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Ekka long weekend part of $50m 'holiday at home' plan

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Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk agrees to a people’s weekend, instead of the traditional People’s Day, to allow Brisbane residents to get out of town.

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After lobbying from tourism groups and Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner, the Premier has agreed to move the city’s traditional show day holiday back two days to Friday, August 14.

“Everyone knows the Ekka is when the bush meets the city,” Palaszczuk said.

“Since that can’t happen this year, this gives the city the chance to go to bush – or the beach – have break and let Queenslanders support Queenslanders in our wonderful tourism industry.”

Tourism Minister Kate Jones said it was “a great win for the tourism industry” and potentially a $60 million boost.

Jones is also working on elements of a $50 million tourism package that will encourage Queenslanders to holiday in Queensland, as the regional movement restrictions are eased in the coming weeks. International and interstate tourism remains restricted.

The Ekka has been cancelled for only the third time in its 144-year history, and RNA president David Thomas said he was pleased there would still be something to celebrate in August.

“Since 1876, the RNA has helped the community in times of need, including our Showgrounds being used as a treatment centre in 1919 for those suffering from Spanish Influenza; to an evacuation centre for the 2011 Brisbane floods and acting as a temporary hospital if needed for COVID-19,” Thomas said.

With other urban and regional councils having their own public holidays for the local show, Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said they could apply to make similar changes.

The move comes as the Palaszczuk government continues to resist calls, led by the NSW government, to reopen Queensland’s southern border. One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has even threatened a High Court challenge after speculation the border could remain closed beyond September.

Palaszczuk and senior ministers have fired back at NSW, with Treasurer Cameron Dick even adapting former prime minister John Howard’s immigration stance by saying “Queenslanders will decide who comes to Queensland and the circumstances in which they come”.

Palaszczuk shrugged off the High Court threat. She reiterated the policy would be reviewed at the end of every month, based on health advice, and that the key determining factor would be the level of community transmission of COVID-19 in NSW and Victoria.

Queensland’s COVID-19 tally remains at 1,058, after another “zero day” with no infections. There is lingering concern that any change to the border restrictions could see winter holiday-makers, including Grey Nomads, bring the coronavirus north.

“Look how well Queensland is going,” Palaszczuk challenged reporters today.

“Why would we put all of that at risk?”

Palaszczuk said the low rate of transmission in Queensland had allowed the state to ease other restrictions faster than other jurisdictions.

It will also alleviate the need for the Ekka showgrounds to become a makeshift quarantine hospital.

Health Minister and Deputy Premier Steven Miles said the health system remained well-prepared for any outbreak, and acknowledged a newly signed state-federal funding agreement that would provide a record $5.3 billion in commonwealth funding next financial year.

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