Speech delivered in Parliament
Mr BELL (Mount Gambier) (15:43): When the borders closed in March, my electorate was drastically affected. Mount Gambier and the seat of Mount Gambier borders the Victorian border. My electorate office received hundreds of calls from people on both sides of the border. People were worried that they could not get their kids to school, that they would not be able to see their loved ones, feed their cattle or access co-parenting arrangements, but a greater concern was medical appointments and not being able to see a medical specialist in Mount Gambier if they lived just over the border.
With South Australia's travel restrictions supposed to be easing on 20 July, that brought some certainty to our businesses and some certainty to that border community. Today, that certainty has been taken away and we do not have a date when that border or those border restrictions will be lifted.
I want to be on the record in congratulating our state on the way it has responded to the global pandemic. The State Coordinator, Grant Stevens, obviously the Premier and the Chief Public Health Officer, Nicola Spurrier, have done a very good job up to this point, but we need certainty going forward, not only for the residents in the electorate of Mount Gambier but for those who are just over the border.
So I have put forward a proposal, that is, a travel bubble that would exist 100 kilometres from the border, over into Victoria. The way that this could be managed is that those who have a postcode starting with 33 in Victoria and who sign a statutory declaration that they have not been into a COVID hotspot, such as Melbourne, would be able to travel freely to Mount Gambier to access the services that that city, our second city in South Australia, is able to offer.
This would give our businesses certainty, and it would give those who live in Victoria certainty that they can access medical appointments—people like Ian, for whom I asked a question today even though he lives just over the Victorian border, so that he can see his wife through her cancer treatment. She is being treated in Adelaide and now us uncertain whether follow-up treatment can occur in Mount Gambier tomorrow. This would be alleviated by this travel bubble.
We are talking about communities such as Casterton; we are talking about Mumbannar, Dartmoor and Nelson, small towns that are in very close proximity to the city of Mount Gambier. They are small towns that rely on the City of Mount Gambier for their services and their medical needs, and they pretty much see Mount Gambier as their community. This travel bubble, with a signed statutory declaration that you have not been into a COVID hotspot, would put the health of our communities front and centre. Those small communities have had no COVID-19 cases for near on four months, pretty much the same time period as the electorate of Mount Gambier. Health will always be our first concern, but this mechanism allows our businesses and our community some certainty moving forward.
I want to give one more example, that of Margaret Considine, who resides in Mount Gambier. She had an appointment with a respiratory specialist in Hamilton last week for a lung function test and a cardiovascular appointment in Adelaide this week. Being unable to self-isolate and quarantine for 14 days, Margaret is unable to access her appointments in Hamilton, which took many months to put together, and the cardiovascular specialists in Adelaide that she has chosen. This proposal, if it is taken seriously, would alleviate that issue. It would keep the health of our communities as the number one priority and also recognise that there have been no cases for four months and would allow businesses some certainty to rebound past COVID-19.