NRL Rd 1 - Cowboys v Broncos
NRL Rd 1 - Cowboys v Broncos

Palaszczuk's reckless move put us all at risk

I JUST can't get past the sheer bloody-mindedness of the Palaszczuk Government with its decision to proceed with last Friday night's inaugural NRL match at the new Townsville stadium.

The move to allow 25,000 people- including thousands of visitors from interstate - to gather together to watch a football match was wilfully reckless in light the draconian measures to restrict the spread of the coronavirus that have followed.

This folly has undermined every warning to the community about the pandemic that Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk made both before and since the match.

And that is a terribly dangerous thing to do at a time when the Government needs the public to heed its messages and trust in its decision-making now more than ever.

The expert health advice was that the match could proceed, the Premier insisted.

There wasn't an issue because there were no recorded coronavirus cases in North Queensland, she said.

Yet on the day of the match Australia's chief health officer Brendan Murphy advised that gatherings of more than 500 people should be prohibited and a political decision was made to enforce it only from Monday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison wasn't any better. He was continuing to insist he was going to watch his beloved Cronulla Sharks on the weekend until it was revealed Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton had contracted the virus.

It also turned out that the claim that there was no COVID-19 up north was wrong.

Susan McDonald, the Townsville-based LNP Senator, revealed days later she had contracted the virus.
And then there was the case of the Townsville dance school instructor who inexplicably got tested after returning from overseas and took off to New Zealand before the result was confirmed.

A view of the crowd during the round 1 NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Brisbane Broncos at Queensland Country Bank Stadium. Picture: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)
A view of the crowd during the round 1 NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Brisbane Broncos at Queensland Country Bank Stadium. Picture: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

This kind of selfish and irresponsible behaviour is precisely the kind of actions that authorities have been trying to stop.

Yet at the same time the Palaszczuk Government was insisting it was okay to go to the football? Seriously?

Days later there was the spectacle in State Parliament of MPs practising "social distancing" with ministers and Opposition frontbenchers spaced apart and Government backbenchers coming into the Chamber one at a time to ask their Dorothy Dixer questions. Then Parliament was called off for up to six months with the Government insisting it was necessary in the face of the pandemic.

Yet days before a significant number of Cabinet members and local backbenchers were whooping up in close quarters with other people in the corporate boxes of Townsville's shiny new stadium.

How do Palaszczuk and her Government expect people to heed their calls about not hoarding groceries when they are sending such mixed messages through their own actions?

The same goes for the difficult decision parents face heeding advice to continue sending children to daycare and school.
Several times Palaszczuk has talked about concerns she has for her grandmother who lives in a nursing home.

Well, I also have a grandmother and she lives in a nursing home in Townsville where the Government just exponentially increased the chances of the virus spreading because it wanted to hold a football match.

North Queensland Cowboys playing the Brisbane Broncos at the opening of the new Townsville stadium. Picture: Matt Taylor
North Queensland Cowboys playing the Brisbane Broncos at the opening of the new Townsville stadium. Picture: Matt Taylor

It might sound like overkill but the other reason why this decision was so rash was the need to ensure continuity of leadership.

Palaszczuk and her Cabinet have a responsibility to lead during this extraordinary event.

They should be taking precautions to avoid getting crook.

So what was the advice about whether they should go to the footy?

Until last Friday, the Palaszczuk Government was well ahead of the curve compared to its interstate contemporaries.

It had declared a state of emergency well before the other states and enacted legislation to ensure mandatory isolation for people suspected of having the virus.

But it dropped the ball badly when it allowed the crowd to turn up to the Townsville stadium. Were the Government's political imperatives prioritised ahead of the pandemic? It seems so. Townsville is crucial territory Labor must hold onto at the October 31 state election and the city is already up in arms over law and order, or the lack of it.

Ordering the crowd not to attend their new stadium would not have helped.

Every time there's now a coronavirus case confirmed in north Queensland the question is going to be asked, did they go to the footy?

If that happens, people will know who to blame.

Originally published as Palaszczuk's reckless move put us all at risk