Police have been deployed outside of Jeannette Young’s house after the Queensland chief health officer received death threats from members of the public over her COVID-19 border-protection measures.
The treatment of the top bureaucrat has been far more severe than that of her counterparts in Western Australia and Tasmania, despite those jurisdictions having similar rules in place.
Australian Medical Association Queensland president Chris Perry on Monday told Today that Young has “a couple of police outside her house who go with her everywhere”, describing the situation as “toxic”.
He noted that she has been working long hours during the pandemic.
“She has had to have extra help with sorting through the applications for quarantine exemption. She was getting over 100 per day and she was trying to deal with it herself,” he said.
“It has been quite stressful and it hasn’t been helped by cowardly people threatening to take the life of a woman.”
Young told reporters that while the attacks had taken an “enormous toll” on her, she felt safer since receiving police assistance.
“The support has made me feel much, much safer in doing what I need to do,” she said.
“Of course it’s tough, but this is tough for an enormous number of people.”
Young said the support of the Queensland government has also made her “feel much safer” to do her job.
The CHO has faced repeated criticism from the federal government over the state’s strict border control measures, including from Prime Minister Scott Morrison and home affairs minister Peter Dutton.
Young began receiving death threats after she denied a Canberra woman an exemption to leave hotel quarantine in order to attend her father’s funeral last week.
One of the man’s daughters has since accused Morrison of using her family’s hardship to advance his “political agenda”.
Young said the decisions she has made have been based “purely on the health outcomes that we need to see”.
“Every single day I think through all of the decisions that need to be made, and unfortunately there’s no rule book,” she said.
“We’re still learning every single day about this virus, and responding with the processes we put in place.”
The treatment of Young comes in stark contrast to that of her Victorian counterpart Brett Sutton.
Since he began fronting press conferences at the start of the pandemic, the top bureaucrat has gained thousands of fans online, who have described him as “CHOttie”, among other things. The Brett Sutton is HOT Facebook page, for example, has more than 12,000 likes.
On Monday, after the state recorded no new COVID-19 cases for the second day in a row, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk defended Young, pointing out that the CHOs in WA and Tasmania have not been attacked over their border measures.
“For some reason, Queensland seems to be singled out when Tasmania and Western Australia have similar restrictions,” she said.
“I think it is not right that a public servant of her high standing — and she is regarded as one of the best in the nation — be attacked for giving her clear advice.”
Young is the longest-serving CHO in Australia, having been the state’s top health bureaucrat for 15 years.