As the normal rythyms begin to return after the lockdown, most sensible adults realise the the initial crisis has passed, writes Michael Madigan.
As the normal rythyms begin to return after the lockdown, most sensible adults realise the the initial crisis has passed, writes Michael Madigan.

'We’ve been good: It’s time to let us our neighbours in'

OPINION

'ALL bets are off' may not even be a phrase that is Australian in origin but it always seemed to me to capture something quintessentially Australian in spirit.

And it's a phrase many Queenslanders are now using in relation to the Coronavirus lockdown.

The state is back on the move again whether or not the borders remain closed, whether those claustrophobic restrictions continue to apply or even whether state premiers continue to earnestly counsel us to maintain our caution.

You can feel right down to the rhythms of the traffic in the city, to the blackboard signs re-appearing on footpaths boasting of "Brisbane's best burgers,'' to the smattering of lunch time diners in restaurants in Fortitude Valley.

Queensland should reopen its border as soon as possible to let us get on with life. Picture: Nigel Hallett
Queensland should reopen its border as soon as possible to let us get on with life. Picture: Nigel Hallett

It's most cheerfully obvious in the unpacking of those stacks of chairs in the corners of restaurants and pubs - a sombre sign that "the party is over'' which we've gazed at mournfully through half shuttered windows for nearly three months.

We have been good - we've been beyond good, we've been outstanding.

We've behaved like dutiful citizens of some old Communist regime obeying our Central Planning Committees, standing dutifully on painted markers in supermarket queues and clearing the streets and quarantining ourselves away in our homes in order to defeat this lethal threat.

And our leaders including Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young have been magnificent, expertly conveying the seriousness of our situation while maintaining those calm exteriors and ensuring the flow of information, which we knew we could trust, continued on a daily basis.

But as of last weekend there is no thinking Queenslander, no thinking Australian for that matter, who hasn't twigged that our leaders know full well that, while the virus may continue to threaten us for years, the initial crisis has passed.

No one watching the official responses to the weekend protests across the nation, sparked by the brutal death of American George Floyd, could fail to miss the unmistakable message being sent.

Whether from the medical or political sphere, the majority of our leaders no longer view mass gatherings as posing the lethal dangers they did when this crisis first exploded in early March.

If such gatherings were a harbinger of mass death, the response from both our political and medical leaders to those protests would have been unequivocal in its opposition.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has done an admirable job leading Queenslanders through the crisis, but she must realise the heavy restrictions need to end.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has done an admirable job leading Queenslanders through the crisis, but she must realise the heavy restrictions need to end.

These people are not foolish enough to believe this virus has a political bent, capable of offering a reprieve to people gathering for a worthy and humane cause while ruthlessly striking down guests gathered for a backyard wedding reception.

Even Dr Norman Swan, the medical doctor and broadcaster who has been across the virus since it appeared, seemed sanguine about the risks following the protests.

Dr Swan even suggested the idea of protestors self isolating for two weeks following the protests was ''probably going a bit too far.''

Every Australian now knows that the risks were assessed, and our leaders who have access to the very best information reasoned that the threat of contagion, while still present, had subsided substantially. Had it not subsided, mounted and armed police would have swept on the few protestors who dared to put the entire nation at risk, heavy fines would have been issued and police commissioners would have stared down the camera barrel warning any repeat offender would face jail time.

The edifice of the approaching apocalypse is being dismantled and we are not children - we know the initial danger has receded. So, please, lift the border restrictions between NSW and Queensland.

Why wait three more weeks when people are itching to get back to normalising the economy that powers our enviable lifestyle?.

Why make what is really just an arbitrary geographical marker a barrier to commerce when people inside Queensland and NSW are already rapidly resuming interaction?

Why prohibit southerners with money to spend from heading north in the colder months, and giving Queensland tourism operators sorely needed business?

We've given up the handshake and the hug, we're keeping mindful of social distancing guidelines, we're even making the mask a fashion accessory.

We are, in short, doing all the things which made Queensland one of the world's success stories.

So all bets truly are off.

We, as a nation, are adult enough to grasp the reality that we really don't know what the future holds in dealing with this problem.

But that strict lockdown - that "sure thing'' that we were all willing to bet on as our first strategy in dealing with it - no longer applies so, please, let's just get on with it.

Originally published as We've been good: It's time to let us out and our neighbours in


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