It has been a tough few years for agricultural shows. Most shows were cancelled in 2020, a few were able to open last year, but the Brisbane EKKA got unlucky and was cancelled for 2 years running.
The Federal Government has helped support shows, showmen and show-women. We have provided over $400,000 in assistance to shows from Yeppoon to Barcaldine, and from Mount Larcom to Alpha. And over $90 million has been provided in assistance around the country.
All of this may have been for moot though as the State Government imposes inexplicable vaccine mandate requirements on agricultural shows.
As Brianna Hockey, a Queensland Ag Shows Delegate, says "in the Queensland Health directive Shows and Show societies are specifically targeted."
The restrictions do not make sense given that markets and fairs have been running safely for months throughout Queensland without any vaccine requirements. Coronavirus does not spread through showbags.
As Colin Boyce, the Member for Callide, has said: "The latest directive is full of inconsistencies, anomalies, grey areas and confusion, and Queensland Health are unable to provide any written clarification to questions asked by the show societies."
In fact, the Queensland Chamber of Agricultural Societies have not been consulted on the laws affecting shows.
According to Ms Hockey a quarter of Queensland's agricultural shows have been delayed or cancelled due to the vaccine mandates. This latest Queensland Government COVID mandate is literally a show stopper.
This is a major blow for Queensland’s regional economies. Agricultural shows and field days contribute more than $1 billion to the economy annually. They attract more than 6 million patrons and are supported by more than 50,000 volunteers.
But even more businesses are hurting from these ineffective and cruel vaccine mandates. Multiple publicans that I have spoken to have reported huge falls in turnover, up to 50 per cent down for some. Even though less than 10 per cent of Queenslanders are unvaccinated, the issue is that people like to go the pub in groups. So if 1 or 2 people in a group are unvaccinated then the whole group won't go to the pub. Instead they will just meet at a home where no vaccine mandates apply. This is just another inconsistency.
These mandates are doing almost nothing to stop the spread of coronavirus. We have record numbers of cases despite the mandates. And other places like New South Wales and the ACT, without mandates, are not having materially worse outbreaks than here.
The vaccine has helped reduce fatalities, especially for older people, but we have known for some time that the vaccines do not stop the spread of coronavirus. So the mandates do not stop transmission but they do cause massive heartache for people who lose their jobs and livelihoods. The mandates are also exacerbating staff shortages in our schools and hospitals.
I have met many people in these circumstances over the past few months. Their stories are heartbreaking and the pain we are inflicting is unnecessary.
I thank all of those who have come out to peacefully protest against these laws. We saw the biggest protests in Canberra for decades over vaccine mandates and the event was overwhelming peaceful. Just 3 of tens of thousands were arrested. You probably would get more arrests at a cricket game.
This week the United Kingdom has ended all mandates including those in hospitals and they realise that life has to move on from coronavirus. I am confident these mandates will end but the sooner they end the less unnecessary pain we will inflict.