A top Australian epidemiologist says the parents and children of a terminally ill Queensland father would pose “little risk” by crossing the border to say their goodbyes.

Key points:

  • An epidemiologist says a balance between compassion and community safety needs to be struck
  • Father Bruce Langborne says he was told his family was being “selfish” for trying to visit his terminally ill son in Queensland
  • Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says opening the borders could have resulted in a situation “like Victoria”

The Port Macquarie and Sydney-based family of Mark Keans, a father of four, have been unable to visit the 39-year-old Brisbane-based cancer patient due to the Queensland Government’s strict border restrictions.

University of New South Wales professor Mary-Louise McLaws said there needed to be a balance between safety and compassion.

“This family, particularly those from Port Macquarie, pose little risk,” she said.

Epidemiologist Professor Mary-Louise McLaws from the University of New South Wales is calling national guidelines to better support families of palliative care patients.(Supplied: UNSW)

Dr McLaws said state governments could negotiate strict measures – including testing, quarantine and the donning of face masks or shields – to ensure families could visit seriously ill loved ones.

“Families aren’t asking to go across the border to have a holiday,” she said.

“They are asking to see their family through a difficult time.

Dr McLaws said it was frustrating that the Federal Government had not stepped in to strike a better balance.

“It’s disappointing because Australians and the Australian Government have a reputation of being caring,” she said.

“There is no reason why they cannot factor in a compassionate component to keeping the majority safe, and have a national approach.”

Queensland resident Mark Keans and his four children, who live in Sydney.(Supplied: Bruce Langborne)

Dad accused of being ‘selfish’

Mid North Coast father Bruce Langborne said Queensland Health told him he was being “selfish” for trying to organise a cross-border family visit for his terminally ill son in Queensland.

Mr Langborne said his son, Mr Keans was undergoing chemotherapy in Brisbane for small-cell cancer in the lungs, back, brain and blood.

He said it was important his four grandchildren, aged between eight and 13, be allowed to travel from Sydney to Brisbane to see their dying father before it was too late.

“They’ve told him he probably won’t survive by Christmas,” Mr Langborne said.

“As much as we want to see him … the main purpose is to try and get his kids up to see him, and get them to see him before he gets bedridden and full of morphine and doesn’t understand what’s happening.

Mr Langborne, who lives in Port Macquarie, said there were 11 family members, including children, parents and siblings, who were applying for an exemption with Queensland Health to cross the border from NSW.

But he said they were “getting nowhere”.

“We were told, one, we had too many people,” Mr Langborne said.

“Two, the children wouldn’t be allowed.

“We wouldn’t be allowed to drive there, we would have to fly and we probably wouldn’t get out of the airport, we would get sent back home.

A Queensland Health spokesperson said they “understood and sympathised” with the challenges the family faced.

But they said the health directions were designed to protect Queenslanders from COVID-19.

“We are in the midst of a global pandemic and we need to protect our communities, especially the most vulnerable members of the community,” the spokesperson said.

Deb Frecklington (left) has been heavily critical on Annastacia Palaszczuk’s uncompromising stance on border restrictions.(ABC News)

‘Loopy politics’

Queensland Opposition leader Deb Frecklington said the family might have had more luck if they were AFL players or celebrities.

“If the Premier of Queensland thinks it’s OK for celebrities and superstars and AFL people to come into the state, then it’s got to be OK for some people who just want to see a dying relative,” she said.

Ms Frecklington raised the case in parliament yesterday and said the border restrictions lacked consistency, compassion and common sense.

In response, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said if her Government had listened on the 64 occasions the Opposition had asked for the borders to be opened the state may have been “in the situation of Victoria”.

“The leader of the Opposition called for the borders to be opened,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

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The Queensland Premier said she would not be bullied by the Prime Minister over border restrictions

When asked about the family’s situation, NSW Health Minister, Brad Hazzard, described the Queensland Government’s border restrictions as “loopy politics”.

Mr Hazzard promised to discuss the case with his Queensland counterpart immediately, but said he was appalled by the situation in general.

“I can only express my anger, my supreme anger at the Queensland Premier’s decision,” he said.

“In my view … [it’s] nothing more than base, loopy politics.”

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