Nationals campaign for border changes

By Geoff Adams

National Party MPs for the New South Wales-Victoria border region have slammed the "ridiculous" border restrictions which are interfering with farmers trying to conduct their food production.

Federal Member for Nicholls Damian Drum accused state leaders of putting political point scoring ahead of practical outcomes for border communities.

“I suggest they care about this for the wrong reasons; for their own political gain,” Mr Drum said.

“They want to stand in front of the cameras and say, they have kept the virus out of our state.”

Mr Drum said it was reasonable to have some restrictions which would both protect the population and allow rural communities to function.

“But you can't have a blanket approach to this problem. There needs to be a targeted approach,” Mr Drum said.

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.

Federal leader of The Nationals in the Senate Bridget McKenzie, NSW Senator Perin Davey, and Member for Mallee Anne Webster joined Mr Drum in calling on the NSW and Victorian governments to urgently replicate the move.

Senator McKenzie said if Queensland could 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.”

Mr Drum has called for critical workers to undergo COVID-19 tests so they could 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.