Queenslanders don’t like being told what to do, especially by their southern neighbours.
So it’s no surprise we saw a terse and frustrated Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk hit back at pressure from New South Wales leader Gladys Berejiklian to reopen the border — citing NSW’s more than 300 active coronavirus cases, compared to Queensland’s 12.
Ms Palaszczuk has repeatedly said she based her decisions on medical advice to stop NSW and Victorian travellers bringing the illness to the Sunshine State.
It seems border closures are far less useful when you’re a net exporter of the virus, compared to a net importer.
The Premier’s choices have been wedged in a tighter political position than usual, with Queensland’s October state election creeping closer.
Opponents have argued the economic fallout of the pandemic would be extenuated by the border shut-down and commentators suggest the Premier has backed herself into a corner that will result in polling pain.
Ms Palaszczuk has taken the position there could be unspeakable damage to the economy, perhaps irreversible, if a second wave were to enter from southern states through opened borders.
And Labor knows, at the moment, it has the political capital on its side, especially in must-win regional areas.
‘We should keep them closed’
There’s a shared opinion among some regional communities on the reluctance to wind back a restriction that kept areas completely COVID-19-free.
Carpentaria Mayor Jack Bawden seconded the Premier’s hard-line border stance.
Diamantina Mayor Rob Dare fell in line with the general consensus backing Ms Palaszczuk’s southern shutdown.
“I agree with her — it seems to be all the cases are in New South Wales and Victoria, so I agree with her stance at the moment,” Cr Dare said.
Even Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate, who is an advocate for large parts of the tourism industry that have been savaged by coronavirus, has publicly endorsed the stand.
And it’s not like Queensland’s isolation attempt is different from many other states, including locked-up South Australia, Western Australia, Northern Territory and Tasmanian, which all have closed borders.
Health authorities spooked
Two recent Queensland cases have spooked authorities, who know how easily the hard work could be undone.
The Rockhampton nurse whose actions had the potential to — and still could — cause a mass outbreak amongst our most vulnerable, and another case from this week of a woman who was diagnosed with the virus two months after returning from India.
Both cases reinforce how tenuous Queensland’s hold is on the situation.
And it was just two months ago when Queensland was on the precipice of a catastrophic explosion and COVID-19 case numbers were doubling every three days.
In the words of Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young, it was terrifying.
Now that cases have dramatically slowed here, at least one Opposition MP used State Parliament to proclaim “the worst has passed” in their pursuit of relaxing the lockdown measures.
But health leaders have been at pains to explain the curve hasn’t flattened in Queensland because the virus is gone — it’s simply that it’s not being spread because of the stringent restrictions.
Some LNP insiders admit their regions are expressing the desire to keep our southern neighbours locked out — at least for now.
So why has the top tier of the LNP used its public time this week to criticise the Government’s decision?
Party politics returning
The usual political playbook reads that when the Government says something is black, the Opposition claims it’s white.
But over the pandemic months, we’ve mostly seen a departure from the usual script, to present one united team — locally and nationally.
Now, as the days dwindle down towards the election, that cooperative veneer is slipping.
LNP Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington, while criticising the Government’s decision, also said she would listen to the health advice.
It’s a pretty glaring contradiction from the LNP that indicates there’s little room for unity politics in an election campaign.
There is, of course, a risk the sentiment could turn against the Premier as the days of few coronavirus cases continue.
But it’s plainly irrational the Premier would persist with border closures if they weren’t absolutely essential.
And Ms Palaszczuk would be banking on the wider support of Queenslanders to back her over her southern counterpart.