Annastacia Palaszczuk welled up on national television on Friday morning as she fronted the cameras for the first time since refusing to let a 26-year-old nurse attend her father’s funeral.
The Queensland premier choked back tears as she refuted allegations she was ‘cold-hearted and nasty’ for keeping grieving families apart with draconian border closures while letting Hollywood stars and AFL players into the state.
With her voice cracking, the premier said she understands people’s pain because she has lost loved ones during the coronavirus crisis.
‘I’m human just like everyone else. These issues hurt me deeply. They hurt me deeply because during this pandemic I have lost loved ones as well,’ she said.
‘I know exactly what people are going through, OK?’
Tearful: Annastacia Palaszczuk cried on national television this morning as she fronted the cameras for the first time since refusing to let a 26-year-old nurse attend her father’s funeral
Emotional: Ms Palaszczuk had tears in her eyes as she left her media conference on Friday morning
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
‘These are difficult decisions and they’re heartbreaking,’ she said.
Ms Palaszczuk did not reveal which ‘loved ones’ she has lost.
Many Queenslanders were unconvinced by the premier’s conference. Facebook user Charlie Sass called her a ‘paid actress’ and another named Nicole Smith said her ‘crocodile tears’ were too late.
The premier refused to take any responsibility for her border decisions and said Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young made the call to prevent nurse Sarah Caisip from farewelling her father with her family in Brisbane on Thursday.
Ms Caisip, who lives in coronavirus-free 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.
The young woman, who is in hotel quarantine 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.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison had asked Ms Palaszczuk to make an exception but the premier refused and accused him of ‘bullying and intimidating’ her.
‘I said to the prime minister, I would refer it to the chief health officer and I did that,’ Ms Palaszczuk said on Friday morning.
‘It’s her decision… you’ve got to take the clinical advice here.
‘We’re dealing with a health pandemic. It is absolutely tragic. It is heartbreaking.’
Up to 100 family and friends were allowed to attend the 2pm service in Mount Gravatt but instead of standing alongside them to farewell her father, Ms Caisip was only granted a private viewing of his body, surrounded by guards and forbidden from seeing her shattered mother and 11-year-old sister.
Mr Morrison, who lost his own father in January, choked back tears as he described the case as ‘heartbreaking’ in a radio interview.
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 said Ms Palaszczuk was ‘destroying my life’ and that she would never forgive her.
State Opposition leader Deb Frecklington, who also campaigned to let Ms Caisip go to the funeral, said she was ‘disgusted’ by the decision.
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 believed to be popular with most Queenslanders.
Ms Palaszczuk has come under fire for inconsistency on border rules after letting actors including Tom Hanks as well as hundreds of AFL players, WAGs and staff enter Queensland via special luxury quarantine while keeping ordinary families apart.
Hanks, who caught the virus in Australia in March, is in quarantine in a luxury Gold Coast hotel organised by the film industry after returning to Queensland from the US to continue filming Baz Lurhmann’s Elvis Presley biopic.
Mr Morrison has raised about 40 exemption requests with state and territory leaders, asking them to grant travel permission on compassionate grounds.
Queensland’s chief health officer Jeannette Young, who is in charge of granting exemptions, defended her decision and said on Thursday 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.
Sarah Caisip is pictured with her father Bernard Prendergast, 11-year-old sister Isobel Prendergast and mother Myrna Prendergast
She said Canberra is declared a hotspot because ‘it is in the middle of New South Wales, we know there are cases around them.’
Dr Young on Thursday admitted the government’s border policy was influenced by money.
‘I have given exemptions for people in entertainment and film because that is bringing a lot of money into this state,’ she said.
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.
Premier Palaszczuk cheered and wooped when Brisbane was granted the AFL final and she let hundreds of staff enter the state