Senator calls for pub fines to be waived

Police Minister should apologise to publicans and police, Susan McDonald says

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Queensland Senator Susan McDonald has joined those calling for the fines against three south western hotels that breached the Public Health Act to be waived.

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Senator Susan McDonald (centre), pictured with fellow Senators James McGrath and Matt Canavan plus locals from Toobeah and Goondiwindi at the Toobeah Hotel prior to social distancing restrictions, has added her voice to those opposing the weekend fines handed out to country pubs. Picture supplied.

Senator Susan McDonald (centre), pictured with fellow Senators James McGrath and Matt Canavan plus locals from Toobeah and Goondiwindi at the Toobeah Hotel prior to social distancing restrictions, has added her voice to those opposing the weekend fines handed out to country pubs. Picture supplied.

Queensland Senator Susan McDonald has joined those calling for the fines against three south western hotels that breached the Public Health Act to be waived.

As well as asking state Police Minister Mark Ryan to immediately waive the $6672 fines for the publicans at the Federal Hotel, Wallumbilla, Royal on Ninety-Nine at Roma, and the Injune Hotel, she said he should apologise, not just to the publicans but also to the police officers who have had to endure a public relations nightmare under his watch.

She said that among the state government's pantheon of public relations failures, this one had to be among the worst.

"There is something wrong with a government using COVID-19 restrictions to send undercover police to crack down on country pubs while turning a blind eye to an anti-police protest in Brisbane," she said.

"Not only were the Brisbane protests anti-police, they were in flagrant breach of virus protocols Annastacia Palaszczuk insisted were there for our own protection.

"How insulted must police have felt to be abandoned by a state government who didn't see a problem allowing thousands of people to breach restrictions so they could scream how racist our officers supposedly are?

"Then just to really torpedo the image of police, they send the Flying Squad out west - where there are zero COVID cases - to throw the book at struggling pubs hoping to survive the COVID crisis."

Members of the public from as far away as Melbourne have rung Wallumbilla publican Samantha Senescall after hearing that the size of the fine may force her to close the town's only hotel, to offer their support.

"A solicitor rang offering free legal advice on what to do, and caravanners that saw the article stopped in especially to get takeaway lunches to support me," she said.

A Toowoomba man Cody Gibson has organised a GoFundMe page to assist Ms Senescall to pay her fine, saying that anyone who had been to the hotel would know how tough it had been of late.

"Please show you true Aussie culture and help out the struggling others who are just trying keep a roof over their head. Every little bit helps," he said.

Ms Senescall said she didn't know Mr Gibson but she wanted to find the time to ring and thank him.

"I'm still to decide whether I'll fight the fine - I just need a couple of days to breathe," she said. "But so many people have contacted me with nice comments."

When Katter's Australian Party leader Robbie Katter called on Police Minister Mark Ryan to intervene and overturn the fines in the interest of community fairness and decency, Mr Ryan responded that it was completely inappropriate for politicians to interfere in the operational decisions made by police.

Ms McDonald said the state government's priorities were all wrong and it should be held to account.

"Under Labor, police are allowed to be openly mocked in Brisbane, and country publicans are treated like criminals," she said. "This situation is beyond parody: there is one rule for Brisbane-based activists, and another for people in the west desperately trying to save their livelihoods."

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