Queenslanders are now far too familiar with the snap lockdowns and border restrictions used by the state government to manage Covid-19.
We have all experienced the hardship of being cut off from friends and family, or not being able to enjoy the freedoms that make this country such a wonderful place to live. Those in the border bubble have the added difficulty of dealing with checkpoints – now manned by the military – that have split communities apart along a once invisible border.
These are harsh emergency measures, and they should not be imposed any longer than absolutely necessary. So why is Queensland’s Labor Government so reluctant to see us safely reopen as the vaccination program progresses?
At National Cabinet, our Prime Minister and all state premiers agreed to a four-stage plan to get Australians vaccinated, safely end the cycle of lockdowns and re-open Australia’s internal borders. It means shifting our mindset from counting Covid cases to considering their severity, as we learn to live with its less harmful presentation post-vaccination.
Yet Deputy Premier Steven Miles is now suggesting the border with New South Wales might not open, even if 80 per cent of Australians are vaccinated. For her part, Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk has simply refused to say which Covid restrictions will remain in place once this target is reached. Why the backflip?
They’ve frozen hotel quarantine. Is that because they can’t book a few more rooms in Brisbane’s vacant hotels, or because they aren’t confident in their competence in managing it?
Could the Premier be motivated by locking the PM out of the state, to give her federal colleagues a hand and avoid being held accountable herself, or does she want to keep the fear of Covid alive?
There is a reason why: Labor wants to keep borders closed because they know our hospital system is mismanaged, under-resourced, and ill-prepared.
Just look at their vaccine rollout. They’ve undermined confidence in the AstraZeneca vaccine, and now Queensland’s vaccination levels are the lowest nationally.
While New South Wales is on track for 70 per cent vaccination within 2 months, Queensland isn’t set to get there until December.
Try and get an appointment with a state government service, and you’ll deal with confusion and delays. Use the HotDoc app – run by the private sector – and you’ll book in minutes for a jab within days.
But it is the ambulance ramping rates that show the true depth of Labor’s mismanagement.
In the June Quarter, Gold Coast University Hospital had a 50 per cent ramping rate – an 18 per cent increase since the June quarter of 2020. At Logan Hospital it was a staggering 58 per cent, 22 per cent higher than the same time last year; at Redland Hospital it’s a 57 per cent ramping rate, up 6 per cent; at QEII Hospital it’s also 57 per cent ramping, a 16 per cent rise. These hospitals aren’t even dealing with high COVID case numbers.
It is symptomatic of state government incompetence writ large, and comes despite record Federal funding for Queensland’s hospitals, Medicare and the PBS.
No wonder the Queensland Government thinks it’s easier to slam the borders shut and call in the military. But this draconian approach will only increase the anxiety so many Queenslanders are feeling.
While many of us have secure employment and strong family support systems, others are less lucky. Every day, 400 Queenslanders reach out to Lifeline because they are struggling.
Nationally, calls to Lifeline increased by 40 per cent since 2019, with three of the busiest days in their 57-year history occurring this month. Beyond Blue has likewise reported a 30 per cent increase in calls compared to before the pandemic.
This hardship is not equally spread throughout our community.
According to a new UNSW study, the mental health of young adults aged between 18 and 34 are the most affected by Covid restrictions.
Many self-employed and small businesses are also experiencing particular hardship, with the added economic stress of struggling to keep their businesses afloat whilst dealing with snap lockdowns and border closures.
But people across all demographics have struggled. They are all our fellow Australians, and they can’t hold on indefinitely.
Regaining the freedoms we enjoyed before Covid is fundamental to restoring our economy and our mental health.
Queensland Labor must meet its commitments under the national plan. There is no other path out of the pandemic than vaccination. If they aren’t capable of getting their act together, they should resign.
Amanda Stoker is the Assistant Minister to the Attorney-General, Assistant Minister for Industrial Relations, Assistant Minister for Women, and an LNP Senator for Queensland.
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