As I write, the government is in talks with Uefa and Fifa to exempt 2500 VIPs and officials from the need to quarantine when they travel to Britain for the final of the Euros on 11 July. Uefa has threatened to take the final away from London and hold it in Budapest instead unless it wins an exemption. Will the government resist the demands of football’s great and good in favour of maintaining the integrity of a traffic light system for overseas travel which it insists is essential to prevent the importation of new variants of Covid? Like hell it will. You can bet the Prime Minister’s desire to be up there in Wembley’s royal box on 11 July rubbing shoulders with other leaders will trump any fear of new variants and any intent to apply consistent rules.
But on Friday, June 11, that same gleeful vision of concertgoers enjoying themselves – in a corner of the nation devoid of Covid-19 infections – had been used as evidence to enforce the sudden closure of an award-winning southeast Queensland music venue at the behest of the state.
In effect, the NightQuarter saga is a flashpoint for an industry under siege that has done its best to abide by the ever-shifting playbook of state health bureaucrats, whose powers have grown dramatically during the pandemic.
The public health directive, seen by The Weekend Australian, stated that the Sunshine Coast Public Health Unit had received complaints from members of the public and the Queensland Police Service stemming from concerts headlined by Perth band Spacey Jane on June 4 and 5.
The document alleged that the NightQuarter venue operators had breached the Public Health Act on four occasions, citing instances of “failure to ensure patrons were seated in their assigned seats” and “operating a dance area with an occupant density of greater than one person per two square metres”.
But spot the hypocrisy.
Those working in the Australian live music industry have watched on in horror, wondering whether their venue or their sold-out concerts might be next to feel the blowtorch.
What’s most galling to those who work in the live performance sector, though, is that major sports events continue to proceed, week after week, with minimal restrictions.
Just days after the Spacey Jane concerts at NightQuarter on June 4 and 5, where Public Health Act breaches are alleged to have occurred, the Queensland government reportedly had paid $8m to ensure the year’s first State of Origin rugby league match was held in Townsville.
At Queensland Country Bank Stadium on June 9, football fans flocked to fill the stadium’s existing 25,000 seats, while an additional temporary grandstand effectively increased its venue capacity beyond 100 per cent.
There does appear to be some hope.
Rather than keeping mum, Mr Van der Woude and Ms Christoe chose to hit back hard by energising their networks in politics and the media within hours of being handed the document by health officials.
The public blowback was so fierce and swift that state health officials had approved a modified version of the venue’s Covid-Safe plan by Wednesday evening.
Don’t get mad – get even. Tell your elected representatives that you are unhappy.