Ted blasts Premier for ‘wrong’ info on COVID-19 blow in
Fairfax MP Ted O’Brien has blasted Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk for “making up” information about a traveller who was infectious with COVID-19 when he flew from Sydney to the Sunshine Coast.
Mr O’Brien said there was a great need for state and federal governments to work together but felt compelled to call out “misinformation” about the man who landed on the Coast on Friday before driving to Toowoomba.
At a press conference on Tuesday morning, the Premier said in relation to the man’s arrival in Queensland there was loophole that needed to be closed.
“I will be raising this at National Cabinet, there have been some reports going around, I have now asked … these documents have all been forwarded to the Police Commissioner to investigate,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“Our understanding is that a letter was provided on DFAT letterhead and there was an exemption that was also granted.
“So, this will be fully investigated but there is still a loophole that needs to be fixed and I will absolutely raise this at National Cabinet in Friday because we are in a really serious situation here.”
Mr O’Brien on Tuesday listed claims made in a statement by the State Government on Monday that he said were incorrect.
“Yesterday, it was said that this person was consular official, wrong,” Mr O’Brien said.
“That this person was travelling using a diplomatic passport, wrong.
“That this person was written into a letter from the Department of Foreign Affairs (and Trade) to Queensland Health, wrong.
“That the exemptions granted to this person to fly from Sydney into Queensland was based on a Federal Government ruling, wrong.”
He said it was vitally important in “times like this” that “we be very transparent with the facts”.
“Where the facts have not all come out, a leader needs to make sure they hold their fire.
“What we do not need is misinformation.
“What we do not need is a panic of trying to point the finger elsewhere.”
Mr O’Brien said the man was not a consular official or diplomat.
“He worked in the area of security for a private company.
“This person did not come into Queensland with use of a diplomatic passport.
“Department of Foreign Affairs (and Trade) did not write a letter to Queensland Health requesting exemptions.”
He said he had no information on whether or not the man was honest in declarations made during his travel.
“We just have to avoid the situation where we have one political leader jumping the gun, making accusations, getting people very concerned, before all those facts are clear.
“It should have been dealt with differently.
“We need to stick together on this but that doesn’t mean you have a free pass to make things up.”
He said he hoped there would not be further COVID-19 cases as a result of the man’s arrival.
“Even if this ends up being a small incident, what is critically important is that we remain true to the facts, we work together and we have transparency when we actually have those facts ahead of us.
The Daily asked the Premier’s office for a response and received a statement from a Queensland Health spokesman.
“The man was provided an exemption to travel to Queensland under arrangements agreed nationally in June,” the spokesman said.
“The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade wrote to confirm the man was ‘travelling on essential Australian Government business’.
“He confirmed he held a diplomatic passport and provided his passport number.
“Irrespective of this person’s circumstances, we are concerned with the number of overall exemptions and the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) is reviewing criteria and will provide advice to National Cabinet.”
The spokesman did answer questions about how many Sunshine Coast residents were on the Friday’s Jetstar flight with the contagious man.
The spokesman also would not say how many of those fellow passengers had been contacted by health officials or tested for COVID-19.
“Contact tracing is undertaken for all confirmed individuals to find out who the person might have had close contact with while infectious,” the spokesman said.
“Queensland Health will issue a public health alert if there is any risk to the community.
“The only public health alert associated with this case is for Jetstar flight JQ790.”