30,000 people rally in the heart of Brisbane

30,000 Protest. 30,000 Risks.

No-one can really tell us how COVID19 spreads, nor how we can best protect ourselves.

You can see that in our responses. State governments disagree on how best to begin opening up their borders, on when to send children back to school, on how to conduct tests, and when to allow mass gatherings.

You can see it in Queensland’s own border lockdown. Police are lining up to grant or refuse entry, in time-consuming operations meant to protect us. Meanwhile, others fly in to an airport, stay overnight with friends, and head off to rural areas for work.

You can see it in how children are being treated. Schools are safe, we are told, so most classrooms are now bursting at the sides again. And yet, a child under 16 cannot enter a hospital, even to see someone in their own family, because of the risks posed.

The quandary is deep inside our health system, too. Some medical staff have taken extended leave, wanting to protect their own family from the risk they face at work. And others, with clean hands, are going about their job, without evening thinking about it.

But perhaps the best illustration of what is to come is Sunday’s rally in the city, where 30,000 people – including thousands of children – marched for something so, so important; to remind us all that Black Lives Matter.

At any other time, I’d be there, with my own children. But it is surely unfathomable that after weeks of isolation, closed businesses, skyrocketing unemployment, learning from home, we can so quickly forget the risks of a disease that has killed more than 400,000 people and infected more than seven million.

The risk in that rally is that one person, or a couple, have COVID, and will spread it. One person can give it to dozens of others, who can then give it to dozens more. Some of those will be visiting their grandparents this week, attending sick children, and shopping with you today in a supermarket aisle.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s protestations that she urged people not to go fall flat. They amounted to whispers; a political decision that now risks jeopardising the strong leadership she has shown since COVID19 knocked on Queensland’s door.

And how this will unfold for her now – the decisions she makes and how they are articulated – will play a crucial role in her re-election chances.

The questions are endless, but here’s a few she needs to answer, convincingly.

How can you say ‘no’ to having 30,000 Broncos fans pack into Suncorp Stadium from August?

How can the borders stay shut when some workers – with COVID19 – can fly in, and disappear into our workforce?

And how can they remain closed, when the numbers wanting to come across the border are thousands fewer than allowed in the city’s centre of the weekend?

Conversely, how can she change her story and open them up – because of the loud protests – when she has maintained they need to stay shut to ‘protect’ all Queenslanders?

How can children not be allowed to visit someone in their family in hospital, yet they can mix and mingle with anyone inside a school yard, or a rally packed with people of all ages?

One of Annastacia Palaszczuk’s attributes during this crisis has been her toughness; her inability to make quick and tough decisions, over recent years, has been her achilles heel, particularly in the business community.

But COVID19 provided an opportunity for her to be the leader Queensland needed. 

On that score, she’s been almost flawless. Until now. And the border decision is where she’s becoming a bit wobbly.

It’s not difficult to imagine her at her desk today, like so many others, hoping one march – despite how important it is – doesn’t destroy the months of work that preceded it.

Photograph of Madonna King

Madonna King is a leading journalist and commentator. An award-winning presenter of 612 ABC Brisbane, she has authored 12 books and now works across radio, television and online.

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