Queensland’s top doctor has admitted money is the driving factor behind letting A-list Hollywood actors and sports stars into the state – while turning away grieving families at the border as they try desperately to see their loved ones.
The state’s Chief Medical Officer Jeannette Young has given permission for US actor Tom Hanks and a film crew to isolate in a luxury Gold Coast hotel this week.
Despite fierce criticism, she has also allowed 400 AFL officials into the state to plan for the upcoming grand final in Brisbane – as well as teams competing in the league’s Queensland hub.
Dr Young sparked outrage on Thursday after banning a 26-year-old woman in hotel quarantine from attending her father’s funeral in Brisbane and only granting her a private viewing of his body.
Addressing anger over perceived double standards in Queensland’s border policy, Dr Young said the state needed ‘every single dollar’ it could get from rich celebrities wanting to do business in Queensland.
Sarah Caisip (pictured), who lives in Canberra, was barred from attending her father’s funeral by Queensland health officials and instead told she could only view his body in private
‘I have given exemptions for people in entertainment and film because that is bringing a lot of money into this state and, can I say, we need every single dollar in our state,’ she said in her Thursday press conference.
The decision to stop Sarah Caisip from attending the Mount Gravatt service led to Prime Minister Scott Morrison calling Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and asking her to let the woman join her grieving mother and 11-year-old sister.
Ms Palaszczuk hit back at the Australian leader in state parliament by accusing him of bullying and intimidating her.
‘If it is safe, I look at how it can be done and whether that is the AFL, the NRL, whether it is swimming, tennis – all of the sports – cricket recently because we are coming into that season,’ Dr Young said.
‘Anyone can come into Queensland who has got a reason to come in that meets one of our requirements.
‘I have given exemptions to people in the sporting industry for a whole range of codes because it is important that we start that work, but they all go into quarantine.’
Tom Hanks pictured with his wife Rita Wilson. The A-list actor and his film crew have been allowed to isolate in a luxury Gold Coast hotel this week
Dressed in scrubs with a mask, visor and gloves and surrounded by security guards, Ms Caisip viewed her father’s body on Thursday after Ms Palaszczuk refused to let her attend his funeral because of the state’s draconian border closures.
Caisip, who lives in Canberra, applied for an exemption last month to visit her sick father Bernard Prendergast in Brisbane – but it took 20 days to get approved and he died of liver cancer two days before her flight.
Ms Caisip, who is six days into her hotel quarantine stint in Brisbane, was banned from attending her father’s funeral on Thursday because officials believe she is a COVID-19 risk even though the ACT has had no cases for 60 days.
Queensland Chief Medical Officer Jeannette Young said the state needed ‘every single dollar’ it could get from rich celebrities wanting to do business in Queensland
Sarah Caisip (in yellow) was allowed to have a private viewing of her father’s body, dressed in PPE and with security guards minding her. She was not allowed to greet her family
Up to 100 of her family and friends were allowed to attend the 2pm service in Mount Gravatt even though there is community transmission in Brisbane with nine cases recorded on Wednesday.
Instead of standing alongside them to farewell her father, Ms Caisip was only granted a private viewing of his body, surrounded by guards and without being allowed to see her shattered mother and 11-year-old sister.
State Opposition leader Deb Frecklington, who also campaigned to let Ms Caisip go to the funeral, said she was ‘disgusted’ by the decision.
Distraught: The 26-year-old was devastated that Premier Palaszczuk denied her the chance to say goodbye to her father
Queensland chief health officer Jeannette Young said on Thursday afternoon: ‘We know that funerals are very, very high risk, for transmission of the virus.’ Pictured: Ms Caisip attending a viewing of her father’s body
Ms Caisip (pictured) was surrounded by security guards after she was escorted from hotel quarantine to view her father’s body
Ms Caisip was granted a private viewing of her father’s body, surrounded by security guards and without being allowed to see her mother and 11-year-old sister (both pictured)
Ms Caisip’s mother (second left) and sister (left) attended the funeral without her there as she was banned from mingling with her family
Sarah Caisip is pictured with her father Bernard Prendergast, 11-year-old sister Isobel Prendergast and mother Myrna Prendergast
Ms Caisip (pictured in the car on the way to a private viewing of her father’s body) said Premier Palaszczuk has ‘destroyed my life’
Mourners are seen at the funeral service for Bernard Prendergast in Brisbane on Thursday after Ms Caisip was not allowed to attend
Ms Frecklington said on Thursday: ‘I’m absolutely disgusted that the Annastacia Palaszczuk and the Labor government has denied this young woman an exemption. This story is really hard to listen to.’
Queensland’s borders are closed to Victoria, New South Wales and the ACT. Premier Palaszczuk faces an election next month and the tough borders are popular with most Queenslanders.
Dr Young, who is in charge of granting exemptions, said on Thursday afternoon that she is ‘very risk averse’.
‘We know that funerals are very, very high risk for transmission of the virus. The last thing I would want to happen is to have an outbreak at a funeral,’ she said.
Dr Young said Ms Caisip’s application for an exemption took 20 days because there are thousands submitted every day.
She said Canberra is declared a hotspot because ‘it is in the middle of New South Wales, we know there are cases around them.’
Queensland has been rocked by dozens of heartbreaking cases of families being torn apart and lives being shattered by the border closure.
One 60-year-woman was forced to quarantine in a hotel after brain surgery in Sydney and a mother lost her unborn twin after she was flown 700km to Sydney for surgery because an exemption allowing her into Queensland took too long.
The prime minister has been trying to persuade Ms Palaszczuk – and other premiers – to relax their tough border controls, but under Australia’s federal system he cannot overrule state governments.
In a radio interview with broadcaster Ray Hadley on Thursday morning, an emotional Mr Morrison revealed he asked the premier to show some compassion and let Ms Caisip go to the funeral.
‘It’s not about borders, it’s not about federation, it’s not about elections,’ he told radio 2GB.
‘The only thing that matters today is that Sarah can be with her family to mourn the passing of her father Bernard. ‘This is a heartbreaking case.’
Mr Morrison said he appealed to the premier to change her mind. ‘Surely in the midst of all of this heartache, and everything that everyone is going through, surely just this once it can be done,’ he said.
‘I just hope they change their mind and let Sarah go to the funeral.’
Premier Palaszczuk cheered and wooped when Brisbane was granted the AFL final and she let hundreds of staff enter the state
Partners, wives and family members of AFL players (pictured) arrived at the Gold Coast Airport in July. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has been accused of ‘double standards’ for letting them in while keeping out border residents
Devastated mourners embraced at the funeral at Mount Gravatt on Thursday afternoon after Ms Caisip was banned from attending
The funeral went ahead on Thursday afternoon without Ms Caisip in attendance, leaving her 11-year-old sister to face the tough day without her older sibling. Pictured: Mourners arriving
Ms Caisip was banned from going to the funeral (pictured) because she was not allowed to leave hotel quarantine
Ms Caisip wrote a furious letter to the Queensland premier accusing her of ruining her life. Pictured: The funeral
Mourners arrived for the funeral which Ms Caisip was banned from on Thursday afternoon
Australian state border restrictions
Victoria: Completely open, but other states are banning residents from going there
NSW: Border with Victoria is closed but others are open without restriction
Queensland: Open to everywhere but Victoria, NSW, and the ACT
Northern Territory: Open to everywhere but Victoria and Sydney, which must do hotel quarantine
South Australia: Closed to Victoria, NSW arrivals must self-isolate, rest are open
Tasmania: Closed to Victoria, everywhere else must do hotel quarantine
Western Australia: Closed to everywhere without an exemption
Mr Morrison seemed close to tears when he spoke about his own experience of loss.
‘Sadly she wasn’t able to see her father before he passed. All of us who have been through that process know how important that is. It’s still fresh in my mind,’ he said.
‘It was Father’s Day on the weekend and I’m just thinking if Sarah had to go through that day in a hotel in isolation and there she is today.’
The prime minister said: ‘I have done all I can.
‘There have been discussions with our chief medical officer and raising that with them and their health ministers.’
Mr Morrison said he has ‘these types of conversations with premiers on a range of issues all the time’.
‘I don’t seek to make them public but I rang the premier this morning and I hope she will reconsider,’ he said.
In the Queensland parliament on Thursday, Ms Palaszczuk accused the prime minister of ‘bullying’ her.
She said: ‘I won’t be bullied nor will I be intimidated by the prime minister of this country who contacted me this morning, and who I made very clear to the fact, that this is not my decision.
‘I passed this onto the chief health officer, and it is the chief health officer’s decision to make.’
Mr Morrison strongly rejected any accusation of bullying and said he just wanted Ms Caisip with be reunited with her sister and mother.
The prime minister has also spoken to Ms Caisip to offer her support and encouragement.
The 26-year-old earlier told 4BC Radio that she had planned to visit her dad for a father’s day surprise but the exemption took 20 days to get approved.
‘By the time they got back to me for the approval, dad had already passed away,’ she said.
‘I asked for an exemption just for a couple of hours to go to the funeral, I wasn’t asking them to leave quarantine after that altogether.
‘They said I shouldn’t even be in Queensland because the exemption for me to come to Queensland was to say goodbye to my dying father, not to go to the funeral.’
Ms Caisip said she has spoken to six health officials and not one has shown her any empathy.
‘Each and every single one of them did not help me nor show any compassion with my situation. They all just sounded like a robot,’ she wrote on Facebook.
‘Am I going to the viewing of the body and or the funeral? No because my exemption to attend either was declined by Qld Health.’
In an open letter to the Queensland premier, Ms Caisip wrote: ‘My dad is dead and you made me fight to see him, but it was too late and now you won’t let me go to his funeral or see my devastated 11-year-old sister.
‘You won’t listen and your government is destroying my life.
‘Now you are preventing me from going to view his body, which is a very important tradition for me, and also preventing me from going to his funeral this Thursday, even though I am in Brisbane in hotel quarantine and only a few kilometres away.
‘I came from virus-free Canberra, so the fact that I’m even in quarantine is beyond belief but the fact that I am being denied my basic human rights to care for my grief-stricken mother and little 11-year-old sister enrages, disgusts and devastates me at the same time.
‘My little sister is now without my support and I will never forgive you’.
Scott Morrison (pictured with wife Jenny) has asked Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to let a grieving daughter attend her father’s funeral
The Queensland premier has come under fire from federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg and other government MPs for keeping the border closed to parts of New South Wales and the ACT that have no community transmission of coronavirus.
Ms Palaszczuk has adopted nationalist rhetoric, pitting her state against the rest of Australia and even declaring that Queensland hospitals are ‘for our people’.
Ten days after that comment, a mother from Ballina, near the Queensland border, lost her unborn twin after she was flown 700km to Sydney for surgery because an exemption allowing her into Queensland took too long.
Then on Wednesday last week, the premier let hundreds of AFL players, WAGs and officials waltz into Queensland after clapping and wooping when Brisbane was handed the AFL grand final scheduled for 24 October.
Queensland grandmother Jayne Brown, 60, who was made to do hotel quarantine in in Brisbane following brain surgery, said the unfairness was ‘mind-blowing’.
The state’s chief health officer Jeanette Young has said a state would need to have 28 days with no community transmission before residents are allowed in to Queensland.
Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said it was a ‘very, very high benchmark to set’.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said: ‘I don’t know if we’ll ever get to that number. They’re putting on a pretty big ask during a pandemic.’
Last week Mr Frydenberg slammed Ms Palaszczuk’s decision to allow the families of AFL players into the state.
‘I think the Queensland Premier has got some questions to answer here,’ he told A Current Affair.
‘How can it be okay for people to go up to prepare for a footy game, and its not okay to go to hospital for treatment?’