A nationally consistent approach to border closures and quarantine processes is vital in allowing regional and rural communities to function, as we continue to navigate our way through the Covid-19 pandemic.
The call comes on the back of an announcement by the Queensland Government that will see exemptions for farmers and agriculture workers to cross the NSW/Queensland border.
Leader of The Nationals in the Senate Bridget McKenzie, NSW Senator Perin Davey, Member for Mallee Dr Anne Webster and Member for Nicholls Damian Drum are calling on the NSW and Victorian Governments to urgently replicate the move.
Senator McKenzie said if Queensland can introduce an exemption system, other states should be able to do the same.
“Protecting the health of the Australian community is the number one priority but because of city-centric parochialism many of our farms are at a standstill and businesses are being forced to shut without the medical evidence to justify border closures,” Senator McKenzie said.
“What has been announced in Queensland is the practical and realistic approach we have been pushing for. There now needs to be a standard approach to inbound quarantine with stringent checks, and equivalent processing systems that will give confidence as we learn to live with the virus.”
“After months of immense emotional pressure and unfair economic restrictions, Covid-19 free regional Australians need a plan.”
Senator Davey said with Victoria’s daily infection numbers easing, there is no reason for border communities to not be given exemptions to cross the border.
“It is extremely important to follow the advice of health officials, in order to keep the virus out of regional communities, but we need to make sure the rules and regulations are practical and balanced,” Senator Davey said.
“Residents in cross-border communities have borne the brunt of the border closures, livelihoods and the education of our students is suffering because of these unrealistic border permit rules.
“National Cabinet, along with the states, need to develop a common-sense national border-closure strategy.”
Federal Member for Nicholls Damian Drum has called for critical workers to undergo Covid-19 tests so they can go about their daily work.
“State health authorities need to implement an extensive testing regime to bring about greater freedom of movement for workers, by having them continually tested,” Mr Drum said.
“Thousands of workers are willing to get tested and isolate until their results come back negative, if it means they can then travel across the border to their place of employment.”
“We urgently need to create a workable solution for our residents in border communities”
Federal Member for Mallee, Anne Webster has called for national codes for Agriculture, Health and Education to be implemented without delay.
“We need national cross border codes which provide clear and consistent treatment to all Australians. The National Freight Code is proof we can achieve this. We now need an Agriculture Code, a Health Code and an Education Code but they must be expedited – two weeks from now is too far away,” Dr Webster said.
“Genuine human emergencies could be avoided if these codes were put in place, saving a lot of heartache. Until then, communities are having to suffer the consequences of unconstrained belligerence of rival State governments, with cross border permits repeatedly expiring and rules changing regularly, causing unneeded stress in peoples lives.”