Secret border documents to remain mystery until election eve
A potential blockbuster RTI application seeking the medical advice underpinning Queensland's border closures is being repeatedly delayed with documents only due to be released a day before the state election.
Flight Centre boss Graham 'Skroo' Turner, whose lawyers lodged the Right to Information application on June 9, has hit out at the delays which have forced the case to drag on for months past the legislated 25-day turnaround.
He questioned if Queensland Health was trying to hide the "official rationale" for the border closures.
"To date, the State Government has been unwilling to provide information that we thought would be readily at hand, given it has apparently been the basis for the crucial decisions that have been made," he said.
"The government needs to explain why they cannot give reasons for the border closure which have had and will continue to have devastating impacts on the Queensland economy in particular the tourist and travel industry which provide some one in four jobs in our state."
Mr Turner's Flight Centre business has been decimated by domestic and international border closures and he has previously slammed the lockdown as "pure politics".
Deputy Premier and Health Minister Steven Miles said yesterday the government had made "really tough decisions" on borders "where there wasn't necessarily an evidence base, there wasn't necessarily a right or wrong answer but we took the health advice".
Flight Centre's lawyers have been seeking documents that would reveal the heath advice relied on by Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young to justify closing the borders.
A day after the application was filed, RTI officers returned a preliminary view that the application was "too big to process" due to the "sheer volume of documents" covered.
Mr Turner's lawyers agreed to significantly reduce the scope of the request but Queensland Health has repeatedly sought extensions to the deadline for handing over documents, blowing the case out beyond five months.
The most recent delay pushed the release of documents out to October 30.
RTI officers cited the fact that retrieving documents would "take a considerable amount of time" and that the work would "substantially and unreasonably" divert the agency's resources.
They also requested a two-week extension after the person in charge of the request moved to another role and the replacement needed extra time to become familiar with the application.
A Queensland Health spokesman said the RTI application comprised a large number of documents with many requiring "consultation" with external parties.
"Fortunately, the applicant has agreed to extend the processing period and we thank them for that," he said.
He said all health directions had the purpose of "saving lives".
"We have seen other nations, and indeed our neighbouring states, fall to extreme levels of community transmission, illness and death," he said.
"Queensland has been able to avoid that because of strong, decisive measures and Queenslanders complying with these measures."
It's understood staff have been seconded from the RTI team to work on the COVID-19 response, leaving a massive workload for those remaining.
Originally published as Secret border documents to remain mystery until election eve