Crucial flaw behind huge border mistake
AS of last Sunday, there have been 78 deaths as a result of crashes on Queensland roads. That's 78 people, from young to old, who have needlessly lost their lives.
Given the old mantra that "one death is one too many", it is a thoroughly unacceptable figure.
What can be done to end this terrible loss of life?
Imagine, if you will, if the issue was looked at purely as a health matter, and the only objective was to eliminate road deaths entirely. What would the policy response from the State Government look like?
Speed limits could be slashed to 40km/h on all roads, at all times. Driving may be banned entirely for all but essential travel.
The number of fatalities on our roads would indeed fall. But the situation would be ludicrous. Almost nobody would accept it.
Pandemic deaths are not much like road deaths. It is a poor comparison.
But the point is this: when it comes to road travel, there is a trade-off. We accept a certain level of risk because we want the benefit it brings.
We do this in many ways in life. If we didn't, even in normal times, we'd never leave the front door. We do not look at issues like driving solely in terms of health outcomes. We consider the other likely positives and negatives.
Looking at the issue of Queensland's closed border solely in terms of health outcomes is similarly ludicrous. It is also cowardly.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk cannot simply hide behind Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young to justify her stance.
Dr Young has one job and one job only - to stop COVID-19 taking hold in Queensland.
Of course she advocates for strict measures. Ms Palaszczuk has a far wider responsibility, which she has been abrogating.
The Premier must also consider how keeping the border closed is smashing our economy. Whether living in fear of a rapidly decreasing health risk is worth the damage. But her administration has an astonishing blind spot on the concerns of small business, to put it politely.
The entire episode has brought to national attention flaws in the Palaszczuk Government that have actually been present for some time.
The love of ordering around the little people, the total disregard for small business, even the fondness for hanging around with celebrities, is familiar to the people of the Gold Coast.
They were all on full show during the two weeks of the Commonwealth Games in 2018.
Back then, locals were sternly warned to keep off the roads, leaving the city a ghost town for two weeks and driving many restaurants to the wall.
NightQuarter in Helensvale never recovered. The Premier, meanwhile, showed her concern by tweeting videos of herself chair dancing in the Carrara Stadium stands. "How can you not dance to Xanadu?', she asked.
We saw similar behaviour last Saturday when, as protests over the border closure reached a crescendo, Ms Palaszczuk appeared on the Gold Coast to pose for happy snaps with director Baz Luhrmann. A flight from reality almost worthy of one of Mr Luhrmann's fantasies.
When this column first raised the border closure as a looming controversy four weeks ago, the fear was the State Government may let the issue linger until June. Back then, no one imagined that if COVID-19 case numbers throughout Australia remained low, September might be mentioned, or we could be in the ludicrous situation of discussing whether travel between NSW and New Zealand will resume before travel between NSW and Queensland.
Some cynics have suggested Ms Palaszczuk may be using the border issue for electoral advantage, hoping it makes her look tough ahead of the October state poll. This is unfair. When the Premier first closed the border, just a couple of days out from the Currumbin by-election, she did so surely knowing it could cost the Labor Party its chances in that race.
She appears to genuinely be trying to do the right thing.
But our Premier also has no experience of working in the private sector, and is from a generation that has not lived through a severe recession. And it shows.
Ms Palaszczuk has played her part in keeping Queensland safe from COVID-19. But she is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, lining herself and her party up to cop the blame for years of economic misery.
Originally published as Crucial flaw behind huge border mistake