News National Madonna King: The coronavirus crisis brought Australians together … briefly
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Madonna King: The coronavirus crisis brought Australians together … briefly

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The virus is heading towards containment.

Shops and restaurants are opening gradually and hopes have risen that a vaccine will be ready for mass distribution by Easter.

Life may never return to the normal we knew, but what it holds must include some lessons from the close shave we had with COVID-19.

Remember the shows of unanimity as unions and bosses came together to limit a health and economic crisis?

Remember the compliance accepted by a nation of rugged individualists who pride themselves on their rebel streak?

And remember the state and federal governments shaking off their competing interests to form what was effectively a war cabinet to combat an unseen threat?

Well, remember it carefully because it’s over.

And nowhere is it more obvious than in the petulance Queensland’s Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has shown to Gladys Berejiklian, premier of her closest neighbouring state.

The battle of the borders continues to rage on. Graphic: TND

It so happens the northern states are duking it out in a delayed State of Origin series, but the rivalry of the field has spilled into the serious business of how the people of the two states interact with one another.

Just take this text exchange between the two leaders.

Ms Berejiklian sent this on Sunday night, November 1 – the day after Palaszczuk’s Labor government was returned to power: “Hi Annastacia, Congratulations on your election win. I can imagine how difficult that was during a pandemic! Hope we can work together to get our borders open. Gladys.”

A day passed and then a second and a third, and then finally Ms Palaszczuk responded with “Queenslander”. That was in reference to Queensland’s State of Origin win on November 4.

Now Ms Palaszczuk looks like she’s winning (even though the series is tied at one-all) by barring anyone from Sydney from entering the Sunshine State with no demonstrated health reason.

But on any genuine analysis, in reality, all she’s doing is losing the progress Queensland has made over the past decades in asserting itself as an equal partner in the Commonwealth.

And I mean, Queenslanders ultimately will be scarred by the rough end of her pineapple diplomacy.

The Big Pineapple on the Sunshine Coast. Photo: AAP

For Queensland relies on being outward-looking for its economic strength. Its exports of minerals, produce, tourism and education all rely on engaging with the rest of the country and the world.

While the inward focus was justifiable at the peak of the coronavirus threat, and even strategic in the lead up to the election, the state has to find a way to again open its doors.

And that needs to be found quickly if it is to jump over the mountain of debt it is running up.

There is a bigger issue, that perhaps is even more troublesome – not just for Queensland but the whole of Australia.

As the world breaks down into smaller tribes, we need to work out where we belong.

Are we Australians or are we citizens of Victoria or New South Wales or Queensland?

I say we are Australians first and Queenslanders or Victorians or West Australians second.

And we should all stand up to any state leader who wants to put their own interests and the interests of their own backyard, before the interests of Australia.

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