‘States failing us’: Fears worst to come in border spat
Tourism bosses have warned the worst could be yet to come if national leaders do not end the border wars crippling the industry and tearing families apart.
While Queensland's snap three-day lockdown has been praised for keeping the new mutant strain of the coronavirus in check, tourism leaders fear the year will look increasingly bleak for operators if holiday-makers aren't given the confidence to resume travel.
Scores of travellers from around the country are now stuck in Queensland at the mercy of rules by state governments refusing to allow them to return home, attracting a stinging rebuke from Federal Queensland MP David Littleproud, who said warring state premiers were "failing Australia".
Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and WA are stubbornly sticking to Brisbane travel bans, leaving hordes of holiday-makers stuck in Queensland in a move which does not bode well for crucial holiday periods around Australia Day and Easter.
The pandemic has already cost Queensland's tourism industry an estimated $12bn, with fears even domestic travellers would be turned off by repeated shutdowns and cancellations until the delivery of a vaccine reaches critical mass.
Australian Tourism Industry Council chief executive Simon Westaway said the outlook beyond the summer holidays was "gloomy" and called on political leaders to end "drop of a hat" lockdowns and border closures.
"There's gloom and there's frustration about the future," he said.
"Nervous consumers won't book holidays if we don't get some clarity."
He said inconsistency among the states was a major problem and sudden lockdowns and border decisions were having a genuine impact that would become even more telling as the golden glow of summer starts to fade.
"People are starting to throw their hands up in the air and say 'it's all too hard'," he said.
Mr Littleproud, the federal member for Maranoa and the deputy leader of the National party, warned that if states started to act like "sovereign nations" in locking people out of their states, it was time to have a "hard look at what COVID-19 had exposed in the federation".
He praised Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk's approach for the three-day localised lockdown, which allowed the rest of the state to operate as normal, adding that NT and ACT had "backed the science" by dropping borders as soon as the lockdown ended.
"We should be evolving with the virus, with the science, hotspots and localised lockdowns," he said.
"Other states should respect that localised lockdown. Queensland has shown you can make it work."
He took aim at premiers who rushed to shutdown borders, saying they were "trying to turn Australians against Australians" for political advantage.
"They play parochial politics by shutting down borders and acting tough on one another, but it's the taxpayers who will pay for it," he said.
"It's an infringement on rights and liberty and freedom of movement, but also about the economy."
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said he invited the states to follow the Commonwealth's hotspot definition, but respected those that chose to go their own way.
But Mr Hunt warned it was not possible to completely eliminate all risk of the virus without entirely sealing all international borders.
"The only way you could eliminate any threat of the virus is if you closed all of the international borders - no export of wheat, or wool or iron ore and no import of critical foods or critical medicines," he said.
Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack said tourism businesses had been hard hit on multiple fronts from COVID, bushfires and drought and needed assistance to get back on their feet.
"It's also up to premiers and states to play their part, it's also up to states to provide surety by not making hasty decisions knee-jerk reactions when we do have small outbreaks of COVID-19," he said.
"We're going to get that, it's a global pandemic."
Melbourne based parents Natalie and Anthony Molloy have been on holiday on the Gold Coast since Boxing Day but were worried about getting home after the Brisbane lockdown. "We've had to keep up to date with everything, we were even going to change our flights from Brisbane to Coolangatta," Ms Molloy said.
The family, who were scheduled to fly out of Brisbane last night, said the lockdown had put a bit of doubt in their minds about coming back to Queensland but won't deter a future holiday.
The family weren't in Brisbane during their trip and spent their holiday at the Gold Coast and have received an exemption to return home.
Originally published as 'States failing us': Fears worst to come in border spat