Border chaos has ensued after definition of “essential work” narrows and excludes teachers and childcare workers (and lawyers!).
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced tougher border control measures as a result of the statewide NSW lockdown, which was announced, fittingly, last Friday 13th August 2021. Although the Northern NSW and Tweed Shire area has not had any COVID cases recently, the statewide shutdown has triggered the Queensland Government to tighten the border controls and has effectively stopped most people living in the Tweed region from crossing the border and working in Queensland.
The border control police have been given a directive to apply the definition of “essential worker” quite literally and have only allowed people who are on the designated list of occupations to pass the border checkpoints, namely:
- a medical practitioner or other prescribed health practitioner at residential aged care facilities, disability accommodation services and aged care or NDIS supports provided at a person’s home
- emergency health services or emergency services workers
- national defence, state security or police workers
- freight or logistics operators
- emergency infrastructure workers
- air crew or maritime crew
- emergency volunteers, volunteering for any community or government welfare, social, safety, emergency or disaster service
- disaster management workers
- critical infrastructure workers
- tradesperson or construction workers for essential or emergency construction or repairs only
Significantly, the QLD Health directive states that “essential workers” does not include:
- anyone who can perform their work remotely, at home
- childcare workers
- hospitality workers
- sales representatives
- commercial construction workers on non-critical projects.
Further information in relation to the above can be accessed at this link: https://www.qld.gov.au/health/conditions/health-alerts/coronavirus-covid-19/current-status/urgent-covid-19-update
The change in the border control checkpoints and the limited people that they are being let through to Queensland has resulted in a huge public outcry from people stranded on the NSW side of the border, many of whom have been unable to travel to their usual place of employment.
This travel for work purposes was previously allowed and a much broader definition of “essential work” was being used by the Queensland Government and the police manning the border checkpoints. Obviously, the statewide COVID lockdown in NSW and the worsening of the outbreak in that state has resulted in the Queensland Government enacting these stricter border crossing measures.
Although there has been talk of shifting the border boundary to the Tweed River to enable a more orderly interaction in the border community of Coolangatta and Tweed Heads, this request from the Queensland Premier to the NSW Premier has so far been ignored.
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Attwood Marshall Lawyers and staff affected by the border restrictions
We have numerous lawyers and staff who live in the Tweed Shire and work at our Coolangatta office located in The Strand Shopping Centre on Marine Parade. The shopping centre is a stone’s throw from the border and yet our lawyers and staff are unable to cross the border to come to work. This is despite the fact that the Queensland Law Society issued a directive confirming that lawyers are “essential workers” and that our law firm would be deemed to be an “essential business”.
Our lawyers and staff were turned back at the border and told that they were not “essential workers” because they were not in the list of workers set out above.
Although some of our lawyers can work from home, legal work requires that you have a dedicated workspace for confidentiality reasons and a very good internet connection to run the practice management programs that are used in our business. We also need to see clients face to face to sign original documents when necessary, which are unable to be done electronically or by using audiovisual means (e.g. Wills and Enduring Powers of Attorney need to be signed in person with original documents and witnesses physically present). Many clients prefer to discuss their confidential legal matters face to face, particularly sensitive business and family issues.
Fortunately, Attwood Marshall Lawyers has a Kingscliff office which is located in the Kingscliff Professional Centre on the corner of Pearl and Turnock Streets in downtown Kingscliff. The border closures have forced our Tweed Shire based lawyers and staff to attend our Kingscliff office and, likewise, lawyers who live in Queensland who usually operate out of our Kingscliff office have been redirected to our Robina Town Centre and Coolangatta offices.
Although the influx of lawyers and staff at the Kingscliff office has caused some logistical issues with space and a scramble for additional computers, luckily our electronic systems and some careful planning have resulted in all of our NSW based staff being accommodated at Kingscliff.
Although we have implemented a roster system in order for our office to be COVID compliant, and having lawyers and staff working from home wherever possible during lockdown, the upside of this equation is that our Kingscliff office currently boasts partners, senior associates, lawyers and paralegals from all areas of legal practice who would not normally be available at Kingscliff.
The availability of our most experienced lawyers and staff in the Kingscliff office is a boon to all Northern NSW residents and we encourage you to contact our office if you require assistance with any legal matters.
The lockdown may well provide people with some spare time to attend to long overdue legal matters, including updating your Will and Enduring Power of Attorney.
Likewise, on the Queensland side of the border, our Robina Town Centre and Coolangatta offices remain open and fully staffed (minus a few NSW residents!) with the added advantage that Queensland has little or no restrictions in relation to travel if attending a legal office to sign documents, obtain legal advice, or provide instructions.
We are here to help you and maintain our consistent service offering
We understand that lockdowns and restrictions have a significant impact on families, businesses, and the greater community. We continue to support families who may be facing parenting issues as a result of border crossing restrictions, as well as families dealing with domestic and family violence related matters.
Our family lawyers are ready to help at any of our offices including Kingscliff, Coolangatta, Robina Town Centre and Brisbane. For all other states, we can arrange a telephone or video consultation at the earliest opportunity to assist you during this time.
The same applies for our lawyers across every area of law. We are ready to help you if you need assistance with estate planning, estate administration, estate litigation, personal injury and compensation, commercial litigation and dispute resolution, and property and business matters.
We are here to support you in any way that we can and will maintain our consistent service offering so that your legal matters can continue to be a top priority. To arrange a face-to-face appointment or telephone or video consultation, please don’t hesitate to call our 24/7 phone line on 1800 621 071 or email email@example.com. Alternatively, you can book online now using our online booking app (click here!)
QLD Business Support Grants Update: $5K+ grant applications now open and new support packages available for QLD businesses impacted by COVID-19