Thousands of residents ask for exemption from the border to Queensland as there is uncertainty over whether the state will open for Christmas
- Thousands try to enter Queensland from highway amid uncertainties
- Official figures show 3145 people with pending exemption requests
- The state government has refused to commit to a specific date for reopening borders
- Prime Minister sidestepped questions about when Queenslanders can travel abroad
- Simon Birmingham said fully vaccinated Queenslanders should have security
- But former treasurer Wayne Swan said the prime minister has a right to be cautious
Thousands of people are trying to enter Queensland from the highway amid uncertainty about when the state government will open to the rest of Australia.
Official figures from AAP show there were 3,145 people with pending applications for waivers to enter Queensland on Thursday morning.
The state government’s exemptions department processed 302 applications in the 24 hours to 7 a.m. Thursday, but an additional 235 new applications were filed during the same period.
The number of people submitting applications every day remains virtually the same as two weeks ago, when there were still 3,663 applications pending.
Official figures seen by AAP show there were 3,145 people with pending exemption requests to enter Queensland on Thursday morning
With thousands on the waiting list, the Queensland government has refused to commit to a specific date for reopening state borders or allowing residents to go abroad.
The national plan is for a gradual reopening once vaccination rates reach 80 percent, with federal tourism minister Dan Tehan saying international borders will reopen “by Christmas at the latest.”
Prime Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk has sidestepped questions about whether she will open Queensland to the rest of the country before Christmas, or when Queenslanders will be able to travel internationally.
“Where are you going, are you going to India?” she told reporters on Thursday.
With thousands on the waiting list, the Queensland government has refused to commit to a specific date for reopening state borders or allowing residents to go abroad
The prime minister said the national cabinet should further discuss the country’s reopening and international travel next Friday.
Federal Chancellor of the Exchequer Simon Birmingham said fully vaccinated Queensland residents should be given certainty about when they are allowed to travel between the states and overseas.
‘The question: if not then, if not at the 80 percent vaccination threshold, when?’ he told Nine’s Today program.
“Because so many companies in Queensland, tourism organizations, families looking to be reunited, they all want to know when these opportunities arise.
“So it’s understandable that people now want to know how much dividend they’re going to get for those vaccines, beyond the safety it gives them.”
National Labor Party president and former federal treasurer Wayne Swan said the prime minister has a right to be cautious about reopening.
He said it would be highly irresponsible to open the border when the virus was ‘on fire’ in NSW and Victoria.
The national cabinet’s plan to reopen the country was not just about achieving 80 percent vaccination coverage, but also included aspects such as adequate testing and tracing, quarantine and isolation measures.
“Queensland has done very well so why would Queensland pull the border back when the economy is running strong and we don’t have infections,” Mr Swan told the Today programme.
Federal Treasury Secretary Simon Birmingham said fully vaccinated Queenslanders should be given certainty about when they can travel between the states and overseas
“So we’re going to look at the recommendations coming in in Queensland, but Doherty (modelling the Institute) doesn’t automatically say that everything is free once you get 80 percent double vaccination.”
Meanwhile, for the thousands of Queenslanders and other people trying to get into the state, there is no sign of the application process speeding up.
The number of quarantine places in hotels is limited and the Prime Minister has said she will not consider other measures, such as home quarantine for returnees and arrivals, until she sees the results of a South Australian trial.
However, Queensland is already using home quarantine for people associated with local virus outbreaks in the state.
Queensland Health said 3,886 people were in home quarantine on Thursday.