Annastacia Palaszczuk should absolutely be denied an exemption to leave Australia.
Queenslanders are just picking up the pieces after another foolish lockdown, families separated from each other are coming to terms with the halving of international arrival caps, and the Queensland Premier is finalising her plans to travel overseas.
This is an absolute betrayal of those she is supposed to lead.
A Change.org petition “Deny Annastacia Palaszczuk an exemption to leave Australia to attend the Tokyo Olympics” now has over 10,000 signatures, after Palaszczuk defended her decision to travel to Japan later this month in order to secure a future Olympic games for Brisbane on Q&A.
Leaving aside the enormous waste of money that securing the Olympics would be for Queensland and Australia, Palaszczuk’s decision to travel overseas is tone-deaf and completely unfair to mainstream Australians.
And it just goes to prove what we have learned time and time again the last 15 months – we are not and nor have we ever been ‘all in this together’. Those senior politicians and bureaucrats who set the restrictions do not suffer the effects of them.
Just last week, Palaszczuk asked National Cabinet to reduce the caps on international arrivals. “We are at capacity,” she claimed. “We’re stretched, and we need an immediate reduction by 50 per cent.”
Her deputy premier Steven Miles joined in, lamenting “every month, about 40,000 Australian citizens and about 6,000 permanent visa holders are allowed to leave the country [then] going back through hotel quarantine, putting our community at risk.”
Which is now literally what Palaszczuk is doing. Perhaps this will tell Palaszczuk that there is little difference between her desire to travel and anyone else’s.
Defending her decision on Q&A, she claimed that her trip to Tokyo would not just create wealth and jobs for Australia, but also give people “hope” and “opportunity.”
But those journeys now cancelled as international arrivals are slashed do exactly the same thing.
Any Queenslander able to travel overseas to visit family they haven’t seen in over a year will feel hope.
Queenslanders travelling for business can bring wealth and jobs to Australia, and opportunity for others. What makes Palaszczuk’s trip more important than any other?
Palaszczuk should do what the rest of us have been forced to do over the last year when denied the ability to travel: Fire up Zoom, ask if she’s on mute every 45 seconds and try and conduct business that way.
To think in this day and age that a meeting between the Queensland government and the International Olympic Committee must be held in person is farcical.
But if politicians and senior public servants have been insulated from so many of the other hardships their Covid polices have created, then it is naïve to think that the international borders would be treated differently.
IPA research this year found that between March and November 2020 private sector employment across Australia fell by nearly 300,000 while public sector employment rose by 25,800.
And in Victoria, while the state was suffering under its fourth lockdown, state politicians received an 11.8 per cent pay rise.
What we have here is a divided nation. On one side are the people designing the restrictions, and on the other are those who suffer under them.
And until those who enforce the restrictions can feel the same pressure that mainstream Australians feel underneath the laws, they are not going to change their ways.
If politicians and senior public servants do not experience the wage cuts, job losses and emotional turmoil that these restrictions are creating, then they are never going to truly see how destructive their policies are.
That is why Palaszczuk should be denied an exemption to leave Australia. She should make the decision to give up on the travel herself, to show some shared sacrifice with her fellow Queenslanders.
It will show Queenslanders who cannot see their loved ones and cannot improve their lives by travelling overseas that there is some commonality. That our leaders are having to make sacrifices like the rest of us.
Otherwise, the truth about Australia will be on full display: That there is one set of Covid laws for the powerless and one for the powerful.
Steven Miles last week said “It’s not good enough that just because you can afford a business class flight or a charter flight you can breach our closed international borders.”
He wasn’t directing those words at Palaszczuk when he said it, but on behalf of all Queenslanders he should direct them her way now.
James Bolt is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs. Join as a member at www.ipa.org.au.
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