Topics: Queensland’s COVID restrictions
Luke Bradman: Not every day we get to speak to a senator, but we have Senator Simon Birmingham, who’s the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, joining us on the phone at the moment. G’day Simon. Welcome to the show mate. How are you?
Simon Birmingham: Hey Luke, it’s great to be with you. I’m on the road between Coffin Bay and Tumby Bay on South Australia’s West Coast, so sorry if the line’s a little noisy.
Luke Bradman: Hey, good on you mate. And so how’s things down there? I know you hail from that neck of the woods. How are things in South Australia? Life’s pretty much back to normal in a lot of ways here in Queensland, but obviously we can’t- we’ve got border restrictions still in place, which we’re going to talk about that. But how is it down there?
Simon Birmingham: South Australia’s led the way in almost every way in terms of successfully suppressing COVID, being able to open up the local economy and also leading the way of opening up borders. So, SA has opened up to every state in Australia now except Victoria.
Luke Bradman: So what are we doing wrong? In your opinion, what is the Queensland Government doing wrong that you’d like to see rectified?
Simon Birmingham: Look, mate, I’d rather focus on the positives today, which is the fact that Queensland has flagged that on the 1st of November, all going well, they should be able to open up to New South Wales, and that will be a great step forward if it happens. So, yes, I would rather that it happened a little bit earlier.
Luke Bradman: Do you think that we’ve been overly cautious here in Queensland?
Simon Birmingham: Look, everybody is being very cautious and they should be cautious. Nobody wants to go down the pathway of Victoria. So, I understand caution. The concern becomes when caution stretches into the slightly ridiculous or what is really indefensible when it comes to just having a look at the epidemiological or the medical research.
Luke Bradman: We’re all suffering. We’re a town here, a city here, Simon, divided by a border. So we’re really been experiencing a lot of our listeners. But I got to say, I like your swagger. You sound like a- you don’t sound like a regular politician to me. And I enjoy the fact that you’re trying to be positive. But I want to just do something for you right now. If I made you premier of Queensland- I know you’re at federal level, but if you were premier of Queensland, what would you do tomorrow?
Simon Birmingham: Well, I would be sitting down with my health officers and saying: so, how many days has it been since New South Wales has had a case of community transmission in the local area? And if that came back is being at least more than a couple of weeks, noting that, for COVID, a two-week period is globally accepted as being the transmission window. So if you don’t have cases happening within a two-week period, then you have- as long as you’ve got all the good testing and tracing up to date, you’ve got a pretty good circumstance. And if you have that window, you should open up.
And I guess that is why, on behalf of the tourism industry, yes, of course, I’m frustrated as so many people whose jobs depend on travel and tourism, especially in a state like Queensland. I get the frustration. But we’ve just had to work hard to make sure that we bring people with us. That include state governments and it seems as if hopefully Queensland is finally, later than we would have liked, taken a step forward today.
Luke Bradman: But, Simon, is there any chance that there’s political gain to be had by keeping our borders closed? And if so, could we be seeing some Gold Coast businesses here go under because it might help Annastacia Palaszczuk keep her job?
Simon Birmingham: Mate, I think that’s the question that all of your listeners who live in the local area should ask themselves. Certainly a trickier one for me, a long way away to answer. But all of the research says that, of course, understandably, people want to be kept safe, and it’s the first order of government. You’ve got to keep people safe. But you also have to recognise that you have to keep them safe, not just by keeping their health safe, you’ve got to keep them safe by getting their jobs and their livelihoods and their community safe as well. And I think that is where some states, and probably Queensland, has erred a little too much on the side of the health equation and ignored the fact that you have to actually make sure that people jobs and their businesses hold together because otherwise you’ve got a mental health crisis and a whole range of other problems on your plate as well.
Luke Bradman: I like your style. I like your style. Hey, I appreciate your time this afternoon. And I’ll tell you, I’ve only been to South Australia once. I went down to Port Lincoln and dived with the great whites. Don’t know if you’ve done that, but if you haven’t, do yourself a favour, jump over there. It’s a great place. Appreciate your time.
Simon Birmingham: Thanks Luke. My pleasure. Anytime, mate.
Luke Bradman: There we go. Simon Birmingham. I like that dude. Did you guys enjoy the chat with Simon Birmingham? I think he sounded like a good bloke. He really did.