‘Flying blind’: No clue on border closure cost
THE State Government has made the stunning admission it is not counting the crippling cost of its controversial closure of the NSW border.
As the city reels from unprecedented job losses and business closures, the Treasury department yesterday conceded to the Bulletin that it "has not modelled the impact of the Queensland border closure".
Instead it said the Government was focused on measures to "protect Queensland jobs and businesses during the necessary restrictions on movement due to COVID-19".
Business leaders and Gold Coast MPs were "appalled" and "gobsmacked" by the revelation, saying the Government is "stumbling from one kneejerk decision to the next" and is "flying blind".
The Premier's office last night said: "The borders were closed on health advice."
On Monday, Queensland chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young told a parliamentary hearing she had no fear the state would experience a second wave of the disease, if the federal stage program was followed.
She said the state's response to the pandemic had met the three criteria - adequate capacity to test for the virus; contact tracing ability to stop its spread; and rapid response to known cases to prevent clusters.
Her concern had been too few people were coming forward to be tested for the virus, but she conceded this might be due to there being "next to no'' respiratory illnesses in the state.
The border has become a hotbed topic nationally, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison again imploring it be reopened to stop the economic bloodletting.
After initially spruiking July 10 as a likely date for interstate travel, Ms Palaszczuk later said a September reopening was a more "realistic" option. She will review it at the end of the month.
In the past fortnight the Bulletin has revealed:
* Tourism leaders expect up to $4.3 billion to be stripped from the local economy - and $310 million every month the border is closed.
* About 7500 businesses closed their doors in April alone.
* Just three commercial flights a week into Gold Coast Airport, the gateway to the city's $6 billion. NSW rural towns such as Wagga Wagga and Dubbo have at least four times that number. Pre-coronavirus, Coolangatta airport had more than 400 flights a week.
* Theme parks still waiting their slice of two rescue packages dating back to March.
* Mental health facilities have recorded a significant spike in demand as Gold Coasters struggle with depression, anxiety and alcohol. More people are self-harming.
Curious to know the state's economic parameters, the Bulletin yesterday asked the Treasury:
Has Treasury undertaken costing estimates on the border closure to the Gold Coast or Queensland economy? If so, can Treasury provide clarity in regards to the modelling?
A spokesman for the Treasury said: "Since January, the Palaszczuk Government's response to COVID-19 has been focused on protecting Queenslanders' health, Queensland jobs and Queensland businesses.
"Around the world, we have seen the awful costs to lives and economies in countries that acted too slowly to curb the spread or eased restrictions too quickly.
"Compared to southern states, Queensland has also been insulated from the worst impacts of the downturn - today's April retail sales data from the ABS shows that Queensland has seen the smallest 12-month fall in the nation.
"Now, thanks to the hard work of Queenslanders, we are seeing restrictions ease, allowing Queenslanders to once again visit their favourite parts of the state like the Gold Coast.
"Our plan for Queensland: Unite and Recover for Queensland jobs - will continue to support sectors like the tourism industry as our state economy opens up again."
Gold Coast Central Chamber of Commerce boss Martin Hall said "it is appalling that the Government is making decisions about the future of border restrictions without having any clue of the true economic impact that its decisions are having.
"We think the Queensland Government handled the crisis exceptionally well at the start but it has now lost its way in dealing with the economic side of the crisis.
"Rather than a staged, well-researched and well-thought-out plan towards recovery, the Government seems to be stumbling from one kneejerk decision to the next."
LNP Shadow Treasurer Tim Mander said: "This shows Annastacia Palaszczuk is literally flying blind through the biggest economic crisis in almost a century and jobs clearly aren't a priority."
Member for Bonney Sam O'Connor and Member for Mermaid Beach Ray Stevens, both of whom were both part of the State Government inquiry into the economic response to coronavirus, said the lack of modelling on border closures was staggering.
"It is staggering they haven't even looked at the biggest thing choking our city," Mr O'Connor said.
"It is unbelievable. Businesses are calling us everyday on this issue."
Mr Stevens said: "We heard during the inquiry that we have had very little, if any, community spread, have followed all expected guidelines. But two months later we still have closed the borders, with no consideration of how it could be hurting us."
Originally published as 'Flying blind': No clue on border closure cost