Border lines blurred

Friday August 21, 2020

Published by The Border Watch

By Raquel Mustillo

MPs band together to drive cross-border collaboration

A COALITION of independent, Liberal and National Party members have joined forces to urge the South Australian and Victorian Police Commissioners to establish a collaborative policing approach to cross-border management.

In a letter addressed to both South Australia Police Commissioner Grant Stevens and Victorian Police Commissioner Shane Patton, eight State and Federal Government Members have called for stronger cooperation between the two jurisdictions.

The letter, viewed by The Border Watch, has been signed by South Australian MPs Nick McBride and Adrian Pederick, Federal Member for Barker Tony Pasin, Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell, Victorian Nationals Party representatives Ali Cupper and Dr Anne Webster and South West Coast MP Roma Britnell.

Former Primary Industries and Regional Development Minister Tim Whetstone’s name appears on a draft version of the document, but has been removed from the final version.

“Keeping our communities safe from the impacts of the COVID-19 virus is a priority for all of us, as is ensuring the welfare and sustainability of our deeply entwined cross-border communities,” the letter states.

“While we acknowledge that each state jurisdiction is governed by its own emergency legislation, we believe a collaborative approach could result in an enhanced emergency response that delivers risk-based management of the health crisis at our state borders.

“We believe such an approach could deliver nuanced controls and better outcomes for our cross-border communities which protects their health, wellbeing, education and economic outcomes.”

As of today, Victorians living within a 40km radius of the border will have to apply for pre-approval to enter South Australia under the essential traveller requirements.

Individuals will need to complete the online pre-approval form at least 72 hours before their proposed arrival to Australia under the existing essential traveller rules.

Independent MP Troy Bell said the strict new rules had resulted in many regional cross-border community members unable to access education, work, school and accessing basic necessities.

He said the letter aimed to provide both the South Australian and Victorian governments “with an understanding of what regional areas and border communities are facing as a result of the decision”.

“It is unprecedented the stress and anxiety this is causing people and nobody can highlight the current system is not working,” he said.

“We have had no COVID-19 cases in South Australia as a result of crossborder communities.

“All we are doing is making people’s lives a lot harder and a lot more stressful with no evidence.”

Mr Bell said he had sought a response why the current system was unable to continue and had been advised South Australian Police did not have the ability to monitor Victorian cross-border community movements.

“For example, someone from Melbourne could come to Nelson and infect people in Nelson and those people from Nelson who have a cross-border exemption could come in Mount Gambier,” he said.

“I understand the theory, but it is not a working practically.

“It is disappointing the Victorian and South Australian authorities are not working together and that is what this letter calls for.”

Member for MacKillop Nick McBride said a collaborative approach would deliver better outcomes for cross-border community members and their health and well being, education and economic outcomes.

“I recognise how difficult and challenging this tightening of the border is proving for members of our cross-border community,” he said.

“I have been working hard to try and help people understand the changes, which I know will have a significant impact on some businesses and members of the community.

“I understand the pressure these changes are putting on people’s mental health and I urge those who are feeling the strain to seek support.

“I am still hopeful that if numbers continue to decline in regional Victoria, these strict border controls can be lifted.”