‘NOT GOOD ENOUGH’: mayor calls on premier to help west
A WESTERN Queensland mayor is urging the state premier to give the outback a fairer go, saying easing restrictions isn’t enough to save pubs and other country businesses.
From Saturday, pubs, clubs and cafes in outback Queensland, including the Balonne Shire, will be able to seat 20 diners at a time, with social distancing measures in place.
Outback Queenslanders can also travel up to 500km within the region.
Balonne Shire mayor Sam O’Toole and other western Queensland mayors have fought hard to lobby for the state government to take it easy on coronavirus-free regions.
Southwest Queensland has yet to record a single case of COVID-19 since the pandemic hit Australia and Cr O’Toole said the current restrictions could spell the end for many outback institutions.
“When I first saw the announcement that outback Queensland would get to enjoy greater freedom than other parts of the state, I was so excited,” she said.
“But, now that I’m getting across the details, I don’t feel it will really change things for us. The rules are just so onerous that many of our pubs won’t open, it is frustrating.
“We are working to lobby for restrictions that are reflective of the risk of the virus that there is out here. We are at minimal risk, we need more freedoms.”
In the shire, 65 businesses are impacted by this weekend's easing of restrictions, but Ms O’Toole said many still wouldn’t open their doors.
“The premier needs to further consider a workable set of rules for western Queensland, because I don’t think she’s got this quite right,” she said.
“The longer this drags out, we're risking the viability and long term success of our businesses.
“In some of our smaller towns, the pub is the only major business left. It’s the central hub and it’s where socialisation happens.
“If they fail because of restrictions, that would have a devastating impact on our communities.”
Ms O’Toole said she had been relieved to hear Anastasia Palaszczuk had listened to their demands, but that more needed to be done to save businesses.
“The devil is in the detail, I’m working with our compliance officers and our businesses to get workplace health and safety plans in place and I just don’t think it’s feasible.
“All these places have to keep data on customers or clients for traceability, w which to us seems to defeat the purpose of the COVID-safe app.
“Why do we have to collect all that data?”
Ms O’Toole said the social distancing measures that needed to be put in place weren’t feasible for many businesses.
“A few pubs have said they won’t open, some will continue to do takeaway and some just won’t open,” she said.
“Cafes are struggling to figure out how many people they can sit with the 1.5m rule.
“It really has not eased the issue. The longer they stay closed, the more concerned I am about their long term viability.”