Qld reopens, calls for JobKeeper extension

Queensland’s premier is calling for JobKeeper to be extended for tourism operators as the state prepares to reopen its last domestic border to Greater Sydney.

Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced that Sydneysiders will no longer face mandatory coronavirus quarantine on arrival and road border checkpoints will be dismantled from February 1.

Queensland shut the border to 35 local government areas in Sydney, Wollongong and the Blue Mountains amid the COVID-19 outbreak in December, causing chaos for travellers before Christmas.

“NSW residents are now all welcome back into Queensland at 1am on the first of February – this is wonderful news,” Ms Palaszczuk told reporters.

All Australians will be able to visit the state from Monday, but with school holidays already over in most states she is concerned tourism businesses will suffer when JobKeeper ends in March.

The premier is calling for the federal payments to be extended for industries such as tourism, which is dependent on international visitors.

“Perhaps Scott Morrison and the federal government could look at those industries that are doing it tough, and maybe JobKeeper, it does need to be extended for those industries,” she said.

“We know other industries have bounced back after COVID and some industries are doing a lot better than others, but we do know that the tourism industry is hurting, especially those regions which relied heavily on international travellers.”

Ms Palaszczuk said 10,000 businesses in the state’s far north alone were on JobKeeper and they needed help as long as the international border remained shut.

Assistant Tourism Industry Development Minister Michael Healy said continuing the program was essential for the industry.

“I’ve been in the tourism industry for 35 years and I remember when Scott Morrison was cutting his teeth in the marketing role of Tourism Australia, and he came up with the campaign ‘Where The Bloody Hell Are You?’,” he said.

“My question to (local federal MP) Warren Entsch and to Scott Morrison at a time of great need is: where the bloody hell are you?”

The premier indicated there would not be blanket border closures in future, with a national hotspot regime adequately containing outbreaks in Sydney and Brisbane in the past two months.

Ms Palaszczuk said she was still putting together a proposal to shift city hotel quarantine to regional camps, with two options being explored.

She said it was her priority to protect the community and the economy from the UK variant of the virus while ensuring people in quarantine were safe and comfortable.

“These (camps) are like four star, they’re not like two star, and they’re very well ventilated and there’s lots of room to move and everything, and then you have all your workers on site as well, there’s less risk,” she said.

“Our quarantine is our last line of defence, and if that UK strain gets out now in our community, I am really really concerned what that will do to our economy.

“It could decimate our economy, not for weeks, but for months so I think we all need to be on our guard.”

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