Queensland defends ACT border lockout as Prime Minister Scott Morrison accused of using family tragedy for 'political agenda'

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

The Queensland government has again defended the decision to rule the ACT a coronavirus hotspot as the Prime Minister was accused of using the story of a Canberra woman unable to attend her father's funeral to advance his political agenda.

Alexandra Prendergast is the step-sister of Sarah Caisip, who was in coronavirus quarantine after arriving in the state from Canberra and not allowed to attend her father Bernard's funeral in Brisbane.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison called Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk asking her to intervene on Thursday, but she would only refer it to the chief health officer.

Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington asked the premier about Ms Caisip's case in state parliament on the day, and later Mr Morrison phoned 2GB radio host Ray Hadley to talk about the case live on air.

Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles again defended the government's decision to close its border to the ACT which has not had a coronavirus case in more than two months.

"The Prime Minister made a mistake talking about a couple of individual cases recently and was left with egg on his face when the facts of those cases came out," he said on Monday.

"I'm not going to get into the detail of those cases.

"I know that the chief health officer and her team go through them all very, very carefully, and wherever they can they are as compassionate as they possibly can be while also ... ensuring Queenslanders are kept safe."

Mr Miles said the state's processes to allow compassionate border exemptions were similar to several other states, saying the Prime Minister had used the situation as a political tool against the sitting Labor government ahead of the state election.

"We've said that at the end of each month we'll review cases in other states and therefore review our border rules," he said.

"We have processes in place to allow people to visit dying relatives and loved ones. We have processes in place for people to get exemptions to come to Queensland for funerals, they're very similar arrangements that apply in South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia.

"I trust 7.30 has reporters at those press conferences today to ask the very same questions.

"I trust you're not just getting caught up in the LNP's attempt to make this a political issue in the lead up to the Queensland state election."

A number of federal coalition politicians including Mr Morrison, Mathias Cormann and Peter Dutton, as well as former Liberal party staffers and commentators such as Peta Credlin attacked the Labor premier over the case.

Ms Prendergast accused Mr Morrison of turning the sombre day of her father's funeral into a "media circus" for his "political agenda".

"Mr Morrison, I am extremely disappointed that you have used my family to try and advance your political agenda ... your announcement of my father's funeral on [radio] prompted a media circus outside the crematorium at which the service was held," Ms Prendergast, 32, wrote in an open letter to the Prime Minister published by various media outlets.

"I am devastated that the final memories of my father have been marred by the media you have used to prosecute your political agenda."

Ms Prendergast said Mr Morrison's actions made "an absolutely devastating time for my family even harder".

"Sarah Caisip should not have been used as a tool to vilify the actions of the Queensland Premier and Health Department" on border controls, she wrote.

Ms Prendergast also called on Mr Morrison to apologise because while he highlighted her family's case "there's been many, many other cases that are very similar to this case where he has not intervened".

The federal Coalition's criticism of the Queensland Premier's border controls comes less than seven weeks out from the Queensland election.

Ms Frecklington has been calling for "consistency, compassion and common sense" on border exemptions" while criticising exemptions for "the rich and famous" after AFL executives and US actor Tom Hanks were given permission to do mandatory quarantine at hotels of their choosing in Queensland.

Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeanette Young defended the state's approach to managing the pandemic, as she announced the second day without a new case.

"We're now eight months in. We're learning a lot more. We're learning that this is not a disease of the respiratory system. That might be how it's transmitted in the main, but it's not flu," she said on Monday.

"It affects every single cell in the body and leaves long-lasting problems for different organs in the body, whether that be the heart, the kidneys, the brain, the lungs.

"So, it is really important that we minimise the number of people who get this disease. Not just the number who are going to die from it, but the number who get it. That is really, really important.

"And that's why we have the very strict protocols that we have in Queensland for quarantine. This is about people not getting this disease. That is really important."

- with AAP

This story Queensland defends ACT border lockout as PM accused of using family tragedy for 'political agenda' first appeared on The Canberra Times.


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