Nationals Senate Leader and Senator for Victoria Bridget McKenzie says state government border closures are impacting food production and need to be addressed in days not weeks.
“On behalf of regional communities, I call on Liberal and Labor Premiers to intervene. To work with both their state Agriculture Ministers and their Health Ministers to ensure that our farmers and their workforce can continue to produce food.
“Agricultural Ministers met two weeks ago and agreed on the need to ensure this critical industry is recognised in state border closures. And yet the opposite is occurring.
“Border closures and their impact on regional Australians and our industries must become a focus of the next National cabinet meeting.
“Our communities are at breaking point financially as harvest is threatened, and crops are ready. It is critical this is addressed in days not weeks, given significant animal welfare concerns as well.”
Recent changes are stopping Victorian-based farmers from visiting land they own on the NSW side, leading to production and animal welfare problems.
- Cows calving and soon spring lambing with farmers currently unable to check on their welfare.
- Uncertainty on how and if contractors will be able to travel through for the grain harvest as well as silage and hay production, and shearing.
- Inability to access land for crop care such as spraying and other maintenance.
- Some in the dairy industry needing to access AI technicians as part of their breeding program.
- Concern some dairy farmers cannot access cows in need of milking.
- Employees outside the border zone unable to attend work.
“These are key production stages in agriculture which cannot ‘wait’ for restrictions to be lifted – the implications would be dire especially for our farmers already recovering from drought, the bushfires, and now COVID,” Senator McKenzie said.
“The current health directive from NSW that requires entering via Sydney airport and quarantining is also nonsensical, for local primary producers.
“As one farmer explained: ‘Our beef cattle business spans both Victoria and NSW and it’s just not feasible to fly our vehicles, horses, floats, trailers, dogs, swags, camping gear etc and our people through Sydney airport. We camp out when away from home doing cattle work and pretty much automatically self-quarantine ourselves’.”
“This dire situation is replicated for hundreds of regional communities across the country as state Premiers close borders and damage capacity for food production with their city centric approach.
“It is time for common sense leadership and action, not irrational city-centric policy responses, because we actually are all in this together.”