Australia border restrictions: 'Screw Queensland' - why we shouldn't boycott other states

Screw Queensland.

That was my first reaction. A visceral one, and not exactly well thought out. But still, honest.

Screw Queensland. They don't want me – I don't want them. When Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced last Friday that the expected opening of her state's border with NSW wasn't going to include Sydneysiders, my initial reaction was to cancel any mental plans I had to visit north of the border any time soon.

They want to play politics? I'll play politics. No visits to Queensland.

I was already frustrated enough with state border closures, and with the state governments enacting those closures, as so many people in Australia must be right now. For me, there are personal reasons: I haven't seen my parents in six months; they've never met their grandson. They live in the Gold Coast. I live in Sydney.

But it's more than that. I'm frustrated because I know there are so many others in the same situation, so many families held apart and relationships broken. I'm frustrated, too, that the tourism industry – not my industry but one I'm very close to, and a vitally important one to Australia – is being decimated right now, losing as much as $6 million a day, and no one seems too concerned.

Last Friday was going to be the big break, when things would change. Except, they didn't. Sydneysiders are still locked out of Queensland, until at least December. Families are still separated. Holidays are trashed. Bookings are cancelled. Confidence is rock-bottom.

And for what? This might sound like I'm ignoring the COVID-19 pandemic, or that I'm trying to sacrifice lives for the sake of a family reunion, but that's not even close to true. Right now, South Australia thinks it's perfectly fine for Sydneysiders to come in. The Northern Territory thinks it's OK. Tasmania will open from Friday. But Queensland and Western Australia? No chance.

It's tempting to turn your back on places like this. I know for a fact there are plenty of Victorians planning to turn their backs on the whole country. They feel let down, like they've been sacrificed in their darkest hour, like no one cares. So they'll stop caring about the rest of us.

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Sydneysiders, too, could be excused for mentally flipping a few states the bird and concentrating any future holiday plans on places that aren't locking us out for political expediency.

To anyone thinking this way, however, I would say: don't do it. Don't boycott your own country. Don't boycott your friends.

Strange as it might seem, now really is the time we should be planning to travel around the country, as far afield as we're allowed, when we're allowed. Cross state borders. See old friends. Enjoy whatever it is you don't have where you live.

Boycotting a state is the same as boycotting a foreign country: it hurts the wrong people.

When you boycott a state you don't punish the government, you punish the citizens. In this case, you punish everyone in the tourism industry, the tour guides, the hotel operators, the café owners, the drivers, the cleaners, and so many more. By thinking "screw Queensland", you don't strike a blow against mindless parochialism, you strike a blow against good people who are being punished by the border closures just as much as you are.

This is also an important time to get around Australia to reacquaint yourself with the place, in particular to reacquaint yourself with the knowledge that we're all the same here on this big island. There are no state identities here, people don't act a certain way or think a certain thing just because of which side of an invisible line they were born on. We're all just Australians.

That, for me, has been one of the saddest knock-on effects of the COVID-19 pandemic: the parochialism that has reared its head in Australia, the state-based insularity that has suddenly appeared. All of these people trashing Victorians or Queenslanders, or New South Welshmen or whoever. Those flames have been fanned by cynical politicians with elections to win, with more fuel poured on due to enforced isolation and basic fear, and it's been successful. That's concerning.

I don't want to end up like the US, a country with red states and blue states, with defined state-based identities and genuine rivalries. I don't want to be like any country where groups of people hold animosity towards each other just because of the area in which they grew up. I don't want people to answer "I'm Victorian" when foreigners ask where they're from. That's not Australia, and it never should be.

So, try to ignore the politics and the social-media sniping. Try to read news that Queensland doesn't even plan to review its closure to greater Sydney until December and stay calm, stay rational, understand that Queenslanders are battling just the same as everyone else is battling, and that these are decent people deserving of your tourist dollar when you're eventually allowed to spend it there.

It may not have seemed this way for the last six months, but we Australians are all in this together. And the sooner we can get out and see each other, the sooner we'll all remember that.

Are you frustrated with Australia's continuing state border closures? Is it time to open up, or do Queensland and WA have the right idea? Are you planning to boycott any parts of Australia?

See also: Forget the Big Banana: Australia's 10 truly enormous attractions

See also: What it's really like to travel in the home of Borat

Email: b.groundwater@traveller.com.au

Instagram: instagram.com/bengroundwater

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