Jobs key as state looks to make things work

03 November, 2020

Professor John Mangan

“there is a relative sense of safety in Queensland that has encouraged a lot of domestic tourism, but as the “mini boom” in Queenslanders holidaying inside the state dropped off, there was a greater need for borders to reopen to Sydney and Victoria".

The Australian, Monday, 2 Nov 2020 - Page 9

This clipping is from the November 2 issue of The Australian Digital Edition. To subscribe, visit https://www.theaustralian.com.au/

Palaszczuk Wins Majority As LNP Goes Backwards No Change To Reopening Schedule Despite Day Without New Covid Case

Ms Palaszczuk’s refusal to bring forward a review of the border restrictions, which are keeping Sydneysiders from visiting Queensland, has thrown into doubt national cabinet’s planned reopening of all state borders by Christmas.

Business and tourism groups warned there would be serious economic consequences if the Queensland border wasn’t open to Sydney and Victoria by the holiday season, while Health Minister Greg Hunt urged Ms Palaszczuk to continue to review border restrictions.

Ms Palaszczuk, who was returned after an unexpected 5 per cent statewide primary vote swing to Labor, said on Sunday the border ban would not be reconsidered until the end of the month, and voters had backed her to keep them safe.

“I’ve been entirely consistent on this and we will do whatever Dr (Chief Health Officer Jeannette) Young says,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“I realise there are a lot of people out there who voted Labor for the very first time, who put their trust in me for the very first time, and I want to pay that respect back.

“I know that was a very tough call for a lot of people, but a lot of people stopped me in the street … and they said ‘thank you for keeping us safe’ .”

Labor looks set to secure an increased majority of 50 seats, picking up the Sunshine Coast electorate of Caloundra — for the first time in more than 100 years — as well as Pumicestone and Hervey Bay from the Liberal National Party. But former Labor deputy leader Jackie Trad lost her seat of South Brisbane to the Greens, doubling the minor party’s representation in the Queensland parliament and strengthening its foothold in the capital.

Despite Liberal National Party leader Deb Frecklington’s insistence she would defy convention and stay on as Opposition Leader, her colleagues had on Sunday already begun canvassing to replace her, with some describing her position as “untenable” .

The election result came as Australia recorded a 24-hour period without any new COVID-19 transmissions for the first time since June 5, although NSW health authorities detected one new infection late on Saturday night. That infection, which will be officially recorded on Monday, was linked to a cluster in southwest Sydney.

Ms Palaszczuk’s refusal to revisit border restrictions — although Queensland will allow NSW residents who are not from Sydney to enter from Tuesday — has a number of major industry and corporate groups increasingly concerned. Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott said it was an “illusion” that the restrictions would only have a temporary effect. “Every day that a business is shut down or uncertain, that customers are not coming through the door or that people can’t work is doing permanent damage and making it harder to recover,” Ms Westacott said.

Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox warned there was a “real prospect that some states may still be offlimits at Christmas” .

“The continued closures and absurd reluctance of many states to consider fully re-engaging with each other give local and international investors no confidence, make it appear that parochial premiers are running the country and only increase the political risk when it comes to doing business within and with Australia.”

Mr Hunt said he was confident there would be significant progress and that Australians would be able to visit their families for Christmas as long as Victoria and NSW continued to record low or very low case numbers.

He said he had not received an update on whether Queensland would change its definition of a COVID-19 “hot spot” — no community transmission for 28 days — but said other states had loosened borders more quickly.

Anthony Albanese said on Sunday Ms Palaszczuk had been rewarded for keeping Queenslanders safe and she would “do what she’s done each and every day, which is to take the proper medical advice” . The federal Labor leader said Mr Morrison’s insistence that states should loosen coronavirus restrictions had backfired because Queenslanders did not appreciate him “telling them they should just open up their borders” .

“I just hear crickets, when it comes to Scott Morrison and the NSW border to Victoria being closed,” Mr Albanese said.

“It’s about time that they recognised and gave respect to the decision that was made yesterday. And the decision that was made yesterday by Queenslanders is that Annastacia Palaszczuk’s been doing the right thing by listening to the medical experts and taking that advice.”

Queensland Labor’s primary vote has strengthened to 40.49 per cent, compared with 35.43 per cent at the 2017 state election and 26.6 per cent at last year’s federal election . The result was partly helped by the collapse in One Nation support, from 13.73 per cent primary vote in 2017 to 6.91 per cent.

Ms Palaszczuk’s focus will now shift to the state’s budget, which is due before the end of the year, as major employers warn of economic carnage from continued restrictions stymieing the return of the tourism industry.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said on Friday the airline had scuttled plans to fly more than 1000 flights between NSW and Queensland, which would have meant the restoration of many stood-down employees.

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said continuing to ban Sydneysiders from Queensland would do “more damage to business operators, and the tourism and travel industry in particular” .

Simon Westaway, executive director at the Australian Tourism Industry Council, said Queensland had “a hell of a lot to lose from not having its border open by Christmas” . “People aren’t going to magically re-open on Christmas Day if the border decision isn’t made now,” he said.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s first order of business will be to start work on a much-delayed budget to extend Queensland’s robust post-COVID recovery and drive down unemployment levels , despite having the highest state debt levels in the country.

Queensland, with its closed borders and good health outcomes , has enjoyed a relatively rapid reopening. Since the depths of the downturn in May, employment in the Sunshine State has returned to 98 per cent of the prepandemic level, in line with another standout state, Western Australia, based on Australian Bureau of Statistics figures.

This compares with NSW employment levels of 97.6 per cent of February levels, and 93.9 per cent in Victoria, which is only now emerging from its lockdown.

The movement of people around Brisbane’s CBD in mid-October was at 66 per cent that of January and February, based on Roy Morgan analysis of mobile phone location data. While still depressed, it compares favourably with equivalent rates of 44 per cent in Sydney and 15 per cent in Victoria.

Despite a stronger rebound, Queensland’s official jobless rate was 7.7 per cent in September, versus 6.9 per cent in Australia as a whole and 7.2 per cent in NSW.

Bank of Queensland chief economist Peter Munckton said “while things (in Queensland) are unarguably getting better, they are still not all that good” .

Mr Munckton said a major issue facing the Palaszczuk government in framing its budget was that the state’s debt levels were greater than elsewhere in the country while its higher unemployment levels made the need for a strong economic recovery more urgent.

University of Queensland economics professor John Mangan said “there is a relative sense of safety in Queensland that has encouraged a lot of domestic tourism, but as the “mini boom” in Queenslanders holidaying inside the state dropped off, there was a greater need for borders to reopen to Sydney and Victoria.

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