Indian-Australians who have been separated from their families throughout the Covid-19 pandemic have been left upset and offended after Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk defended her hard border stance by singling out India.
The Premier on Thursday said she would refuse to open her state’s borders even when 80 per cent of over 16s are vaccinated and slammed the Federal Government’s plans to restart international travel before Christmas.
‘Where are you going to go? Are you going to go to India?’ she said sarcastically.
India suffered a huge Covid-19 outbreak in April and May which peaked at 4,000 deaths a day and led to families cremating their loved ones in the street as morgues and hospitals overflowed.
Queensland Multicultural Council President Umesh Chandra said Ms Palaszczuk’s comment was out of line and offensive to the 53,100 Indians living in Queensland.
‘The comment singling out one country is offensive and it did not go down well within our community,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
Only a few months ago Ms Palaszczuk donated $2million to support Red Cross efforts battling the Covid surge in India in May
‘You have to be careful and sensitive to our community where there are so many people who want to go to India and waiting for people from India to come here.
‘Parents and children have been separated from their families for so long and when they hear a comment like that it’s very upsetting.’
Mr Chandra said his phone was flooded with text messages as soon as Ms Palaszczuk made the comment during a Covid press conference.
Queensland Multicultural Council President Umesh Chandra (left)
‘I’ve had text messages and calls coming in saying ”did you hear that”,’ he said.
‘An apology would be in order whether that would be forthcoming is another matter.’
Shyam Das, President of the Federation of Indian Communities of Queensland, also said it was unfair to single out India which is recording about 30,000 Covid cases per day, a similar number to the UK and four times fewer than the US.
‘Everywhere has the same problem, why are you singling out India,’ he said.
‘Everyone wants to travel overseas to see their family, we want the borer to open and people to travel freely.
‘If people want to take their own risk and travel where’s the problem?
‘People want to see their loved ones, I have a family in India and I want to go there as well,’ he said.
Mr Das said the comment was at odds with the Queensland Government’s $2million donation to support Red Cross efforts battling the Covid surge in India in May.
‘Not long ago she was the one handing out money to help,’ he said.
In a ceremony on the steps of Parliament to unveil the donation in May, Mr Das had told the Premier: ‘The Indian community really appreciates all your support.’
A spokeswoman for Ms Palaszczuk dismissed the concerns of the Indian community.
‘She was making the point about countries with high cases, if [Mr Chandra] is that upset he’d be writing a letter to the government. We’ll leave it at that,’ the spokeswoman said.
Australia’s SmartTraveller website urges residents not to travel to the country. There are fears that thousands of Covid cases are not being recorded, especially in rural areas.
According to Johns Hopkins University data, India has suffered 9,683 Covid deaths in the past 28 days while the US has recorded 48,034, Brazil 15,671, the UK 3,638, and Japan 1,667.
Queensland’s premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (pictured) says she will ignore the national cabinet agreement and wants to keep borders closed even after 80 per cent vaccination rates are reached
Ms Palaszczuk said tourist spots such as the Gold Coast would go backwards if the state was to re-open under the national cabinet plan (pictured, the Queensland border at Coolangatta)
Premier Palaszczuk’s comments on Thursday
On the national roadmap:
‘If you look at the national plan, the 80 per cent actually takes us backwards. So I don’t want that for Queensland.’
On overseas travel:
‘Where are you going to go? Are you going to go to India? In Tokyo, you have to sit in Perspex screens with masks on and if you remove your mask you can’t talk while you’re chewing.’
On domestic travel:
‘Queenslanders would probably enjoy greater freedoms travelling around Queensland than if they hopped on a plane and went to Tokyo.’
On opening for Christmas:
‘In NSW, you have a massive Delta outbreak, so you have to go ask the NSW government what their plan is for Christmas?’
‘At the moment, Queenslanders have more freedoms now than Victorians will when they hit 80 per cent vaccinated.’
Ms Palaszczuk had also mentioned Japan – where she travelled in August for the Olympics – saying: ‘In Tokyo, you have to sit in Perspex screens with masks on and if you remove your mask you can’t talk while you’re chewing.’
The Premier made the comments in a fiery press conference in which she vowed to ignore the national plan she agreed with other premiers and the Prime Minister in July.
The plan states that all domestic restrictions are removed for the fully vaccinated when 80 per cent are double jabbed.
But Ms Palaszczuk claimed opening her border would mean ‘a step backwards’ for her state which is Covid-free has few restrictions in place.
‘If you look at the national plan, the 80 per cent actually takes you backwards and I do not want that for Queensland, so we’re probably going to see a difference for Western Australia and Queensland because at the moment we have freedoms,’ she said.
‘At the moment, Queenslanders have more freedoms now than Victorians will when they reach 80 per cent vaccinated,’ she said.
‘In NSW, you have a massive Delta outbreak, so you have to go and ask the NSW government what is their plan for Christmas?’
Ms Palaszczuk also claimed Queenslanders would prefer to explore their own state than the rest of Australia and the world.
‘Queenslanders would probably enjoy greater freedoms travelling around Queensland than if they hopped on a plane and went to Tokyo,’ the premier added.
‘Do you want that? Do you want that?’
‘I don’t understand this constant criticism of Queensland doing well. I will always stand up for this state, I am sick of being attacked for Queensland doing a great job, and Queenslanders doing a great job.’
What are the four phases of opening up?
A. Vaccinate, prepare and pilot (from July 14)
Arrival caps cut in half to 3,035 a week; early, stringent and short lockdowns if outbreaks occur; trials of seven-day home quarantine for vaccinated arrivals in South Australia; medicare vaccination certificates available on apps like apple wallet
B. Post vaccination phase (when 70 per cent are jabbed, expected late this year)
Lockdowns less likely but possible; vaccinated people face reduced restrictions; caps for unvaccinated arrivals increased; a larger cap for vaccinated arrivals with ‘reduced quarantine requirements’; capped entry for students and economic visa holders
C. Consolidation phase (when 80 per cent are jabbed, time not announced)
Only ‘highly targeted’ lockdowns; lifting all restrictions for outbound travel for vaccinated travellers; no caps for vaccinated arrivals; increased caps for students and visa holders; more travel bubbles being set up with countries such as Singapore; booster shots rolled out
D. Final phase (percentage or time not announced)
Uncapped arrivals for vaccinated people without any quarantine and uncapped arrivals for unvaccinated people with testing before departure and on arrival