Ken O’Dowd agrees keeping Victorians out of Queensland is the right move.
Ken O’Dowd agrees keeping Victorians out of Queensland is the right move.

O’Dowd backs border reopening, but not for Victorians

WE NEED to be extremely cautious about letting Victorians into Queensland, says Flynn MP Ken O’Dowd, as the government reveals its border reopening situation.

A careful balance between economic recovery and virus protection was what was needed, Mr O’Dowd said, as Annastacia Palaszczuk announced a border update today.

“Opening up the borders to the Northern Territory, South Australia, Western Australia, if they want to come on board, and New South Wales could be done,” he said.

“Places like Longreach, Biloela Blackwater and Emerald haven’t had any cases throughout this pandemic so we’ve done really well.

“It’s time we open those borders up and let those towns and other areas get back to normal asap.

“I think New South Wales has managed things pretty well, but I’d definitely have restrictions on Victorians as the pandemic is there and we want to keep it there.

“I really fear for the AFL and the NRL travelling to Victoria to play, but the Melbourne teams should be on the exclusion list coming to Queensland.”

Three weeks ago, Mr O’Dowd said he would have said to let every state back into Queensland.

“We don’t want to let anyone here from those eight hot spots in and around Melbourne,” he said.

“If you would have asked the same thing three weeks ago I would have said open it all up.

“What’s happened in Victoria in the past week has been pretty disappointing, but it just goes to show health authorities here in Queensland and in other states have really worked hard on the issue.

“They have tried to put it to bed and get back to normal as soon as possible.

“On one side you have got the industry and businesses who want to get open as soon as possible, and on the other side you have to consider the problems and we don’t want to have a second wave like they are in Victoria at the moment.”

The region has certainly fared much better than other areas in Queensland and Australia, Mr O’Dowd said.

“Gladstone in particular has been really lucky with places like Northern Oil, the Rio Tinto sites, the cement industry, Orica, the chemical factories have all kept going,” he said.

“As you move out to the west the farmers are saying this is a pretty normal life for us, we only go to town once a month anyway so it hasn’t affected the farming life.

“But those people in tourism and the smaller businesses, the pubs, coffee shops, the motels and hotels; they are the ones that have been really affected by the virus and borders being closed.

“As I drove around last week and this week I have noticed a lot more trucks and cars on the road and you can see things picking up...there are some green shoots, but there have got to be a lot more.”

The continued closure of the borders would devastate businesses that struggling to keep afloat.

“Businesses have suffered and even at Northern Oil they’ve noticed a slow down as motorists had stopped driving, the trucking industry, the shipping industry had all been curtailed during coronavirus,” Mr O’Dowd said.

“Small business, the pubs, coffee shops, cafes and takeaways definitely need to get their small businesses open and the restrictions they face now, having 10 or 20 is not really conducive to running a good business.

“They need the numbers to make it profitable.”

Constituents have been expressing their concerns over the pandemic and the borders being closed.

“Our office has been very busy for the past three months,” Mr O’Dowd said.

“I’d imagine we are going to be very busy over the next six months as we go out of jobseeker and jobkeeper come to a halt.

“That’s when we are really going to know who has fallen through the cracks and who hasn’t.

“Some companies are going well keeping their jobs and others are struggling, and that will mean jobs won’t be restored as well as they were before the virus hit.”