Queensland Border Bureaucracy Endangers Injured Woman

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Annastacia Palaszczuk

A young New South Wales woman was forced to walk home across the border after being released from hospital disoriented and in pain, when she was abandoned by both Queensland health and taxi drivers.

Phoebe Kirk was involved in a head-on car collision on 14 October 2021 at Crabbs Creek, south of the Queensland border.

She was pulled out of the wreck by two strangers before being rushed to Gold Coast University Hospital in an ambulance.

Ambulance officers chose the Gold Coast hospital over the Tweed Heads hospital facility because they feared she may have internal bleeding and spinal injuries.

During her stay in hospital, family and friends were not allowed to visit Ms Kirk.

Under the hospital health policy, a patient’s contact with staff and visitors is strictly limited if they have been in “Covid-19 hot spots”.

Currently, all of New South Wales is considered a ‘hot spot’ by the Queensland Government and the ‘border bubble’ which meant that people in communities close to the border could travel relatively freely across the border currently doesn’t exist.

Lack of empathy and understanding

When Ms Kirk was discharged from hospital, the hospital had not arranged patient transport, so a taxi took her to the border, but because of strict border controls, the driver refused to take her across.

Ms Kirk was then forced to walk 100 metres, in pain, with her belongings.

It’s just another sad example of the Queensland Premier’s lack of empathy and harsh border policies that have caused many people to suffer, not able to seek medical treatment, not able to visit sick and dying relatives.

There are thousands of Queensland residents who remain stranded outside of Queensland because they currently cannot cross the border by car. Some have been forced to relinquish jobs and rental properties because they can’t get home. While it’s possible to fly into Queensland, for months hotel quarantine has been jammed up and overloaded — stretched beyond capacity.

In September, the Queensland Government was referred to the Human Rights Commissioner for potential breaches of the Human Rights Act in denying Queenslanders the right to come home.

Unvaccinated must pay between $150-$300 to cross the border

The Queensland Premier has continually shrugged off criticism for her insensitivity to people in need and her ‘double-standards’ allowing sports stars and celebrities to cross the border with ease, maintaining that she’s ‘keeping Queenslanders safe.’

Unfortunately, the tight border restrictions look set to continue through the Christmas holidays too, despite the fact that both New South Wales and Victoria have begun lifting restrictions as a result of high vaccination rates.

Recently, the Queensland Government announced that to cross the border, people must be double-vaccinated. Those who are not vaccinated must undergo a Covid-19 test within 72 hours prior to crossing. Tests must be done by private laboratories which can cost anywhere between $150 and $300.

This is simply unrealistic for those who live on, or close to, the border and cross regularly. It’s a preposterous ask for workers, and for families who hope to holiday or see families over Christmas, but who remain unvaccinated.

Queensland has also just announced vaccination mandates, and new rules for the ‘unvaccinated’ similar to those that are currently in place in New South Wales (which will be lifted on December 15 2021).

QLD brings in new rules for the vaccinated and unvaccinated

Once the state reaches the 80 percent double vaccination target, unvaccinated people will be banned from pubs, cafes, restaurants, cinemas, theatres and stadiums. Queensland businesses who defy COVID-19 vaccination rules face fines of up to $13,800, while their owners could be sent to prison.

But hundreds of small business owners are pushing back, vowing not to discriminate. Some are even going so far as to only allow unvaccinated people into their premises.

The social division is palpable, as it has been in other states over vaccination mandates.

Federal intervention is long overdue

Finally this week Prime Minister Scott Morrison has spoken out about vaccination mandates, asking States and Territories to end mandates once their populations reach the 80 percent vaccination threshold.

While the general public has been trying to get the Prime minister’s attention for some months, to intervene in harsh state policies, especially because the Federal Government stance on vaccinations has always been that they will be voluntary, the Prime Minister is now also under significant pressure from the ‘pro-choice’ politicians in his own party.

Scott Morrison has publicly stated that the only vaccine mandates he supports are for health staff, and that unvaccinated people “should be able to get a cup of coffee… “

‘Now it’s time for governments to step back and for Australians to take their life back,” the PM told media. ‘We aren’t in favour of mandatory vaccines imposed by the Government. Businesses can make their own choices on the law but we aren’t about telling them or Australians what to do.

‘Vaccines are only mandatory in cases where you have health workers working with vulnerable people.”

Senator Pauling Hanson, has just introduced a bill to override the states and ban vaccine mandates. Earlier this year MP Craig Kelly also introduced a bill to ban vaccination passports, which is still going through Parliament.

It’s a positive sign and one which is long overdue. Many Australians have been forced to choose between their jobs and the jab. Many have been discriminated against and some have also suffered health problems-related to vaccines that have been continually pushed by State Government pandemic management policies.

While a few comments in the media doesn’t amount to effective federal intervention, it’s a start. The Prime Minister needs to take a firm stance, to reaffirm his leadership and reunite Australia which has been completely decimated, both economically and socially, by state health policies which in a lot of cases have done more harm than good.

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Sonia Hickey

Sonia Hickey is a freelance writer, magazine journalist, and owner of 'Woman with Words'. She has a strong interest in social justice and is a member of the Sydney Criminal Lawyers® content team. Sonia is the winner of the Mondaq Thought Leadership Awards, Spring 2022.

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