Story by Lechelle Earl.
An elected State Labor Government would appoint a Cross Border Commissioner, to be based in Mount Gambier, it was revealed on Sunday.
Labor Leader Peter Malinauskas made the announcement during his Shadow Cabinet’s meeting in Mount Gambier.
Mr Malinauskas said the Cross Border Commissioner would have a remit to advocate for South Australian residents and establish close working relationships with the Victorian and New South Wales Cross Border Commissioners.
“Labor will provide $2m over four years to create the long-advocated for position, streamlining processes for border communities and reducing red tape for both residents and businesses,” he said.
“Mount Gambier is in a unique position as the state’s second largest city that is as close to Melbourne by road as it is to Adelaide.
“Many residents in the city and broader region work, live and travel across both South Australia and Victoria,” Labor leader Peter Malinauskas said.
The Labor leader also said both New South Wales and Victoria had a Cross Border Commissioner, who worked closely with local, state and federal levels of government to identify, analyse and resolve issues.
“The commissioner will aim to achieve equitable outcomes between border and non-border communities, across a range of border-related issues,” he said.
“This is policy that just makes sense.
“Border communities live so close to each other they are often crossing the border for medical appointments, business, work, or to visit relatives.
“Ongoing border closures and differing rules between states makes it pertinent those in South Australian border communities have an advocate and with the authority to negotiate on their behalf.
Regional Development Shadow Minister Clare Scriven – from Port MacDonnell – welcomed the announcement.
“I have been contacted hundreds of times in the past 20 months from residents, local businesses and workers who had nowhere to turn during ongoing border closures,” she said.
“I welcome this announcement; it will have an incredibly positive impact on our communities and allow for common sense to prevail during border negotiations.”
The announcement was also welcomed by Independent Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell, who has been calling for the role since 2017.
“The role should absolutely be based in Mount Gambier as laid out in my Future Mount Gambier plan, as the largest regional city closest to the border,” he said.
“Although a cross border commissioner would have been crucial during the last 20 months, I also see the role as playing an important step in South Australia’s post-pandemic recovery.
“The entire Limestone Coast region and in particular the city of Mount Gambier would benefit from a greater level of cooperation between the states of Victoria and South Australia.
“For example, taking a cross border approach to business, tourism, transport and infrastructure could benefit our region greatly, leading to better relationships and a strengthening of ties between our states.”
Mr Bell said currently each state had its own set of rules and regulations and this role could see the streamlining of licensing and regulations for the transport, manufacturing and building sectors.
“Initiatives such as working with the Victorian Tourism Boards on campaigns to encourage tourists to continue along the Great Ocean Road to Mount Gambier,” he said.
“Importantly, the Cross Border Commissioner would act as an advocate for those communities that live along the border, leading to a greater understanding of the needs and necessities of cross border residents.
“New South Wales has had a Cross Border Commissioner since 2012 and this has seen significant improvement in co-operation between the states of Queensland, Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales.
“If the Liberal Government has the best interests of this community at heart, they should be looking very closely at this announcement.
“I am looking forward to seeing which initiatives from the Future Mount Gambier plan the Liberal Government will be making before the 2022 election.”