Border bubble creating jobs ‘bloodbath’
Troubles are flaring with the hastily erected Queensland-NSW border bubble, with the construction industry warning of an employment "bloodbath" if changes aren't made.
A double-standard has been revealed making it easier for NSW construction workers to enter Queensland, than Queensland residents to work on construction sites in NSW.
The construction industry said the border bubble has split workers from jobs just outside the restriction zone and could costs workers dearly.
It has forced builders to consider extreme measures to be able to finish jobs or risk huge damages costs or not getting paid - including a Gold Coast builder willing to rent a caravan in northern NSW despite his family living in Queensland.
Ironically, it is easier for a worker in NSW to apply for an exemption to enter Queensland for a construction job than it is for a Queensland resident seeking to work on a site in NSW outside the border zone.
The industry wants a special construction border pass to allow Queensland workers to cross the border more easily and travel outside the border zone as far as Ballina and Lismore.
But Health Minister Steven Miles says tougher measures are needed to stop Queensland becoming the next Victoria.
From 1am on Saturday all of NSW and ACT were declared COVID hot spots, but a special border zone was set up to allow people in border towns who work in one state and live in another to be able to be able to cross.
There are exemptions for critical workers, but under the definition, someone in NSW working on a construction project critical to Queensland qualifies, but not a Queensland resident working in NSW.
They can apply for a personal exemption if they don't fit within the definition and it will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Gala Homes director Michael Oakey said he had applied but not received any form of response.
"We started a $1 million build in Ballina, we got the slab poured last week, but now we can't get down to finish it," he said.
Hotondo Homes Gold Coast boss Corey Hobbins said his company had $2 million worth of work in Ballina and Lismore, outside the border zone.
Despite having a wife and two young children living at their Canungra home in Queensland, Mr Hobbins said he was considering living from a caravan in NSW to get the work done or risk losing jobs.
"That's the sacrifice I'm going to have to make personally to keep these jobs rolling and deliver homes for people that we've committed to," Mr Hobbins said.
Master Builders Queensland boss Grant Galvin said border controls were less stringent during the original hard lockdown, when there was no restriction and Queensland residents returning home.
"We are back in a situation where our SEQ construction industry faces a bloodbath if not allowed to continue this work," he said.
Mr Miles said the border closure was the best way to protect Queenslanders' health and economy from a second wave or the virus.
"We've seen what is happening in Victoria. Whole worksites are being shut down and people are dying. I don't want to see that happen here," he said.
"These are unprecedented times. We will keep working with industry and prioritise keeping Queenslanders in jobs, while following the health advice."
He said construction sites in Queensland had been able to continue operating through the pandemic, even when schools and other businesses closed.
The border warning comes as the state marked ten days since Queensland's last case of COVID-19 community transmission despite the threat from the escalating situation in NSW.
NSW recorded 22 new cases on Tuesday, the highest number since April as its outbreak remains on "a knife edge".
Health officials continue to closely watch reports of untraceable community transmission in NSW, ready to burst the northern NSW border bubble if needed.
Police say 230 people were refused entry to Queensland at the Gold Coast border checkpoints in the 24 hours to 4pm on Tuesday.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said thousands of Queenslanders had met the challenge to fight back a second wave, brought on by the "selfishness of a few".
She said Queensland had a three-month streak of no community transfer until the "selfishness of a few undid the hard work of the many".
"Anxiety crept back into Queensland," she told Parliament.
"But … the people of Queensland especially those in Logan, Springfield and Ipswich, responded exactly as a united community should.
"When COVID came, these Queenslanders came in their thousands to meet it."
The two teenager girls who allegedly breached Queensland's health directives and travelled from hotspot Sydney without quarantining have tested negative for COVID-19.
It's understood the two girls were among the passengers interviewed by police, who were waiting to meet the Sydney train at the Roma Street station.
Mr Ryan's office on Tuesday said checks at train stations were the same as at airports and at road borders.
But he could not provide details on Monday on the girls' arrival.
While police have said the girls were not honest about the fact they had been in Sydney, Mr Ryan's office confirmed they arrived on a train that originated in Sydney.
Originally published as Border bubble creating jobs 'bloodbath'