A northern New South Wales MP has slammed the decision to exclude his electorate from Queensland’s expanded border bubble, and described the Queensland Premier’s explanation as ‘bizarre’ and ‘pathetic.’
The travel zone was expanded on October 1 to include five more New South Wales local government areas including Byron, Ballina, Richmond Valley, Lismore and Glen Innes.
However it stopped short of including neighbouring regions like Clarence Valley, areas that have been free of COVID since March.
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Residents in towns like Grafton, Maclean, Yamba and Iluka are excluded from entering Queensland, despite being a stone’s throw away from towns that can travel to the Sunshine State.
Those towns are also closer to Queensland than Glen Innes is.
Clarence Valley MP Chris Gulaptis has written to Annastacia Palaszczuk twice asking for an explanation and for her to include his electorate in the bubble.
But the reply has left him even more furious.
“The Queensland Premier’s response to my requests for the Clarence Valley to be included in the so-called border bubble is pathetic,” Mr Gulpatis said.
“The response I received from her office claims she is relying on the best medical and scientific advice, but merely commits to ‘noting’ my representations on behalf of the Clarence Valley.”
The letter from the Premier’s office says Queensland’s response to COVID-19 has included “important and decisive border measures, taken in accordance with the advice of the CHO.”
But it failed to outline why areas like Clarence Valley have been excluded.
“This is disappointing, as it ignores the science and deprives both areas of much needed economic activity,” Mr Gulaptis said.
The Premier’s response went on to say that the Queensland Government recognises the “close economic and personal links” between many along the Queensland-New South Wales border.
“The border zone has been created in recognition of this to support those who are required to regularly travel through the interconnected border communities while ensuring the health and wellbeing of Queenslanders.”
Mr Gulaptis says excluding COVID-free regions like his makes no sense given they also have strong ties to Queensland.
“We pose no risk to Queensland. This is un-Australian.
“We have never needed a passport to cross the border into Queensland. Sir Henry Parkes would be rolling in his grave.”
Queensland’s plan to reopen to all of New South Wales on November 1 has also been placed in jeopardy after the state recorded three new cases of community transmission.
Officials insist Queensland will not welcome back New South Wales residents until it goes 28 days with no local transmission.
Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles says they are keeping a close eye on the situation to determine if they need to reset the clock.
“If they can be linked to existing clusters then that would not be considered an unlinked case.
“Early reporting I’ve seen is that the three cases appear to be linked to each other but they’re working to see if they can link them to an existing cluster.”
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian says the 28-day benchmark is unreasonable.
“I say to the Queensland government, I appreciate you will probably come out today and say the 28 days is ticking again from the start,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“I will put to you that until the end of the pandemic, it is highly unlikely, highly improbable that New South Wales will ever get to 28 days of no community transmission.”