Police COVID blitz could see Wallumbilla pub close

Police COVID fines for pubs at Roma, Injune, Wallumbilla called unjust

Coronavirus
Injune publican Tony Harris says he is very reluctant to pay the $6672 fine, describing the hotel industry as being victimised.

Injune publican Tony Harris says he is very reluctant to pay the $6672 fine, describing the hotel industry as being victimised.

Aa

Wallumbilla could lose its only hotel following a weekend Queensland Police operation that slapped its owner with a $6672 fine for breaches of the Public Health Act.

Aa

Wallumbilla could lose its only hotel following a weekend Queensland Police operation that slapped its owner with a $6672 fine for breaches of the Public Health Act.

The compliance operation conducted in conjunction with the Office of Liquor and Gaming to ensure premises were complying with their obligations saw similar fines handed out to the Royal on Ninety-Nine at Roma and the Injune Hotel.

The Hotel Richards at Mitchell reported a visit from four plain clothes officers on Sunday but were given an all-clear.

According to the owner of the Federal Hotel, Samantha Senescall, the size of the fine is likely to bankrupt her, after trading through seven years of drought and staying open for local people through the COVID-19 lockdown.

To continue operating, she arranged a sizeable loan with her mother to pay for ongoing bills such as electricity and rates, and has drawn on her personal superannuation.

"I've got a contract with the council for rooms but that only gets paid at the end of the month," she said.

"Six thousand dollars is more than I take in a week, after so many years of drought.

"I can't see how I can stay open now - this is just the last straw."

She said she was contemplating fighting the fine, considering the lack of any similar fines for people taking part in recent protests in Brisbane, while Injune publican Tony Harris said he was also reluctant to pay, describing hotels as being victimised.

"I admit I didn't get the register signed but all these rules are being done with bigger clubs in mind," he said.

"You don't have to register to shop at Woolies and there's no social distancing there.

"It's my intention to work with the Queensland Hotels Association on this - $6600 is just not fair."

Katter calls for fines to be overturned

Katter's Australian Party leader Robbie Katter called for the Police Minister to intervene and overturn the fines in the interest of community fairness and decency.

Mr Katter said it was beyond outrageous that the Palaszczuk government was presiding over a system that hit outback businesses in the hip-pocket, but gave a free pass to 30,000-plus people attending a single protest in downtown Brisbane.

"Rural, regional and remote Queensland have been among the hardest hit locations economically during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite many areas not recording a single positive case of the virus," he said.

"We have been saying all along that it is nonsensical for the outback to be persecuted under the same rules as the city, and now we are seeing this unfairness in reverse.

"The bush has been grossly and unfairly targeted - what are they trying to achieve here?"

According to Queensland Police, 25 checks of licensed premises in the area were conducted, with most businesses only having minor issues which were rectified after guidance was provided.

"Infringements were issued where there were repeated breaches and a failure to comply with the guidance," a spokesman said.

Police Minister Mark Ryan rejected Mr Katter's call, saying it was completely inappropriate for politicians to interfere in the operational decisions made by police.

He said the action was about protecting Queenslanders.

"During the operation it was identified some businesses were failing to restrict patron numbers appropriately, implement social distancing measures, appropriately maintain guest registries and restrict people from gathering around bars," he said.

"In one instance, officers observed more than 200 patrons moving freely inside the premises.

"While police will continue to educate business owners, officers will take enforcement action, such as on the spot infringements of $6672, against those who blatantly disregard public health directions."

Aa

From the front page

Sponsored by