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With friends like these: Frecklington cops friendly fire over border policy

Decision 2020

The NSW premier has inadvertently put the border policy spotlight back on Deb Frecklington ahead of today’s first election debate.

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During the campaign, Frecklington has been at pains to say she would take health advice on when to lift Queensland border restrictions but not delay any decision to reopen. She has sought to emphasise the ongoing economic toll without negating the public health benefits of travel being restricted.

It came after Labor highlighted repeated calls by Frecklington to reopen the border, echoed by LNP members and the Morrison Government, and planned a campaign focussed on the COVID-19 policy contrast.

Today, NSW Liberal Premier Gladys Berejiklian revealed she had been in regular contact with Frecklington and believed her Queensland ally, if already in government, would have reopened the border by now.

“I was in touch with her yesterday and she feels strongly about keeping jobs in our state and getting tourism up and running,” Berejiklian said.

“I know if she was elected premier she would open the border. She would have done it months ago.”

Her comments reignited the ongoing stoush between Berejiklian and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and put the border policy back on the agenda ahead of today’s first election debate.

Frecklington appeared taken aback by Berejiklian’s comments. She had been quick to acknowledge they had been in contact – yesterday she received a message wishing her well in the election – but on hearing the particulars of Berejiklian’s comments suggested she had been misquoted.

“I have not had those discussions with the (NSW) premier but what I have said is this: that the borders shouldn’t be closed for a day longer than they need to be,” Frecklington said.

Queensland recorded two new cases of COVID-19 overnight, both in hotel quarantine, while wastewater testing in Ipswich has uncovered viral fragments which may point to previously undetected cases from a recent cluster.

NSW recorded eight new cases overnight, one of which was locally-transmitted. That is one of the factors being considered for the future of Queensland’s border restrictions to NSW.

In the coming days, Palaszczuk is due to announce whether, or when, Queensland will allow more travel to and from NSW. Berejiklian said “it’s rather cute that it’s happening the day before the election, and I’m just so upset and frustrated as to why the border’s been in place for so long”.

But Palaszczuk sought to remind voters the COVID-19 risk remained very real, and that Queensland could have gone the way of Victoria without her government’s strong response this year.

“Worldwide, there’s 43.8 million cases, tragically over a million people have lost their lives,” Palaszczuk said.

Palaszczuk said Frecklington would have jeopardised the health of Queenslanders and undermined the economic response to the recession by opening the border, which she portrayed as another example of the “stability or chaos” choice confronting voters.

“Let me say very clearly: I will not be lectured to by the Premier of New South Wales on what is right for Queensland,” Palaszczuk said.

“We listen to the Chief Health Officer.”

Only yesterday, Palaszczuk laughed off comments from former Labor premier Peter Beattie calling for borders to be opened, which was reported to have undermined her position. Frecklington neither endorsed nor criticised Beattie’s comments, preferring to suggest he was more motivated than Palaszczuk because he set an unemployment target like the LNP would do.

“I believe in ambition, I believe in vision and I believe in Queensland’s future,” Frecklington said today, adding that she had the candidates and policies to take government.

While both party leaders continued to call for a majority government, and ruled out any deals, Frecklington may have opened the door to cross-bench talks by saying she had a “great working relationship with all parliamentarians”.

Frecklington said she would not snub an MP because of their political beliefs.

“I am someone who always says hello, always says a big g’day, no matter who it is and where they are, because we’re all Queenslanders,” she said.

Palaszczuk again warned it was Labor against the LNP, One Nation, Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party and Katter’s Australian Party. She said Frecklington had not been upfront with voters because the LNP policy costings would not be released until Thursday, ahead of Friday’s final debate.

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