Star exemption: Letter reveals who got Tom Hanks in
Queensland's chief health officer Jeannette Young wrote to the Border Force boss seeking his sign off for Hollywood star Tom Hanks and others to enter the country, from places recording hundreds of cases a day, at a time the state remained shut off from the rest of the country.
It comes as the state's peak medical body launched a vigorous defence of the under siege Dr Young, warning "online trolls" and bullies to "back off".
The State Government has been under fire for its "inconsistent" approach to its strict border restrictions, which have caused trouble for agricultural workers, and families seeking entry for funerals from COVID-19 free parts of the country.
Mr Hanks has inadvertently become central to the heated debate, having entered the country and allowed to quarantine at a resort of his choice, which Dr Young defended saying film productions were "bringing a lot of money into this state".
The Courier-Mail has seen a letter dated June 30, sent from Dr Young to Australian Border Force Commissioner Mike Outram seeking permission for Mr Hanks and 11 others to enter Australia for filming of a Baz Luhrmann Elvis biopic.
"I understand that in order for you to consider an exemption to allow these persons to enter Australia you require confirmation that Queensland supports their entry into our state to resume production," Dr Young wrote.
"I confirm that Queensland both supports and is willing to accommodate the cast and crew in Queensland."
The cast and crew were arriving from the US, UK and Italy, according to the letter.
At the time, Italy was recording up to 200 cases a day, the UK up to 800 and the US about 50,000.
The letter is dated 10 days before Queensland reopened its borders to all states, except Victoria.
It sheds new light on comments made by Deputy Premier Steven Miles on the weekend, who took aim at Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton for saying it was unacceptable Mr Hanks was let into the country, while Australians seeking entry for a funeral were turned back.
"He was saying that it was us that let Tom Hanks in, when in fact it was him and his own department that let Tom Hanks in," Mr Miles said.
Mr Dutton said the Hollywood super star would not have been let into the country without the letter of support.
"If he was coming here as a tourist, he wouldn't be approved by Border Force," he told the ABC.
"The point is that Mr Hanks should be treated no differently than somebody else coming back, and that's the basis on which we argue here.
"Somebody coming from the ACT where there have been no cases, having to go into a hotel in Brisbane for two weeks before they can see a loved one, who has a life expectancy of only one week, is an outrage and there's no comparison to make there."
Despite Dr Young writing the letter, a Queensland Health spokeswoman said exemptions for overseas arrivals was a Federal Government responsibility.
"Queensland supports and can accommodate international arrivals approved by the Federal Government - no matter who they are - as long as each of them completes 14 days of quarantine on arrival and meets any other requirements of their Federal Government exemption," she said.
Meanwhile, Australian Medical Association of Queensland president Dr Chris Perry fronted a media conference this morning alongside Mr Miles to pledge support behind the chief health officer after a wave of criticism about perceived double standards in the quarantine restrictions.
Dr Perry said they believed in the science of the CHO and said Queensland should follow her advice.
"If she says the border should stay closed, we think they should stay closed," he said.
"I know she is under stress. Queensland Health has given her more support in staff to take the pressure off."
When asked who was responsible for that stress, he replied: "mostly online trolls."
"I know the Federal Government has a different point of view about borders. We don't want to get into that.
"It has mostly been the online people, the bullying which occurs on social media these days."
The AMAQ also responded to criticism about restrictions on grieving family members of deceased Queenslanders to attend the funeral.
"We would prefer to have fewer funerals than have more people at those funerals," he said.
State Opposition leader Deb Frecklington said the Premier was using "borders as a political weapon" then hiding behind her Chief Health Officer rather than owning the decisions of her Government.
"Labor (is) trying to distract from the unfair double-standards that Queenslanders keep seeing on border exemptions.
Originally published as Star exemption: Letter reveals who got Tom Hanks in