How much border closure till Xmas will cost
Premiers will have to justify closing borders under new national guidelines, amid revelations Queensland's peak tourism industry faces a $15 billion battering if the border stays shut until Christmas.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison agreed to ask the nation's top doctors to establish a uniform medical definition for COVID-19 hot spot declarations, in a move to create transparency.
Mr Morrison also welcomed the Queensland Government's decision to ease tough border restrictions so NSW residents can access medical care in the state, as well as the expansion of border zones around Goondiwindi.
The developments came as almost 9000 people signed a petition calling for further easing of harsh border controls.
Tweed Shire Council also called for the border bubble to be expanded further after being inundated with complaints about how the hard line closure was negatively impacting lives and livelihoods.
Outside the small tweaks, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has repeatedly refused to ease restrictions, declaring this week that she "won't bend for anyone".
Her comments came after Qantas boss Alan Joyce attacked the closure and federal Health Minister Greg Hunt called on the Premier to show "common decency" and grant more exemptions for medical staff and patients.
Ms Palaszczuk also came under fire after a Ballina woman who was 24 weeks pregnant with twins was forced to fly to Sydney to have an emergency caesarean.
A young mother from Casino in northern NSW was also refused entry to Queensland where her newborn had emergency medical treatment.
Speaking after National Cabinet yesterday, Mr Morrison said state and territory leaders had made progress on streamlining patchwork border rules with a medical expert panel to define hot spots.
"When you have restrictions that are being placed on people's movement on what is and what is not a hot spot, there needs to be a clear medical and scientific definition of what it is," he said.
Queensland closed the border to NSW and the ACT on August 8. Gold Coast and Tweed residents can cross the border for any purpose but can only travel within the two local government areas as part of a border bubble.
Tweed Mayor Katie Milne yesterday called for the bubble to be expanded south to Ballina and north to Brisbane, as well as a travel ban on residents from NSW COVID-18 hot spots, in light of advice that the Queensland border may now be closed until Christmas.
A change.org petition calling for changes to border restrictions "before it's too late" had been signed by more than 8700 people yesterday.
Many commenters said they could not get exemptions to cross the border for work, medical or compassionate reasons.
"I can't go to my job in Brisbane because I live in Terranora" Susan Sipple wrote.
"I have government letters saying I'm an essential worker and that's still not enough."
Sarah Hunt said she lived in northern NSW but her daughter's father lived just over the border in Queensland.
"Due to these latest closures, my daughter can now not see her father for an indeterminate amount of time, and I cannot see my partner," she said.
Lennox Head man Ben Lennox, who works at John Flynn Hospital at Tugun, said he was being forced to couch surf on the Gold Coast "because if I return home to Lennox, I won't be able to come back to work".
Border MPs Laura Gerber and Geoff Provest have slammed the closure, saying it is causing major grief for their constituents.
Mr Provest said health workers living on both sides of the border were still struggling to get exemptions to be able to travel to their jobs, as were NSW residents needing hospital treatment.
He said $170 million worth of construction projects between Tweed Heads and Byron Bay had virtually ground to a halt because they were being built largely by Queensland tradies.
Ms Gerber has called for Queensland workers with jobs beyond the border bubble to be given exemptions while northern NSW remains COVID-free.
"The border needs to be managed to protect lives and livelihoods and, as we have said all along, the rules shouldn't be set and forget," the Member for Currumbin said.
The already-battered tourism industry is bracing for a $15 billion hit if NSW, the ACT and Victoria remain off-limits until Christmas.
Tourism was worth almost $27 billion to Queensland's economy last year, but almost two thirds come from interstate and international travel.
Patrick McLoughlin, who runs Bad Fishy jet boats in Cairns, said the uncertainty of the ever-changing rules and regulations was the worst part.
"How are businesses meant to prepare for the future when we still don't know what the plan is," Mr McLoughlin said.
Star watches her livelihood wilt
Sarah-Mae Amey's wedding flower business was blooming until COVID came along. Now the border closure is killing it.
The former Bachelor star runs Gold Coast-based Florals and Co, a boutique floristry and styling company specialising in weddings and events.
She said the business, which arranges flowers for about 100 weddings a year, took a severe hit when guest numbers at nuptials were cut to five early in the pandemic.
With restrictions easing, guest limits increased to 100 in Queensland and 150 in NSW and Ms Amey started to see a few green shoots. But with the border closure, business is again wilting.
"Ninety per cent of our work is over the border from the Tweed Coast to Byron Bay," she said.
"We can't go down to Byron Bay to complete … ceremonies we had booked. It's going to get even worse if they slam the border shut as has been talked about."
Ms Amey said she had about 15 weddings booked over the next few months and was "very stressed out".
Originally published as How much border closure till Xmas will cost