Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. Picture: David Kapernick
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. Picture: David Kapernick

Premier responds to southwest COVID-19 pub fines issue

ON THE same day Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk urged Queenslanders to go and support their local pubs with Stage Three easing of restrictions, she has remained tight-lipped about the hefty fines imposed on struggling outback pubs.

When asked whether she would push for leniency for the southwest pubs that had been slogged $6672 fines for breaching Public Health directions last, Ms Palaszczuk's office simply stated the obvious that she doesn't issue infringement notices.

Last weekend police conducted a blitz across the southwest which resulted in the Injune Hotel, The Commonwealth Hotel and Royal on Ninety-Nine in Roma and Federal Hotel in Wallumbilla fined to be $6672 for disobeying COVID-19 public health directions.

Southwest Queensland has not recorded a single case of coronavirus since the pandemic began in March.

"This is a police matter for their consideration without political involvement," Ms Palaszczuk's spokesman said.

"Neither the Premier nor any minister issue infringement notices relating to any activity."

Tony Harris, publican of the Injune Hotel said that's a "very disappointing response".

"She can't palm it off and say it's not a political matter.

"Was the Brisbane protests a political matter?

"She said she wants local businesses up and running - does she want us to open or not?"

Mr Harris is hoping the Queensland Hotel Association can assist disputing the fine. .

"This $6600 is crippling to my business," he said.

"It will be very hard to continue - to generate that much money on top of a flat line is incredibly difficult, especially at this present time."

Like many businesses, Mr Harris said the hotel has been severly impacted by the pandemic.

"I virtually only stayed open for the last couple of months to service Injune residents," he said.

"It definitely wasn't financially rewardable that's for sure.

"I wasn't able to keep on staff as they were all backpackers and not eligible for JobKeeper, so I worked around the clock by myself."

Mr Harris questioned the motives of out-of-town officers who imposed the fines.

"Does the punishment really fit the crime?" he questioned.

"I understand police have a job to do, but surely there's an aspect of compassion - no respect has been given to us.

"We're a small town, they could educate us - it's hard enough trying to keep up with changing restrictions.

"Why did they travel out here, 400km or so to fine us then change the restrictions today?

"What was wrong with local police doing the job - I just question the ethics of the whole operation.

"I believe they had targets, especially before the end of financial year."

Mr Harris said Maranoa MP David Littleproud had contacted him and the QHA had been wonderful in their assistance.

"I'm leaving it up to them for now, I think that's my best hope for the moment," he said.