The group has quickly accumulated nearly 40,000 members, as the sunshine State gears up to implement two sets of health rules, similar to those currently in force in New South Wales.
After months of living across closed borders, the Queensland hospitality and tourism industries, which have been the hardest hit financially and had been looking forward to borders being opened by Christmas, have been hit with another blow: the banning of unvaccinated people from their premises.
Two sets of rules
The vaccination target for borders opening is 80% (which is expected to be reached in mid-December) but when Queensland reaches that target new vaccination mandates will be in place, banning unvaccinated people from a large number of activities, like going to restaurants, cafes, pubs, theatres and festivals.
Queenslanders have, en masse, pushed back against the mandates, with at least one local council, Livingstone Shire Council contacting the Premier saying it does not support the mandate and would prefer to be a ‘pro-choice’ council and community.
A community forum recently held in Yeppoon was attended by about 400 concerned business owners.
One of the problems, businesses say, is that the mandates are not entirely clear. Much of the concern lies in the expectation that businesses are left to enforce the mandate. Failing to ensure customers are vaccinated will result in hefty fines. The maximum penalty for contravening a public health directive is $5,514, which is a significant penalty for small businesses, many of whom are struggling.
It’s the same debate and dilemma that New South Wales businesses faced some months ago. Many businesses chose to remain closed, rather than be forced to discriminate. Unvaccinated people across New South Wales are still locked out of restaurants, pubs, cafes, hairdressers … etc … for another two weeks.
Queensland Police have openly stated that they will be doing spot checks on businesses and if they see evidence of an unvaccinated person they will ‘take appropriate action.’ Queensland Police, to their credit, have been less heavy-handed during the pandemic than their counterparts in both New South Wales and Victoria.
Businesses are considering a court challenge
The Queensland Council of Civil Liberties says a number of people have approached the organisation about the potential for challenging the mandate in court.
For many people, it’s hard to make sense of the fact that the restrictions will kick in at the same time as the state reaches an 80% double-dose vaccination rate.
Freedoms are slow to return, despite high vaccination rates
High vaccination levels have been touted by State Governments for months as a necessary requirement for the ‘return of freedoms’, the targets keep shifting, leaving people with a great deal of uncertainty about what they can and can’t do.
Ms Palaszczuk has also banned Queenslanders from taking short trips into New South Wales and Victoria until the state reaches 90% vaccination rates.
For those wanting to enter Queensland, you need to have proof of a double vaccination, or have had a negative PCR test within 72 hours of crossing.
PCR tests will also be required for anyone crossing the border from a ‘hot spot’. The rules are changing rapidly, so anyone on the brink of making Christmas Holiday plans, needs to keep an eye on the Queensland Government website.