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'I told you so' - Berejiklian's barb to Palaszczuk as state relations hit new low

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NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says her Queensland counterpart is a victim of her own hasty interstate border closures after she called for JobKeeper to be extended for struggling tourism businesses.

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As NSW recorded its 12th consecutive day without a local COVID-19 case in the 24 hours to 8pm on Thursday, and three cases in hotel quarantine. Berejiklian on Friday reacted with bemusement to Annastacia Palaszczuk’s suggestion to keep JobKeeper going for the tourism industry.

Palaszczuk on Thursday said 10,000 businesses in far north Queensland were on JobKeeper and needed help while international borders remain shut.

She also indicated there would not be blanket border closures in future, with Queensland fully open to NSW residents from Monday.

But Berejiklian said Queensland’s tourism industry woes were exacerbated by domestic border closures she considered unnecessary, and by locking out the tourism dollars of NSW residents.

“The whole point NSW has been so strong on, keeping borders open, is to prevent exactly what the Queensland premier is now complaining about … when you unnecessarily close state borders, you lose jobs, create hardship, impact people’s mental health,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“(Ms Palaszczuk) is now the victim of a policy she put in place herself.”

Palaszczuk dismissed the southerners’ criticism, saying she’s standing up for her state.

“They can call me whatever names they want, right, but honestly, I will always stand up for people in this state,” she told reporters.

“I sat around with tourism operators, they are hurting OK.

“So I will always stand up for what is right and what I believe to be right, and we’ll just let NSW be NSW.”

A year ago today, Queensland became the first state or territory to declare a public health emergency, after the first COVID-19 cases trickled in from Wuhan, China. It has since recorded fewer infections, and outbreaks, than southern states, and far fewer deaths than initially feared.

While there are now only 12 active cases, the latest diagnosed in hotel quarantine overnight, the emergence of new strains has prompted Palaszczuk to call for a clearer line of defence.

Palaszczuk initially proposed remote sites be used to isolate travellers and the staff needed to quarantine them, however Prime Minister Scott Morrison has backed the hotel system and suggested the Premier’s proposal would only be useful for overflow cases.

Today, Palaszczuk – who has already raised the issue at National Cabinet – suggested the Morrison government play a greater role in deciding the way forward for “our last line of defence”.

“Look, you know, quarantine is a federal responsibility,” the Queensland Labor leader said, adding that the states had offered support during the pandemic but border force and defence personnel should have a key role.

“I really think there needs to be more of a national input into the way we do quarantine.”

Palaszczuk said there needed to be contingency plans but also suggested “consolidating quarantining into fewer sites that are more centralised”. There are currently 19 hotels being used for quarantine in Queensland, and one concern has been the need for staff to travel through populated areas for work.

Her comments came ahead of the likely release next week of the report arising from an investigation into the more contagious UK strain escaping quarantine at the Hotel Grand Chancellor in Brisbane. That led to a cluster of six and a three-day lockdown in greater Brisbane, and resulted in Palaszczuk raising alternatives.

Palaszczuk said she was “merely presenting options” to the Morrison government, just as she was “merely communicating” the north Queensland tourism industry’s call for more support. The Premier had publicly asked the Morrison government to “consider” extending JobKeeper for the tourism sector or hard-hit communities.

While Morrison last week refused to be drawn on the possibility of JobKeeper extensions, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg today emphasised how much money had already been spent on COVID-19 relief and called on Queensland to stump up more.

“We’ll continue to monitor the situation,” Frydenberg said.

“We do recognise that the tourism sector has been hit particularly hard, but we also point out how much substantial support we have already provided – not just to the tourism sector but the economy more broadly.”

However, NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet blamed Queensland’s tourism troubles on interstate border closures, accusing Palaszczuk of “asking us to pay for her decision to lock us out”.

It was the latest in a long-running feud between Queensland and NSW over the border. This week, Palaszczuk used a morning television appearance to announce the February 1 easing of travel restrictions – before NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian had been informed.

“Queensland, closed one day, asking someone else to pick up the tab the next,” Perrottet said.

Berejiklian echoed the sentiment, saying NSW had sought to keep its borders open “to prevent exactly what the Queensland premier is now complaining about” in terms of an economic downturn, job losses, social dislocation and mental health issues.

“(Palaszczuk) is now the victim of a policy she put in place herself,” Berejiklian said.

Palaszczuk rejected the criticism, saying her government had sought to promote domestic tourism but north Queensland had traditionally been more reliant on international tourism. She said local operators were “concerned that they are going to fall off a cliff” when JobKeeper ended in March. There were also “some specifics that they have raised with me” that could lead to greater state support.

NSW has had responsibility for a larger number of returned travellers due to Sydney’s role as a gateway airport.

-Additional reporting AAP

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