had visited pre-poll stations in the first two days they were opened compared to the first two days of the 2016 local government elections.

Electoral Commission Queensland (ECQ) has already opened applications for postal voting.

“It‘s going to be a very boring campaign, not to dissimilar to the BCC campaign,” Mr Williams said.

“The ECQ is saying up to 60 per cent but I probably wouldn’t go that high, maybe 50 per cent pre-poll and postals combined.

“Early voters tend to be engaged voters who are probably rusted on voters, and especially those who have an axe to grind against the Palaszczuk government.”



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