Border tensions reach fever pitch on Gold Coast
TENSION over Queensland's border restrictions are reaching fever pitch as politicians hurl insults, tourism operators prepare for a "toot for tourism" protest and small businesses plead poverty.
Queensland Opposition leader Deb Frecklington was at Coolangatta yesterday calling on Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to "stick to her original road map" of reopening the NSW border in July.
Further north at Main Beach, Tourism Minister Kate Jones was talking to restaurant, cafe and bar operators as they opened their doors to 20 patrons.
Speaking to media at the Hot Shott Cafe on Tedder Ave, Ms Jones said she understood that businesses were suffering, but she vehemently denied a suggestion that Queensland's borders remaining closed was a play to win votes in the marginal seats in Townsville and North Queensland.
"No, I strongly reject this, and quite frankly I'm pretty angry that the LNP are choosing to play such gutter politics on this. We know that everyone's hurting," Ms Jones said.
"Let me be very clear, the Premier has said this, down here on the Gold Coast, and in Cairns, she's listening to the chief health officer's advice and we are implementing that, and because people have listened to that advice, we are standing here on June 1, not June 14, bringing forward relaxations."
But Ms Frecklington said businesses were screaming out for clarity on when the border would reopen. "The Premier's border shambles is closing businesses and costing jobs," she said.
"It just doesn't make sense if you live in the Tweed you can travel to Melbourne, but you can't walk across the border to Coolangatta. We cannot afford to wait until September to keep these borders closed."
Maree Hume, co-owner Ocean Plaza at Coolangatta, said traditionally at this time of year 85 per cent of her clients were from the southern states and New Zealand.
"When they can't get to Queensland because of the border closures, they'll be making their holiday destinations in Kingscliff and places like that. Once we lose those clients, we'll never get them back," she said.
Tourism bosses told the Bulletin on Saturday that the Gold Coast was loising $310 million for every month the border was closed. It is estimated more than 7500 Gold Coast businesses closed their doors in April.
Destination Gold Coast chair Paul Donovan said he was a strong advocate for Queensland's borders to be reopened "when safe" and for theme parks to come online as soon as possible.
But Mr Donovan said the lifting of restrictions throughout Queensland yesterday was a win for the Gold Coast.
"This is a good result. It means we can start our marketing early, fine-tuning our message in the intrastate market so we can try to get a jump on other states when interstate borders are opened. We at Destination Gold Coast have our marketing strategy ready to go."
Ms Jones said new data showed 48 per cent of domestic tourists were from Queensland (2 million people) and that the Gold Coast's tourism sector had the chance to capitalise on this.
"Like everyone, we want to see borders reopened as soon as possible. But until that happens, we need to make the most of lifting Queensland's restrictions. If they get it right, the Gold Coast operators could capitalise in the next few weeks and get a jump on other tourism destinations throughout the country," she said.
She also urged those who could afford to have a holiday to return to the Gold Coast, particularly the 2 million Brisbane residents "just up the road".
"Eat at a local restaurant, grab a coffee and stay at a local hotel. We know that Queenslanders are itching to get out and about again. That's exactly what we're encouraging them to do," she said.
Her visit comes as businessman and billionaire Clive Palmer filed a High Court challenge against the border closure.
Mr Palmer said he believed Premier Palaszczuk was using the shutdown to garner margin seats.
"Initially, she'd said she would follow the advice of the chief medical officer, she's not doing that now," he said.
"(The low number of cases) doesn't justify the unemployment, and the holding back of our businesses.
"There's many diseases in Queensland where you've got a small number of (cases) but it doesn't justify a state emergency.
"We don't want this used as a precedent to shut our economy down and lose our rights."
Meanwhile, Gold Coast tourism operators are expected to rally today in a co-ordinated statewide "toot for tourism" protest against the proposed border closures until September.
The rally starts at The Spit at 10am and will travel north through Main Beach and to the Surfers Paradise foreshore sign.
The Premier says the border will remain closed until at least the end of the month when it will be reviewed.
"National Cabinet will be considering more data in a couple of weeks, we will be looking at that very closely, and our next review is at the end of this month," she said.
Originally published as Border tensions reach fever pitch on Gold Coast