Mr PERRETT (Gympie—LNP) (3.18 pm): I rise to speak on the Public Health and Other
Legislation (Extension of Expiring Provisions) Amendment Bill. I, too, join with my parliamentary
colleagues to offer my condolences to those families who have lost loved ones and to our frontline
workers who have worked particularly hard across many of our emergency response areas. Well done
to them.
This bill extends the expiry date of the emergency COVID-19 provisions to the end of October,
making it more than 2½ years of living under emergency powers. It is arrogant to repeatedly extend
unprecedented powers with little openness and transparency on restrictions and health directives.
Temporary powers will be extended, including physical distancing, restricting movement and
gatherings, requirements to quarantine or self-isolate including compliance, sharing and protecting
personal information for contact tracing, increasing from seven to 90 days for which a regulation may
extend a public health emergency regulation, and charging for mandatory quarantine.
The current emergency provisions expire at the end of April. When they were extended last
August the vaccination rollout was in its early stages. The government promised Queenslanders it would
review the situation when 90 per cent of the population was vaccinated. Ninety per cent of our adult
population is now double vaccinated and yet the government refuses to keep its promise. It does
nothing. It abuses the trust of Queenslanders because it wants to keep these extraordinary powers.
Queenslanders have little trust in the reasons behind the rules. They showed it when they
stopped checking in. They stopped wearing masks because they know they are being manipulated.
People have given up; they have had enough. Trust in the government is diminished because its word
does not mean much. Before the pandemic our health system was already stretched and struggling. At
the time, the government argued it needed provisions to help it buy time to build capacity in the health
system. It has wasted the last two years. Queensland Health is in crisis because the government has
avoided fixing it.
The Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service’s Master Clinical Services Plan for 2022-2027
admits that Gympie Hospital is not up to the task. It is spread across poorly connected, multi-age
buildings and is constricted by its location at the top of a steep hill. Gympie needs a new hospital at a
different site. The minister’s speech justified the extension of powers on the basis that circulation of the
virus in the community had the potential to significantly impact hospital systems. On that basis the
Queensland Council for Civil Liberties’ submission said that, given the current state of our medicine, it
would be forever and that that leads to the conclusion that the government will keep these emergency
powers for as long as it likes.
There is a real concern that the upcoming flu season will be tough and the Gympie Hospital will
not cope. Numerous staff have told me that I have been misled by the minister about the real state of
the delivery of services and the staff available at the hospital. Upheaval due to the pandemic has
drastically disrupted many Queenslanders’ lives. It has been devastating. Many are still trying to
recover. Two years ago everyone believed the mantra that we are all in this together. Queenslanders
did what was asked of them. They displayed an extraordinary trust by giving up their basic rights and
During the last two years we have seen too many examples of one set of rules for celebrities,
elites and the protected and another set for everyone else. Cookie-cutter and blanket mandates have
significantly impacted regional and rural communities which have carried an uneven share of the
burden. The government has little to no concern about the unnecessary damage it has done and is still
doing to many communities. They were extraordinary provisions two years ago and they are still
extraordinary. They give unprecedented power to the government with little to no oversight. Emergency
powers should be used in only the most stringent circumstances and should be reviewed within the
tightest time frames. They should not be used to bypass our parliamentary democracy and the oversight
of the parliament. The LNP amendments will seek to deliver transparency, limit the extension of powers
to 31 May and establish a parliamentary oversight committee.
The government avoids openness, transparency, scrutiny and accountability. More than two
years of these emergency powers is plenty of time to review and scrutinise them, yet the government
still rushed the process. The committee had only 31 days to examine the bill and was given only
60 minutes to question health officials. The public had barely two weeks to make submissions. Health
officials are not required to formally answer questions and the parliament cannot scrutinise restrictions.
The QCCL called the powers ‘the most draconian powers that have existed in Queensland
including in wartime’. Without amendment, the passing of this bill would mean yet another six months
before provisions could be scrutinised. Queenslanders are so concerned that the overwhelming majority
of more than 4,000 submissions were against the bill. The committee chair wrote—
Your perspectives and feedback are essential to the decision-making processes of Government.
Their submissions were ignored. I have received 603 from Gympie residents alone. The government
indulges in hollow words of self-congratulations. It is a nonsense for the government to imply it can
protect people against everything. The QCCL said—
Freedom has enormous value in our society and that includes the freedom to take on some risk.
Some communities have borne, and still carry, an immense and disproportionate sacrifice. An
honest reflection on the impact of these decisions would consider the lives lost due to adverse mental
health issues caused by government overreach as well as the anguish caused by businesses folding,
jobs lost, families divided and community organisations made to bear unreasonable restrictions
imposed on their volunteers and supporters.
Good governance does not carelessly impose a greater burden on some communities than
others. Good governance does not impose unilateral and unreasonable restrictions. The government
unilaterally closed licensed armourers and gun dealers under the cover of COVID-19. It could not have
done it faster. Cabinet ministers apparently had no idea of the impact it would have on pest controllers
and primary industries. It was ludicrous and impractical. In a three-day turnaround it reluctantly reversed
the decision. The government has never provided the Chief Health Officer’s medical advice on why they
were a risk. Good governments trust people with the information it uses to base its decisions on; they
treat the public with respect.
Agricultural shows have been postponed, cancelled or significantly downgraded and restricted.
This is a direct result of the onerous and contradictory restrictions applied solely to shows. The
government is silent. I have written to the Premier but have heard nothing. The agriculture minister, who
is also supposed to be interested in regional communities, is not standing up for shows. The minister is
happy to turn up but remains mute and does nothing as double standards are applied to the major
community event in regional and rural areas. No-one knows why because the health advice is not
Rules are applied solely to the holding of the Gympie Show and a show fundraiser but not to
other events and activities at the same venue. In February mandates prevented the show society
holding its major fundraiser to help pay up-front costs, yet a similar event was allowed with none of the
restrictions at the Mary Valley State College in the same month. The Queensland Human Rights
Commission’s submission said to maintain public confidence—
… it needs to be as open and transparent as possible and … that statements of reasons are provided, the evidence behind those
decisions is provided …
Unvaccinated volunteers are not allowed on Gympie showgrounds—they are not allowed to
help—yet they can go to the local hardware stores or the supermarket. No-one knows why. As the
QCCL said, the advice should be published.
Under current emergency mandates, the show is expected to comply with onerous record
keeping and they must police attendees. It is not logistically possible and the show cannot afford to fund
additional manpower. The rules are inconsistent. When the showgrounds were used as an evacuation
centre during our second worst flood, the compulsory vaccination regulations went out the door.
Government members talk about a small price to pay. This is not a small price for our community or the
many community organisations which raise thousands from manning gates, parking, traffic control,
cleaning facilities, and running bars and food stalls.
Our show would help bring our community together following the recent floods. The community
deserves to know the medical advice which prevents it holding its show. In the interests of transparency
and fairness, I support the LNP amendments. If these fail I will vote against the bill.