State ‘does not admit’ border closures causing hardship
THE Queensland Government has denied in court the state's border closure is creating financial hardship for businesses, despite the Premier claiming they had been dealt a "crippling blow".
The stunning development in the High Court challenge to the controversial border lockdown could stall the case by forcing the business owners involved to prove how much revenue they have lost since restrictions were enforced.
It comes as the group of renegade business owners and individuals challenging the border lockdown will today attempt to force the Queensland Government to hand over documents used to justify the interstate travel ban.
The three businesses fighting the border ban argue they rely on unrestricted interstate travel for customers or growth opportunities so the closure, which could last until September, is causing them "financial harm".
But in a defence argument filed in the High Court, State Solicitor-General Sandy Thompson QC revealed the government "do not admit" the financial hardship is a result of the border restrictions.
The document appears to contradict comments from Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk acknowledging the disastrous financial impact of the restrictions on tourism businesses and workers.
On May 19 she told parliament the state's $12 billion tourism industry had been dealt a "crippling blow" during the pandemic that was "absolutely heartbreaking to witness".
"It has been heartbreaking to make tough but unavoidable decisions; for example, the decision to close our borders and place hard restrictions on the industry knowing they would hurt, while at the same time understanding they were absolutely critical to save lives," she said.
She said the impact was something "I never imagined I would witness in my lifetime".
Previous estimates have put the potential blow to tourism at $5 billion if the border remains shut until September.
The rejection of the businesses' argument could severely delay the case by forcing the owners to provide detailed accounting records showing revenue downturns since the restrictions were applied.
Ms Palaszczuk has said she will not consider opening the borders before a review of the measure at the end of June.
The companies - Mount Ommaney Travel agency Travel Essence and the parent company of Reefinity Adventures which runs a charter service on the Great Barrier Reef - argue they continue to suffer financial hardship as a result of the border closure.
Linen hire company - Super Services Group - says it has been unable to grow outside of Queensland and NSW due to the restrictions.
The case is scheduled to return to court at noon today for an urgent directions hearing into access to the documents the Government is relying on to keep the borders closed.
The Government yesterday failed to meet a deadline to hand over the documents, a move they opposed last week on the grounds the subpoena seeking the advice had been invalidly lodged.
A separate constitutional challenge to the border closures being brought by billionaire businessman Clive Palmer's flagship company Mineralogy and others is expected to be heard in the first week of July.
Originally published as State 'does not admit' border closures causing hardship