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Popular tourism minister to quit politics at a turbulent time

September 11, 2020 Headline News No Comments Email Email

In a shock move yesterday, Queensland’s popular and high-performing Tourism Minister, Kate Jones, became the third Palaszczuk government minister in less than a week to announce their retirement from politics.

Jones’ decision is viewed as a blow to the Queensland Labor Government, which faces an election next month (31 October 2020). The Palaszczuk government has dug in its heels and sealed the Queensland border in the face of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Jones, known for planning and running the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018, has always been regarded as a highly effective tourism advocate. One of her proudest achievements was to declare D’Aguilar National Park, on the doorstep of her Ashgrove electorate. In 2015, Jones defeated Queensland’s former LNP premier Campbell Newman for the seat of Ashgrove.

Jones’ declaration of impending retirement came only hours after Queensland Mines Minister Anthony Lynham said he was stepping down. Last weekend, Disability Services Minister Coralee O’Rourke said she also would retire.

Political tension is running high in Queensland, with the Covid-19 border lockdown a major issue. Queensland recorded zero new Covid-19 cases yesterday. The state’s firm border stance could prove popular among voters for Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, though the impact on some tourism enterprises is close to ruinous.

On a human scale, the effects are shocking.

AMONG CONTROVERSIAL AND HEARTBREAKING QUEENSLAND BORDER CASES REPORTED YESTERDAY:

A Sydney family were asked to decide which of their four young children would say goodbye to their dying father in hospital in Brisbane. Father of four Mark Keans, 39, is dying of cancer in a hospital ward while his family remained in NSW, initially unable to see him because of the Queensland border closure. The Queensland government ruled that just one of Keans’ children would be allowed to cross the border and say goodbye to him – an “impossible” decision for the family, reminiscent of the movie Sophie’s Choice.

In late news yesterday, however, the authorities relented and said all four children could come –  provided the family paid $16,000 in quarantine fees.

“We understand and sympathise that this is a very difficult time and there are challenges,” a spokesperson for Queensland Health was quoted as saying. “We are in the midst of a global pandemic and we need to protect our communities, especially the most vulnerable members of the community.”

Palaszczuk said she was simply following the medical advice of the state’s chief health officer, Jeannette Young. “I don’t make these decisions, they are made by clinicians.”

In another case, a grieving daughter has been refused permission to attend her father’s funeral.

Sarah Caisip arrived in Queensland last week after being granted an exemption to visit her father, who was dying in hospital from cancer. Tragically, her father died while she was still completing her 14-day quarantine in a Brisbane hotel.

When Caisip then applied for a separate exemption to attend her father’s funeral, it was denied. She had been granted permission to see her dying father – not to attend his funeral.

Queensland Tourism Minister Kate Jones

An impassioned plea yesterday from Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who begged Palaszczuk to “show some compassion” and overrule the “heartbreaking” decision, failed to soften Palaszczuk’s resolve.

The Guardian reported yesterday that a “visibly irritated Palaszczuk” told Queensland parliament she had no intention of being “bullied” or “intimidated” by Morrison. Palaszczuk said a pandemic was a time to be working collaboratively, “and this politics of division is disgusting and disgraceful”.

Queensland Health reportedly said it would let Caisip have a “private viewing” at the funeral home yesterday afternoon, but she would not be allowed to attend the service with her family.

MEANWHILE, Queensland police are urging motorists to acquaint themselves with the border restrictions ahead of the September school holidays.

Since 8 August 2020 the Queensland border has been closed to anyone who has been in what Queensland defines as a Covid-19 hotspot (Victoria, New South Wales and ACT) in the previous 14-day period unless they receive an exemption.

Residents living in the declared “border zones” can apply for a Queensland border declaration ‘X’ pass but will only be permitted to travel within the border zone in Queensland and New South Wales.

Motorists with ‘G’ passes are not allowed to enter Queensland via the roadway and will need to travel into Queensland via air or reapply for one of the other passes if they meet the criteria.

Gold Coast District Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler said officers were still seeing motorists attempting to cross the Gold Coast/Tweed border checkpoints with invalid border passes.

“With September school holidays coming up and sporting competitions such as the upcoming 2020 Tweed Coast Pro this weekend, it is important people fully understand the restrictions before leaving Queensland,” Chief Superintendent Wheeler said.

“Anyone planning on crossing the border to New South Wales must understand they will not be able to re-enter Queensland by road unless they are able to obtain a valid Queensland border declaration pass.

“Queenslanders trying to return to home from New South Wales without a valid pass will be required to fly into Queensland and quarantine for 14 days in government arranged accommodation at their own expense.

For more information including questions and answers about the new restrictions click here.

The current Queensland Border Declaration Passes consist of the following categories:

  • X PASS: Border zone resident, issued to persons living in a border zone who are not required to quarantine.
  • S PASS: Specialist, issued to exempt persons who have been to a Covid-19 declared hotspot and are not required to quarantine.
  • F PASS: Freight, issued to freight, logistics and transport workers who are not required to quarantine.
  • Q PASS: Quarantine Direction, issued to a person who is allowed to enter Queensland but must quarantine.

Written by Peter Needham

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