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Joyce says Palaszczuk is playing politics with border closures

written by Adam Thorn | August 20, 2020

QANTAS B747-438 (ER) VH-OEE Sydney 12.11.19
QANTAS B747-438 (ER) VH-OEE Sydney 12.11.19 (Justin McCoy)

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has accused Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk of closing her borders purely for political gain.

Joyce said the restrictions will cause a lot of small companies in Queensland “to go out of business”, adding that states with few coronavirus cases had no excuse not to open up.

Hours later, the premier fired back and said her decisions were taken to keep citizens safe. “I’m not going to bend to anyone,” Premier Palaszczuk said, seemingly in response to Joyce.

Joyce made the comments to reporters in a press conference after announcing Qantas’ bruising financial year losses of $2.7 billion, which he attributed to “the worst trading conditions in our 100-year history”.

He singled out Queensland for criticism after Premier Palaszczuk earlier hinted she wouldn’t consider lifting the borders to NSW, ACT and Victoria until there was no community transmission whatsoever and hinting they could go on for longer.

“Surely these decisions should be based on the facts and the level of cases that we’re seeing around the various states?” said Joyce.

“Otherwise it feels like there are no real base decisions. It’s just there to inform maybe the politics?


“In areas of Queensland and Tasmania and other parts of the country, 30 per cent of the jobs depend on tourism. If it’s safe to do it, it should be open.”

When asked more generally about states and territories closing their borders, Joyce said there needed to be a pre-planned national framework to give certainty to businesses.

“There are no rules around how borders are going to close and open,” he said. “Nobody has an issue with the international board has been closed. That’s protected Australia.


“Nobody’s had an issue with the borders to Victoria being closed, but it’s very clear that we don’t have clear guidelines for when the borders will open or when they will close.

“Western Australia, South Australia, Northern Territory, Queensland, Tasmania – we’ve got closure there still with very low cases or no cases. And it’s been like that for a while and we don’t have any determination for when the borders will open.”

He argued that those states should be open “soon or now” in order to restart Australia’s tourism industry.

“Economies are depending on it,” Joyce said, adding that the country faces a problem when JobKeeper payments come to an end.

“Otherwise we’re going to have a cliff that’s going to be bigger than the financial impact that COVID-19 has already caused. I think that’s a problem for a lot of businesses. It’s a problem for our business. And eventually, it’s going to be a big problem for the economy.”

Hours later, in her own press conference, Premier Palaszczuk shot back at Joyce’s comments on implementing a national strategy.

“I think the national strategy needs to be focusing on Victoria to get all of their cases under control and NSW so that all of Australia can open up,” she said.

“That should be the national strategy. We will always take the advice of the chief health officer to keep Queenslanders safe. I’m not going to bend to anyone.

“It’s a tough time at the moment but Qantas is free to [operate] in Queensland and in the other states where the borders are open for interstate travel.”

Earlier this month, Australian Aviation reported that Queensland’s surprise decision to shut its border to Sydney caused Qantas to axe almost one-third of its schedule.

Chief executive Alan Joyce also said the airline is operating at 20 per cent pre-COVID-19 capacity, and not the 45 per cent it hoped to run before borders across Australia were hardened.

The news reflected subsequent numbers released by Sydney Airport, which saw passenger traffic almost doubled in July, due to a brief window when there was unrestricted travel between NSW, Victoria and Queensland.

The business said in a statement to the ASX that the increase from 140,000 in June to 276,000 in July proved there was a “pent up demand” for interstate travel.

Queensland opened up to NSW on 10 July but closed to Sydney on 1 August and then to all of NSW and the ACT just a week later. The NSW-Victoria border shut for the first time on 6 July.

Comments (30)

  • Colin Chilcott


    Could not agree more with the Qantas CEO. No person would argue that Victoria is a no go zone at this time. However, the daily reporting levels of Covid-19 cases in other states and territories would clearly indicate that suppression has worked. It beggars belief that WA continues total border closure and Qld without any form of clear evidence indicating that NSW/ACT are heading the same way as Vic, continues to exclude visitors, be they for business or leisure. Joyce is correct. The Qld and WA Premiers are simply playing politics. Their language when answering media enquiries is always, “I make no apologies” or “I am protecting Queenslanders first”. We all know that their are looming elections for both of these states. The Premiers here are simply pandering to the minority. Not good enough. It seems a more common sense approach for the Federal Govt to take back the issue of border control. After all, Covid-19 is not a state/territory based issue.

  • Michael Jenas


    Mr Joyce’s should not be placing the possibility of COVID infections increasing in Queensland for the sake of his airlines profit . It is sad to see the loss of airline positions and the associated industries but the safety of the public should be put above profits and share holder divide ends

  • John Holdsworth


    I don’t often agree with anything that Alan Joyce says but on this one he is 100% right.
    Palaszczuk and all the other Premiers except Berejiklian in New South wales (and Andrews in Victoria who is in no position to close his borders to anyone at present) are playing personal popularity and political games with these border closures. Scott Morrison supported by the Commonwealth Medical experts is saying there is no medical reason why these borders are still closed. Palaszczuk is hiding behind Dr. Jeannette Young the Chief Medical Officer for Queensland and the advice she has given to the Queensland Premier, but will not release that advice for public scrutiny or assessment.
    She does not care about Queensland’s economy which is already carrying $90 Billion of debt racked up by the Palaszczuk Government. She could not run a chook raffle at the local pub.

  • Vannus


    Anna P. is facing a State Election come this October. She wants the ‘glory’ of being ‘iron-fisted’ with Qld border closure so she can say ‘look at me, look what I did’. She must think the voting public are really stupid. Let’s see who’s right, eh?
    Alan Joyce is correct, it’s all about politics, nothing else.

  • I’m over business people talking about their problems. This is a matter of public health. Qantas, Jim’s Mowing and everyone else you will just have to suck it up – unless you yourself can cure COVID.



    I’m an ambient Queenslander. While seeing the businesses here fail due to border closures, I, at the same time, feel that with this virus, it is so easy to open airlines and introduce infected persons all over our state. Remember, Victoria started their second deadly virus wave due to airline passengers in quarantine despite the pathetic measures Andrew’s government applied to them. This virus has an exponential, compounding spread which can swiftly overcome even the best defences. Joyce is hardly impartial in his criticism of Qld, wanting to kickstart his airline to stop the economic disaster. If he was to guarantee all his passengers were virus free, he would be in a better position. However, he could not do so.

  • Nicholas


    I hate to agree on anything with Joyce but the QLD Premier has definitely lost the plot on why borders should be closed. It’s been sad to see most of our leaders as being mostly or wholly out of their depth on this issue.

    The hiding behind the health officials, now presented to us as infallible gods, advice without any counterbalanced economic input has seen states decimated and thousands driven out of work or businesses lost.

    It’s been incredibly sad. QLD in particular has been badly served by a Premier who doesn’t even have the commonsense and manners to pick up the phone before lurching off to slam the borders with NSW.

    Some have risen to the task though sadly these are in the minority but in the main our leaders have shrunk into the new demands and continued to look worse the longer the epidemic has gone on.

  • Ken Ticehurst


    Alan Joyce is quite correct it is pure politics. Every she ramps up the closure her poll numbers go up.
    Australian tax payers are pay millions via Job Keeper & Seeker to keep some businesses afloat. Many small businesses in Qld, WA, SA, NT, Tas and others will fail, those premiers assume that those affected would not vote for them anyway.

  • Ronald Fletcher


    Queensland is better off without the Southerners at the moment even if it hits Qantas bottom line. Overall savings from a healthy population beats company profits any day

  • Anddy


    I’m a Queenslander stuck in Sydney away from my family. How is that keeping me safe?

  • Dale


    Bravo to Alan Joyce for speaking up on this topic! Whether you admire or despise him, he is totally accurate in his assessment here. We have a National Cabinet that should be able to come up with National Guideline to control intra-state borders. If they do not have that power – then call a snap referendum (Postal Vote of course) on the topic and the national sentiment would agree. Queensland has made this a political topic when it shouldn’t be. Bravo AJ for seeing it as it is!

  • Rick Parks


    Well if Qantas would be honest about its operations. The treatment of passengers who have had to cancel flight booking to destinations they know very well won’t be open in probably the next 1 to 2 years unless there is a vaccine found sooner, is disgraceful. It is being unjustly enriched by the taking of cancellation fees and then taking more than 10 weeks to refund the balance. This is criminal and also probably amounts to an act of bankruptcy. If you can’t pay your debts when due then a receiver should be appointed. Also offering extra credit on tickets if you don’t pursue a refund shows serious financial instability. The airlines have with the current ticketing terms and conditions for far too long had it their own way now is the time to bring back some control. As for Mr Joyce demanding the lifting of the border restrictions that is self interest only he isn’t really thinking of Queenslanders wellbeing only his now struggling once money making machine. If a poll was to be taken of Queenslanders as to keep the borders shut or reopen them I think we all know what the result would be, keep them closed.

  • Paul


    Here here Alan. One time i agree with you.

  • Peter K


    I’ll wager that the people above who say ‘suck it up business entities’ are employed by a State or Federal government or are on a government pension and not staring down a financial catastrophe – particularly when government financial support (Job Keeper) ends.

    I do not think anyone disagrees that there should be strict lockdowns where there are COVID 19 hotspots – but there should be a targeted rifle shot approach to the actions taken, rather than a shotgun one size fits all that causes unnecessary hardship and long term damage.

    There should be no State border closures where there are very low rates of infection as the risk is minimal if mitigation procedures are followed – and as it is currently it is having a huge economic impact on businesses in general – and many will fail as a consequence. More and more people will become unemployed and many small business owners will lose everything when it could be avoided to some large degree.

    Our state of our economy is very closely tied to our everyday lifestyle and overall quality of life.

    Opening State borders where risk is low will help restart the economy in these states and make life more liveable.

    Currently all tourism related businesses (big and small) are on their knees with close to zero business transactions/income. And this will impact a huge number of people.

    Why knowingly inflict this misery on hundreds of thousands of people when it is possible to safely mitigate widespread infection if reasonable, common sense processes and procedures can be put in place to lessen the disastrous impact on the economy and to lessen the anxiety of the average person’s life – all the while maintaining a safe public health environment.

    COVID 19 is likely to be around in one form or another until at least end 2021.

    No one is asking for ‘open slather’ – just a more common sense, more coordinated, consistent and targeted approach to risk assessment to minimise negative impacts in all spheres – spread of the virus and the unnecessary destruction of businesses that are on their knees through no fault of their own.

    There must be a better way of managing both of these public interests than what is happening at the moment.

    As Alan Joyce and others have pointed out, far too much focus on personal political point scoring by various lawmakers (especially State based ones) rather than what is best overall for the nation and its citizens.

    What is happening right now is politically opportunistic and irresponsible. It is in fact reprehensible.

  • Red Cee


    Without healthy people, you don’t have an economy. From a medical prospective.

  • Andrew Grey


    Two points,
    Those happy to see Business shut down are equally happy to take money from the Government ultimately funded by taxes paid by Business.

    QANTAS is in the perfect position to question Border Closes in the Courts under the Constitution, and have unreasonable ones lifted.

  • Mark


    I’m in the same situation as you Anddy. In NSW due to the state of the economy in Qld but can’t get back to see family. Quarantining in Brisbane for 2 weeks for a weekend weekend visit possibly only makes to Palaszczuk (or those being coned by her spin). I’m tested, clear and happy to do so prior to return. Makes absolutely no sense at all.

  • Steve A


    Sad to see any business struggling of course. But it’s even more heart-breaking for the people who are dying and their loved ones. AJ needs to butt out. People’s lives come first before QF profits and QF management bonuses.
    Is AJ prepared to face manslaughter charges every time someone dies as a result of one of his passengers bringing in the plague to QLD? Doubt it. He just wants to make money off the backs of the sick and dieing. A totally despicable attitude to add to his threatening of the QF pilots last year, accept the pay offer or he would bring in pilots from other countries to take their jobs.
    This heartless attitude seems to be right throughout the top QF management now. Gareth Evans told the Jetstar pilots to accept his offer, or else he would sell Jetstar aircraft so that the pilots didn’t have a job.
    And another 6,000 jobs gone at QF. What has Qantas become?

  • N E Stone


    Alan Joyce is trying to pretend he is the quasi Prime Minister of Australia by default. He wants to be seen as Australias answer to every poor decision made in Government and speaking out when no-one is listening. He is obviously trying to deflect scrutiny of his business decisions and show he is more concerned with ordinary Australians who do not have the benefit of his multi million dollar salary. Try booking a Qantas flight and see what the fare is. The prices being quoted are pure opportunism and do not reflect the real cost of these seats. Every airline in the world is suffering and Joyce has continually told us he has Qantas in the best position of any. Can’t have it all Alan. Don’t try to deflect blame to others like you did when closing the airline down on a whim some years ago. Just full of it!!

  • Greg


    Someone’s LIFE(maybe family) or money??? Who or what has more value? Yes there have been some bad decisions(some great) made all round. No one has the magic solution, even the experience, to cover this Pandemic. So what has happened to our society in this day an age? Have we lost the empathy for our fellow man/woman. Australia, like a lot of other countries, has been through a heck of a lot of problems in its time, yes we suffered, AND PULLED THROUGH it by uniting. Let’s stop pointing fingers and as someone has already said “Suck it up” and remember LIVES are at stake here. Mine included(I’m in the at risk age) but I wish to live a lot longer yet. May you/ we all stay safe and pull through this terrible period in our lives, together as Aussies always do.

  • Petrus Van Acker


    Good businessman, should now put the health of people before the companies wallet!

  • Ezza


    Everyone operates from their own personal perspective first and foremost, whether it’s AJ the businessman or Anastacia Palaszczuk the politician or me a person in the vulnerable age group. On that basis, while mindful of the devastating effects of Covid on the economy and business operators, from a purely selfish stance I support Premier Palaszczuk wholeheartedly.

  • Health and welfare of all AUS citizens is absolutely paramount. I am a 72 year old living in Perth ( 47 years in civil aviation) and I am so grateful that our premier and cabinet has kept us safe. This horrible virus could return at any time, look at how many people break the rules and put others lives at risk. Yes we need to keep the economy going, but not at the expense of this virus wiping us all out. The airlines will just have to wait a bit longer until we have either a vaccine or a long period of no new infections. We are just about the envy of the world with our very low death rate, lets keep it that way. Sorry Alan Joyce, you are wrong here, health and welfare first.

  • Vannus


    To N E Stone above…..

    QANTAS CEO & the Board did NOT ‘close the airline down on a whim’.
    They closed because of continuous TWU UNION call outs to have staff go on strike practically every day in some section or other, from August to October 2011.
    Many QANTAS staff, in varying departments’, were subject to much verbal AND physical abuse due to these selfish union actions.
    Alan Joyce & the Board could not put up with that, & something drastic had to be done to stop this nonsense, & the CEO & Board had the guts to do it.
    The stupid union leaders’ NEVER saw THAT coming!

  • JP


    This virus, which is not an issue for 98% of humans, is here to stay. We will not “eliminate” it by a vaccine or other treatment. We will have to learn to live with it as we do the ‘flu virus. It is not sensible nor realistic to think cv-19 can be “contained” or kept out forever.

    It is time to open up the borders and start putting dollars back into the economy. This is now beyond ridiculous. We are crushing our economy and destroying people’s lives. Our children will not forgive us.

  • Vannus


    To Rick Parks above….

    Re: air ticket refunds from QANTAS.

    YOU haven’t a clue how this works, so keep your aggression, & poorly chosen wording to yourself.

    Most tickets are bought through a Travel Agent. Because of the complexities of Domestic & especially, International fares, & their rules, it takes TEN weeks’ to process a refund, at a minimum, BEORE pandemic started.
    IF there’re other airlines’ flights on same ticket, refunds are sought from them, before total amount that is possibly due, is refunded. There maybe cancellation fees being charged by
    other airlines’, too, which cannot be refunded.

    If the ticket is issued by an airline, the same process occurs, but pre-COVID-19, that would’ve taken about six weeks. Other airlines take time to process their ticket portion, back to QANTAS.

    It’s NORMAL for an airline to offer credit vouchers’, as many travellers’ like to have that held for future trips, especially businessmen.

    The above is what has happened ‘normally’, but we are now NOT in normal times, & all, people & businesses’, have been thrown an absolute curve-ball of humungous proportions, due pandemic.

    There is NOTHING illegal about how airline refunds are handled, or vouchers’ offered. This is what has happened for the past FORTY-FIVE years’ I’ve been flying for my work.

    For you to suggest otherwise, is both disgraceful, & shows your ignorance.

  • Linda Weaving


    Joyce needs to learn that he does not run the state or the country. Many other businesses have suffered a lot more than his. I don’t see his job threatened. I don’t see him lining up at the dole cue. He’s sacked thousands so he can keep his million dollar salary. Joyce, if you really cared you’d forego your salary instead of sacking the little guys. It’s not like you’d end up in the poor house. Until then, stop whinging. People like you are the reason places like the USA have death tolls in the hundreds of thousands.

  • Vannus


    To Linda Weaving above……

    QANTAS CEO Alan Joyce has taken a FURTHER pay cut of 65% until 30-11-2020.
    All the other QANTAS executives’ have taken a further pay cut of 85% until 30-11-2020.

    Before you lambast someone you don’t know, check your facts’ firstly. Otherwise it makes you look a …..

  • Dominic


    Commenter Rick Parks saying ‘airlines have had current ticketing terms & conditions for too long’.
    Those ‘terms & conditions’ are set by IATA, not, repeat not, by individual airlines’.
    So if you don’t agree with them, email your complaint to IATA.
    Good luck with having them changed……….

  • Gabor


    I guess some, just like Annastacia Palaszczuk & Dr Jeannette Young the despicable, heartless and cruel, individuals who could not care about those who may be sick or are loosing their jobs and businesses.

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