Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk thought she was kicking a goal when she brought the AFL grand final to the Gabba but it looks like she might have just kicked a behind. Her own.
The coronavirus pandemic has been very good to Premier Palaszczuk in the lead-up to the October state election.
She has stubbornly played hard-ball with the rest of the country, closing the borders to outsiders and basking in the good fortune of month after month of COVID-free results.
While she has steadfastly denied any political motive for her hard-line approach, repeating ad nauseum ‘I make no apologies for putting the interests of Queenslanders first’, there is no question that its initial success has won plenty of support which she is hoping will translate into votes.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk pictured during a press conference announcing that the 2020 AFL Grand Final will be played at the Gabba on September 2
Ask any of the contented Queenslanders strolling along sun-drenched Noosa beach or enjoying a beer and steak on the veranda of the surf club on Saturday if they would rather be living in locked-down Victoria or NSW, and they would laugh in your face.
Ask them if they had any issues with Palaszczuk’s hard-line approach and they would, more likely than not give a two-word reply: ‘Daniel Andrews’.
But that was before Wednesday’s announcement by AFL boss Gillon McLachlan that the AFL grand final, the jewel in Victoria’s sporting crown, was coming to the Gabba on October 24.
More to the point, it was before TV news bulletins showed McLachlan and his family – along with 400 other AFL players, officials and family members – moving into the plush Mercure resort on the Gold Coast for two weeks of luxurious ‘isolation’.
It was hardly the photo-op that Palaszczuk and her ever-present sidekick, tourism minister Kate Jones, were hoping for on their big day.
For weeks the tide has been slowly turning on Palaszczuk’s carefully orchestrated campaign to paint herself as Queensland’s version of Xena the Warrior Princess, standing on the northern banks of the Tweed River and keeping the foreign infidels at bay.
Entertainer Dannii Minogue (pictured) was permitted to self-isolate at her family’s Gold Coast property after flying in from overseas for a TV show
Gillion McLachlan and his family – along with 400 other AFL players, officials and family members have moved into the Mercure resort on the Gold Coast for two weeks of isolation prior to the Grand Final
The tough pandemic restrictions were accepted as a necessary imposition at first, but more recently, as the State remains largely COVID-free and more and more cases of bureaucratic bungling and apparent preferential treatment have come to light, a change in public attitudes has been apparent.
The disruption to lives, from Queenslanders unable to see newborn grandchildren or attend weddings or funerals interstate, to a ban on dancing and even standing up in restaurants is taking its toll.
Neil Breen, host of Brisbane radio station 4BC’s breakfast program, has heard it all first-hand.
‘Queenslanders can accept the rules,’ he says. ‘They figure, “OK, the border’s shut, we get it”. What they can’t accept is the double standards.
‘The Premier says the coronavirus problem in Queensland is a small one and it’s under control. To which Queenslanders are saying, “alright, if 30,000 people can go to the AFL grand final at the Gabba, why can’t I have more than 10 people at my home?”‘
For weeks Breen has been championing the cause of small business people caught on either side of the border who have seen their livelihoods go down the drain, children from northern NSW attending boarding school in Brisbane who can’t return home for the holidays and, most emotive of all, people requiring urgent medical attention who have been caught in the crossfire.
One woman from the Sunshine Coast who underwent brain surgery in Sydney was forced to recuperate for two weeks in a tiny Brisbane hotel room before returning to her home.
A northern NSW woman pregnant with twins did not have time to register for an exemption for entry into Queensland when she suffered difficulties and had to wait 16 hours for a flight to Sydney. One of the babies died.
Kimberley Brown (pictured, with her partner), from Ballina, in northern New South Wales, lost one of their twins after twins after waiting 16 hours for a flight to Sydney for emergency treatment because they could not gain entry into the nearest hospital in Queensland
Another woman from northern NSW who underwent surgery in Brisbane for breast cancer was initially refused an exemption to return to Queensland for post-operative treatment.
When she was finally granted permission it was on the proviso that her husband, who drove her, could not get out of the car, even to go to the bathroom.
Despite growing public anger Premier Palaszczuk has remained defiant.
Questioned over why people from northern NSW were being denied access to federally-funded medical care in Queensland she answered, ‘Queensland hospitals are for Queenslanders’.
And while all Queenslanders returning home from interstate or overseas must spend two weeks isolated in a hotel at their own expense, the Queensland government has approved special exemptions in several high-profile cases.
Entertainer Dannii Minogue was permitted to self-isolate at her family’s Gold Coast property after flying in from overseas for a TV show, and Brisbane Broncos coach Anthony Seibold was also able to spend his two week isolation period at his home after attending to a family matter in Sydney.
Two workers from Victoria were granted a quarantine exemption to erect the ring for the Queensland government-sponsored Jeff Horn-Tim Tszyu boxing event in Townsville.
Jayne Brown, 60, was rushed to a Sydney hospital for an emergency operation to remove two large brain tumours. She is pictured with her neurosurgeon Dr Charlie Teo
When Ms brown returned to Queensland, her request to self-isolate at home for 14 days was denied and she was forced into hotel quarantine
It all added to the feelings of disillusionment and the vision of McLachlan and the other AFL hoi-polloi, beaming smiles as they as swanned into the Mercure resort was the final straw for many.
‘The calls and emails we received the morning after that footage was aired was incredible,’ Breen said.
‘The main theme was that Queenslanders are sick of the unfairness of it all. The premier has taken a hard-line approach but the hard-line is rubbery.’
And Breen believes Palaszczuk could feel the backlash at the ballot box.
‘The election is being held over two weekends because of the coronavirus,’ he said.
‘It starts on October 24, the day of the grand final, and ends on October 31.
‘She thinks she has pulled off a masterstroke by getting the grand final but it could backfire. Queenslanders have long memories.’