Are we one country?

By Geoff Adams

A crisis will bring shortcomings into hyper focus, as the care of our elderly has done with the advent of COVID-19.

The extra pressure created by the virus has pushed the management of supported accommodation over the edge, bringing to light weaknesses in staffing, training and disease management.

Likewise, the same virus has shone a light on the way state governments manage our borders.

Yet this is not news to people who live in communities along the NSW and Victorian border.

For decades border communities have struggled with crazy inconsistencies across states; rules and regulations which conflict, often for no reason other than historical anomalies.

Tradesmen required to work differently if they are in Cobram or Barooga, transport operators working across Albury-Wodonga, drivers coping with different rules depending on whether they are driving in Yarrawonga or Mulwala.

The residents and businesses have developed naturally across the borders, as we are supposed to be one country, with a free flow of trade and traffic across the Murray River. The river is actually the centre of a basin, not a border.

The creation of different rules for different states during the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted these difficulties and also demonstrated how impractical many of the rules are.

Like it or not, our state leaders have to behave as if we are one country with regional variations, not separate territories divided by a magical line along the Murray River.

While someone seated in Sydney or Melbourne might think it novel to create arbitrary rules over interstate travel, they are ignoring the fact that our industries, particularly agriculture, are inextricably linked because we are one country.

Requiring interstate professionals like veterinarians to first go to Sydney or to isolate for two weeks, when they simply need to attend one farm just 100 km away, or sending sheep by plane from one state to another, are just two small examples of how impractical the new rules are.

There will be many more ridiculous examples of bureaucratic blunders, as Victorians and NSWpeople try to implement the rules.

If the government departments don't understand or can't consult, then our state political leaders should be taking advice from rural MPs.

In the absence of logic, it appears that decisions about controlling interstate contact is driven more by political ideology than concern for public health.

Who is going to bang their heads together on this one?