“This centre would draw together QIMR Berghofer’s existing strengths in infectious diseases, immunology, epidemiology and health economics,” Professor Mackay wrote.
“It would collaborate with other Queensland-based, Australian and international research institutions … and it would recruit world-class experts to ensure Queensland’s response to the next pandemic will be immediate and the solutions fast-tracked.”
Like many of the more than 40 submissions from peak bodies made to the inquiry, QIMR Berghofer’s submission praised Queensland’s rapid response and sustained efforts to flatten the curve.
The swift adoption of telehealth and national levels of government co-operation were raised as welcome outcomes of the pandemic.
The Queensland Human Rights Commission in its submission said the restrictions placed on Queenslanders to achieve the “legitimate goal of public safety” should not stay in place longer than necessary.
The commission said it had maintained a register of restrictions imposed and was monitoring the length and severity of each.
It received more than 190 inquiries and 30 complaints about COVID-19, including issues of lack of fresh air and exercise in mandatory quarantine, vilification and discrimination of people of Asian appearance, and discrimination against temporary residents.
The Commission also recommended the state government release de-identified demographic data about recipients of public health infringement notices “in order to evaluate whether particular communities are being disproportionately impacted” by enforcement.
The Queensland Council of Civil Liberties reported complaints from people in hotel quarantine, particularly around people not being allowed outside for fresh air.
The Queensland Health Ombudsman and the Queensland Ombudsman in their submissions detailed complaints lodged with each organisation, ranging from partners not being allowed to attend childbirths to visiting restrictions for aged-care facilities.
Tenants Queensland submitted its concerns about legislation changes for renters, saying the initial amendments proposed by the state government at the start of the pandemic were “genuinely aimed” at protecting tenants.
But after a sustained campaign by the real estate industry, Tenants Queensland said the legislation was “watered down” and new grounds for lessors to end tenances were introduced which were “of great concern”.
“One of the new grounds allowed for the ending of a fixed term agreement during the term. This is a first for Queensland tenancy law and significantly undermines real and perceived stability for renters,” the Tenants Queensland submission said.
“TQ is currently aware of a number of cases where it appears the new grounds are being used unscrupulously against tenants who requested rent reductions. In addition to being unfair and retrograde, TQ considers the introduction of these new grounds failed to take adequate account of the pandemic and the need to maintain people in place as far as possible.”
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners in its submission raised the issue of “harmful misinformation” spread on social media.
“In particular, advice regarding vaccinations from non-medical experts can jeopardise the health of people who read and accept this information as truth,” the RACGQ submission said.
It also flagged instances where a “lack of restraint and critical and objective reflection” in traditional media also circulated misinformation, “demonising populations and inflaming grievances against state and territory governments”.
Along with the Australian Medical Association, the college called for increased public health education about the importance of vaccination.
“We encourage the Queensland government to continue to respond swiftly to limit the distribution of misleading information, particularly around vaccinations, on all media platforms. An appropriate balance must be found between removing harmful information and ensuring people’s right to freedom of speech is maintained.”
Public hearings for the inquiry began on Monday and continue on August 10, with the parliamentary health committee set to report back no later than three months after the end of the Public Health Emergency declared by Queensland.
Lucy is the urban affairs reporter for the Brisbane Times, with a special interest in Brisbane City Council.