Welcome to a new year, and I am sure many were very happy to bid farewell to 2021! As mentioned in my latest Noosa Today column, Christmas again was not in any way normal, nor what we would have wished for anyone. The vast complexities and impacts from decisions by governments, including opening borders at a traditionally busy time, even though vaccination percentages had been reached, created what I had forewarned would be ‘untenable situations’ in my speeches and letters to the Premier over some months, ultimately devastating our community.

At the pre-holiday Local Disaster Management Group (LDMG) meeting which Mayor Clare chairs and I as well our frontliners including police attend, the focus was to ensure needed resources were available to accommodate these decisions outside of our control. In addition, I personally contacted our testing sites to make sure we were covered, especially on weekends and public holidays which is always an issue. Extra policing resources were sought for the volume of visitors coming into our home, and potential pent-up emotions from the opening. However, none of us predicted the full extent and speed of what unfolded.

L-R: In appreciation and with gratitude for our incredible home

Whether the disgraceful youth violence on our streets, or COVID testers dropping from heatstroke leading to closures, daily we sought increased resources and alternatives. Close contact rules saw every industry lose staff, including within supply chains leading to shortages, as well a lack of Rapid Antigen tests and ever-changing health directives, all combined to create no end of hourly challenges. It was incredibly frustrating and heartbreaking to speak with those caught in long testing queues or turned away, many with small children or elderly parents who were unwell.

As one of only 2 MP’s in QLD that stood in Chamber and spoke of the impacts of heading into this period without a full complement of front line staff, as well I believe the only MP requesting the use of Rapid Antigen Tests months ago, there are many questions including where our logistics and operational specialists have been in the lead up to this.

Over the break that was definitely not a ‘break’ with added impacts from ex cyclone Seth to our north, our hearts were also very much with those who lost loved ones or had property damaged. Again, a reminder to have evacuation plans in place for your family including furry buds. Whether fire or flood, being prepared saves much, including lives when disaster strikes, often without warning.  🙏 I thank our frontliners who worked above and beyond, and residents who in the vast majority remained calm, hunkered down if symptomatic, and utilised care and common sense in getting us through.  And to our businesses, many confronted with having to close multiple times because of staff being ‘close contacts’ or testing positive as part of ‘surveillance’ yet showing no symptoms has been devastating. Without a reinstatement of support from Federal government, businesses across QLD will continue to face closures, and of concern in amongst is our aged care facilities, who are in desperate need of assistance in funding PPE and RAT’s that are essential to their operations, and to carers who continue to battle fatigue in looking after our loved ones.

In addition, gratitude to Noosa Council and their staff who took my calls at all hours! They did an incredible job in making facilities available for testing/vaccinations and facilitating advice and RATs for our businesses facing closure without them. Shortfalls in State and Federal government decisions, communications, health directions and forward planning need to be addressed, with my greatest frustration the lack of ability for MPs to impact government policy under emergency provisions as it does not allow input, debate, or a vote. Nonetheless on top of the volume of recommendations we have put forward to the Premier and Chief Health Officer (CHO), I look forward to Parliament restarting in February, as there is much, and many to give voice to. Given we have been advised we may continue to experience ‘waves’ like what we are in at this time over the next 2 years, we need solid reassurances as to the management of logistics heading into the future, as well who is making decisions and the basis for these.

From the Chamber and Beyond

Whilst we have appreciated the short reprieve from Parliamentary sittings, our focus has been very much on what needs to be investigated regarding Covid and in upcoming Bills. This includes whether or not we should support any further extending of emergency provisions given that we are moving towards COVID-19 being an endemic rather than a pandemic, as well a lack of clarity as to who is making determinations that are impacting lives so traumatically. As always links to upcoming Bills and Legislation including where they have been allocated to a Committee can be found at https://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/Work-of-the-Assembly/Bills-and-Legislation

To receive alerts regarding submission periods for upcoming  bills, you can subscribe directly from each committee at https://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/Visit-and-learn/Have-Your-Say/Subscribe  which also has guidelines on how to prepare a submission. As we use committee reports and submissions lodged when released at the conclusion of an inquiry as one avenue for researching for the debate speech and position on a Bill, submissions are vitally important for the diverse views in our community, and I encourage all to get involved, as well copy me in your submission. 👍

From the Inbox

Even though our office was closed, the inboxes did not have a holiday, and I endeavoured to answer any of urgency in amongst getting some play time with my grandies! Key issues external to Covid matters surrounded ambulance wait times and in which I have spoken about previously in Parliament as there are solutions, including expanding Noosa Hospital’s emergency department, and a system piloted previously called ‘STAR’ which I am investigating. In addition, the new SMART referral system for specialists treating public patients, and I ask if you are impacted to email me.

New batteries for my crystal ball would be extremely handy in predicting upcoming changes and when Rapid Antigen Tests will be more readily available. The Prime Minister has announced that the free tests for various concession holders should be available in pharmacies from 24 January, however, please check with your local pharmacy who may still be experiencing supply issues then. As well, a limited supply has been issued to test sites.

With many emails arriving over the break being templates, we reiterate the importance of effective advocacy and resource management, including directing queries/concerns to the appropriate level of government as we are still seeing enormous volumes that are either local or federal government realm! As well, to specify your ‘call to action’ as many contain ‘cut n pastes’ often of many pages, and it can be confusing as to what is being asked. Whilst we take forward the impacts, as well recommendations to the CHO, Premier and Ministers via calls, correspondence and Parliamentary options such as speeches and Questions on Notice, it is also vitally important that those who are making these determinations hear directly from you, and that you copy us in. We have shared these email addresses many times and ask you keep them handy! thepremier@premiers.qld.gov.au and health@ministerial.qld.gov.au and CHO_CHO@health.qld.gov.au with Ministers and Shadow Ministers available at https://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/Members/Current-Members

A reminder to stay updated! Whether your concerns or queries relate to housing, shark nets or other local State Government matters, please head to our ‘knowledge bank’ Noosa 360 at www.sandybolton.com/noosa360 and use the handy search bar to for the latest posts. If you need assistance, please contact our office. 👍

In addition, Facebook is an incredible tool, allowing us to disseminate information quickly and widely to keep residents updated, and suggest checking our regular Friday afternoon update where we summarise the week’s non urgent matters including clarifications on confusing government messaging! If you have any questions regarding a post, please contact our office directly via phone or email for assistance, as the ability to investigate and back track afterwards to respond is extremely limited through Facebook and can be lost in the hundreds of threads! 🙄

On the Homefront

L-R: Visiting our aged cared facilities

Although it feels so long ago, there were many beautiful moments in the lead up to Christmas that were treasured, especially the last remnants of being ‘mask free’. Visiting our matriachs and patriachs in our aged care facilities with Bear riding ‘shotgun’ was deeply appreciated, and their smiles, stories and outlook on life can teach us much. Many have lived through difficult periods in our history, and they give much wisdom, as well viewpoints on this pandemic that is invaluable. We long for the time when these visits can again be done without masks and other measures to ensure their safety, and I also miss their hugs 🤗

It was fantastic to join our business groups for their Christmas gatherings, which given what has now been experienced, it is particulary relevent that we took a moment to celebrate their achievments in the midst of the many difficulties we discussed. We still have a long haul  and all need to do anything possible to support our local ‘biz’ and help them survive this time and into the future so the can keep employing residents.

L-R Bear as Santa helper, The J & Santa’s Classy Helpers

Santa’s Classy Helpers again came together to give over a thousand of our children and their families experiencing hardship, a beautiful Christmas. The logistics of doing so are enormous, involving procuring, storage, trucking, unloading, unpacking, displaying and managing everything from gifts, clothing and groceries to household essentials. Our eternal respect and gratitude to all involved, including the incredible Lorraine from Noosa’s Classy Lady boutique, Tewantin Noosa Lions Club and the many volunteers. This year, put into your ‘to do’ list to support if you can, inlcuding attending the monthly gatherings of goodies 💖

Grants and Reminders

For State Government grant opportunities see the QLD Government Grant Finder or Grants Guru.

Have Your Say

For a complete list of Queensland State Government Consultations, including on the proposed Independent Environmental Agency and Reshaping QLD’s Cultural Heritage laws in Queensland, head to https://www.getinvolved.qld.gov.au/gi/

For Local or Federal Government consultations, head to respectively  https://yoursay.noosa.qld.gov.au/ and https://info.australia.gov.au/news-and-social-media/public-consultations

Office Reminders

Our office is open 9am – 4pm Monday to Friday, except during public holidays or lockdowns. Email noosa@parliament.qld.gov.au or phone us on 53193100 for assistance.If you require emergency assistance outside of office hours, please call one of the numbers listed at https://www.sandybolton.com/keycontacts/

Connect

With so much to share, stay up to date via  Noosa 360 , Facebook page updates or our monthly newsletters. Columns are in Noosa News , Noosa TodayCoolum AdvertiserForest Star, Cooroora Connect, Your Local Lifestyle and Eastern Beaches News.

And Finally….

With both Shoey and I contracting and recovering from COVID-19, we experienced as most not being able to access testing (including RATs), food and other essentials whilst isolating. Although a very unwanted experience, especially after being ‘pandemic pedantic’, it has been invaluable in guiding recent recommendations to the Premier including the need for an in-home ‘care pack’ to assist those isolating unwell and unable to leave their homes. Thankfully we had a bud who dropped off a ‘pack’ on day 5, enough to see us through until other options were available, and to confirm we were a ‘positive’. For anyone lacking their own ‘guardian angel’, please contact the Care Army on 1800173349.  The top tip from our experience? Even though most will have only minor symptoms, improving after day 3 to be out and about after 7 days in ‘iso’, we were not so lucky and did not test negative until day 14, so preparation needs to include potentially that period to avoid 2 minute noodles! Handy tips at https://www.qld.gov.au/health/conditions/health-alerts/coronavirus-covid-19/covid-ready,  as well add to your Covid kit a small sanitizer spray for public places to avoid contracting from surfaces! With Covid now firmly amongst us, as well some complacency, reminders are important. To avoid catching and spreading, please treat all spaces including homes as ‘exposure sites’ and remember buds can have without symptoms! Advice to limit risk has been plentiful, including vaccinations, boosters, masks, distancing, and sanitising. However, confusion still abounds including that being double and triple vaccinated means you won’t catch and spread. This is not correct though symptoms and viral load have reported to be less, with many displaying no symptoms, yet still be a risk to vulnerable loved ones so taking a RAT test before visiting can keep them safer. As our virologists continue to learn more about this ‘bug’ and alter course, so too must we adjust our actions as hard as this is, including not jamming health phone lines and emergency departments with minor symptoms. Even though Shoey and I gained some extra resistance from catching, we have been advised this too may wane within 30 days. In addition, now that international borders are open, the risks of new variants mean we will need to keep on our toes. You can find all Covid related information including regarding boosters at https://www.covid19.qld.gov.au/

I apologise this edition has been ‘Covid heavy’, however facts, moving beyond the ‘blame game’ that is abundant, increased focus on what we need to do versus the actions of others, and less arguing over flawed decisions instead learning from, is our pathway forward. Together we have battled this ‘bug’ with care and support for all and is how we will get to the other side. Even after being in iso with your better half? 😊 We are going to rock 2022, and I am already well into the long MP list, even if our resolutions to get fitter had a glitch to start? Happy New Year with hugs Noosa!

Sandy 🙏