"Border Control" Strategy questioned

Friday March 27, 2020

Published by The Border Watch

THE region’s state parliamentarians have questioned the rollout of the South Australia Government’s restrictions on interstate travel.

This week, Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell and Labor shadow minister Clare Scriven addressed their respective parliamentary chambers about the border control measures established in response to COVID-19.

On Sunday, Premier Steven Marshall announced all travellers into South Australia would be required to isolate for 14 days from their arrival, effective immediately.

He said the measure, which was recommended by Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier, would be supported by border control from Tuesday and include exemptions for “essential travel” to maintain health, the food supply chain and the state’s economic needs.

But the control measures - which have been established on Mount Gambier’s outskirts and not at the border - have been noted as “strange” by Mr Bell.

In Parliament this week, Mr Bell directed a question to Police Minister Corey Wingard asking why there was no manned station on the Princes Highway or Nelson Road at the Victorian and South Australian border.

Premier Steven Marshall responded starting it was the police commissioner’s role to establish the border stations, saying “I am not familiar with that location” and the stations were established “in a rapid pace”.

Mr Bell followed with another question directed at the Mr Wingard, asking “does the minister believe that a border checkpoint should occur at the border?”

Mr Wingard did not address the question, instead saying the border checkpoints have been put in place and it was an operational matter for police.

“I would suggest the checkpoints would have been put in place that are the most safe and secure to make sure that this can be carried out,” Mr Wingard said.

“I do stress in the point there that compliance is a very big part of that and we ask everyone to comply with these directions.

“They are very clear, they have been outlined very succinctly I think and we ask people to engage and do the right thing.”

But Mr Bell told The Border Watch the border checks “should be undertaken at the border”.

“I understand the local police are just following instructions from the Commissioner of Police, however it seems strange to me the checking station is not located at the border,” he said.

He urged community members to take the travel measures seriously and not to travel unless necessary.

Ms Scriven raised concerns about the exemption policy, which when announced involved individuals emailing the Health Department to provide reasons for crossborder travel.

South Australia Police - which is overseeing the border control - has since announced there is no application process for exemptions and no permit system, with a self-assessment process currently in place.

However, many travellers remain confused about the process.

“We have now seen advice the department is shutting down that inbox and instead that people should go to sa.gov.au,” Ms Scriven said.

“This site does have a section on COVID-19 with a list of topics, one of which is Australian border closure details.

“One follows that through on the website and instead simply gets a copy of the declaration.”

Both politicians praised SAPOL’s efforts, with Ms Scriven saying emergency service personnel were working hard in the circumstances.

“The government needs to provide clarity both to SAPOL and also to the many people who do live on one side of the border and yet go to school or work or other essential services across that border,” she said.