Annastacia Palaszczuk has choked back tears saying she’s “human too” after being called “cold-hearted and nasty” for not granting a COVID-19 quarantine exemption for a woman wanting to go to her father’s funeral in Brisbane.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the Queensland Premier to ask her to personally intervene but Ms Palaszczuk refused and referred the case to chief health officer Jeannette Young.
Sarah Caislip’s appeal became national news when the after Mr Morrison’s plea for her to be allowed to attend her father Bernard’s funeral on Thursday.
Despite his intervention, the request was denied but the 26-year-old, who had been in hotel quarantine, was allowed to view her father’s body on her own dressed in full PPE after the service.
“It is absolutely heartbreaking. Anyone who had seen those images is heartbroken. Everyone’s human. It is tough on everybody,” Ms Palaszczuk said on Friday.
“Let me make it very clear I don’t make those decisions. I said to the Prime Minister I would refer it to the chief health officer and I did. It’s actually her decision.”
It came as Queensland reported two new cases on Friday, with active coronavirus cases at 28.
Federal Finance Minister Cormann earlier told Sky News that Ms Palaszczuk’s policies were “entirely political” and not intervening in Ms Caislip’s case was “cold-hearted and nasty”.
In response, the Premier revealed she had also lost loved ones during the pandemic and she understood how tough the border restrictions were on people.
‘I’m human just like everyone else. These issues hurt me deeply. They hurt me deeply because during this pandemic I have lost loved ones as well,” Ms Palaszczuk said while choking back tears.
‘I know exactly what people are going through, OK?”
She said she would move to increase the amount of staff assessing applications for compassionate exemptions and said she was open to signing on to a national COVID-19 hotspot regime.
Elsewhere, it emerged on Friday that Mr Morrison had donated $1000 into a fundraising drive for four Sydney children to pay for mandatory quarantine before visiting their dying father in Queensland.
By Friday afternoon, the Marks Final Wish GoFundMe page had raised $225,000 – much more than the $30,000 target – to help Brisbane man Mark Keans’ four children visit him.
The 39-year-old has terminal brain cancer and had been facing the heartbreaking decision about which of his children he would say goodbye to, but Queensland Health officials relented and let them all come after public pressure.
The surge in donations will allow the family to easily cover the cost of quarantine for the children, who are aged between seven and 13.
Earlier on Friday, Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington asked Ms Palaszczuk if exemptions constituted “one rule for the rich and one rule for everyday Queenslanders” at a parliamentary economics and governance committee hearing.
Ms Palaszczuk said there had already been 229 exemptions for compassionate cases, specialist workers and health workers.
There have also been 31,000 freight exemptions and 170,000 exemptions for people who live in border zones.
She said specific industries with approved COVID-safe plans such as mining needed exemptions to keep working and help the state avoid an economic crisis.
“If Queensland or Western Australia was to shut down and go into lockdown that would absolutely be diabolical, the economic impact that that would have on our economy would phenomenal,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
She said lifting stage three COVID-19 restrictions was contributing $520 million a month to the state economy and supporting more than 50,000 jobs.
She said Treasury had modelled the impact of a Melbourne-style lockdown on her state and it would would put 330,000 Queenslanders at risk of losing their jobs.
“You can’t have a strong economy unless you have the right health response. This is a twin crisis we have – it is very, very complex,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“We have to get that balance right.”
Under Queensland’s health measures all of NSW, the ACT and Victoria are considered virus hotspots.