Border responsibility needs to be accepted

By Geoff Adams

Farmers must be shaking their heads in disbelief at the pontificating by NSW ministers over the border closure.

This week we were treated to the bizarre spectacle of coalition ministers declaring their belief in easing restrictions so agricultural workers could move between Victoria and NSW, which has come about because of their own government's decisions.

It's an old political trick.

When your constituents complain, nod your head, tell them of course you agree with them, while knowing that your own government is doing the opposite.

This is what two NSW ministers said last week, and remember that NSW is the state that has shut down the border:

“Our farmers are suffering because the current cumbersome permit system restricts the free movement of agricultural workers across the NSW/Victoria border, beyond 100 km.”

“While we have been able to introduce a new permit which has allowed more primary producers to access exemptions, the time has definitely come to remove these restrictions altogether.”

It was a joint press release, widely circulated and reported. The problem is, the two ministers belong to a government that has caused the problem, and has the power to resolve it.

NSW's initial objective is clear and understandable. The state wants to protect its population from the threat of infection from Victoria.

But we live and work in a complex society which spreads across historical boundaries and with little reference to state boundaries. We are one country, as the constitution and federalism has dictated.

Now the states, driven by political pressure, want to turn back time and put up the shutters.

It's understandable but impractical.

And the decisions need to be informed by the facts.

Across a large part of the NSW boundaries, there are municipalities with no current infections. Swan Hill, none. Mildura, none. Gannawarra, none. Wodonga, none.

For most of the rest, the infection rate is declining or close to zero. Probably better than the clusters in some Sydney municipalities.

The NSW Government has failed to implement workable restrictions on the border, and now it is failing to accept responsibility for making those decisions.

It looks like we need the Federal Government to bang the collective ministers’ heads together to get some common sense.

And the National Party, if indeed it is national, needs to accept some responsibility for the mess we are in.

The Victorian party members need to lobby harder to get their NSW counterparts to work on some sensible restrictions that will allow farmers to bring in their harvest, deliver their crops and complete the wool clip.