Queenslanders have been given another clue about a pre-Christmas border reopening, but the Premier has still been called out for ‘nonsense’.
Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has dropped another hint about reopening the state’s borders in time for Christmas, but a furious Peter Dutton wants to know why it hasn’t happened already.
Ms Palaszczuk on Wednesday night posted a curious tweet noting that the holiday season was just around the corner, and urged people to help lift the state’s lagging Covid vaccination rate.
Mr Dutton, whose federal seat of Dickson is in Queensland, agreed that Ms Palaszczuk’s reference to the approaching Christmas season was a likely hint she was planning to open the state up to outsiders.
“I hope she lives up to that word,” the Defence Minister told 2GB radio host Ray Hadley.
But he also lashed Ms Palaszczuk and Queensland Labor for its tough stance on borders and not yet committing to a firm reopening.
“It is absolutely safe for Queensland to open up once that vaccination rate gets to 70 or 80 per cent,” Mr Dutton said on Thursday.
“The Premier at one point was saying … kids need to be vaccinated, and if there’s a small pocket in the community somewhere in Queensland that’s not 80 per cent vaccinated … the rest of the state won’t open. All of that is nonsense.”
Ms Palaszczuk has so far refused to commit to a reopening date, drawing criticism from various state and federal Coalition opponents as well as business and tourism groups.
She has flagged concerns over the vulnerability of children who are unable to be vaccinated, while she has asked Prime Minister Scott Morrison to increase hospital funding and announce a plan for the rollout of Covid booster shots before she can open the state back up.
The Queensland government is also concerned over its patchy regional vaccination rate and has previously said the 80 per cent double-vaccination figure flagged at national cabinet may not be enough.
Queensland has 71 per cent of people aged over 16 with a first dose, ahead of only the Northern Territory, while the state’s 54.1 per cent double vaccination rate is only ahead of Western Australia. Regional Queensland areas are lagging the cities.
But Mr Dutton said many local hospitality businesses had their last dollar on the line and were being unnecessarily punished.
“It would be a remarkable set of circumstances, given the international travel resumes in November, if you can jump on a plane and go to Fiji, but I can’t jump off the plane and go to the Gold Coast in December,” Mr Dutton said.
“That would be just absolutely nonsensical.”
Ms Palaszczuk is proud of her record in warding off the virus – especially compared with NSW and Victoria – with the state stamping out several worrying clusters over the past two weeks.
What’s more, Queensland on Thursday recorded a ninth straight day without a local Covid case. The state’s border travel bubble with six northern NSW local government areas was also reinstated on Wednesday.