Seat at the table

Friday August 27, 2021

Story by Raquel Mustillo

ROGUE Liberal MP Nick McBride and Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell have forced the State Government to include a regional representative on the state’s Transition Committee to better represent country communities.

In Wednesday night’s sitting of parliament, Mr McBride crossed the floor for the fourth time in his three-year parliamentary career, siding with Labor to support Mr Bell’s changes to the state’s emergency response act.

Mr Bell sought parliamentary support for a number of amendments to the Bill, including the inclusion of regional representation on the Transition Committee and expediting travel exemption requests to ensure most applications are able to be dealt with within 48 hours after they have been received.

Despite Mr Bell already securing the majority of the house – including all 19 Labor MPs and crossbench Members – Mr McBride voted against his party to support a change to the management act.

Mr McBride told The Border Watch that he crossed the floor to change the expiry of the Covid-19 Emergency Response – which allows for various temporary modifications of the law in response to the pandemic – to facilitate a review of the direction later this year.

“The cleverly constructed amendment by the Member for Mount Gambier allows both the preservation of the Covid Emergency Response Act to continue and for it to be reviewed in a timely fashion,” he said.

“I think the way the South Australia has implemented the management plan has been exceptional compared to other jurisdictions.

“However, as our vaccines are moving very quick and the percentage of people who are vaccinated continues to increase, there will be an opportunity in the near future for this to be readdressed.

“That is why this review on the first of December is paramount.”

The Member for Mount Gambier was also successful in gaining majority support for the amendments, as well as ensuring parliamentarians are provided with an opportunity to attend a briefing on the effect of any directions or requirements before a direction is issued.

Mr Bell praised the “fantastic result” and said the changes aimed to improve the government’s Bill by providing greater support to country communities and MPs.

“I have spoken to a number of people who have applied for SA Health exemptions and are waiting 21 days for an answer as to whether they can come back home to Mount Gambier and this Bill addresses that,” he said.

“As an MP we’re not getting proper information about why the decisions are being made and who is making them and I have addressed all of those concerns with that Bill.

“I am proud my colleague from the South East Nick McBride and I stood shoulder to shoulder to get a good result for our communities.”

Mr Bell floated the Member for MacKillop as the regional representative following revelations in parliament the Transition Committee was comprised of senior Adelaide-based public servants.

Speaking against Mr Bell’s amendments, Attorney-General Vickie Chapman said that “a senior person from the Primary Industries Department” will be placed on the Transition Committee.

But Mr Bell said a regionally based representative was paramount to ensure the concerns and needs of country communities, particularly cross-border regions, were addressed.

“My concern is these public servants get paid next Thursday like they did this Thursday and it’s just a job to them,” he said.

“We don’t need a PIRSA representative who lives in the city, we need a true regional person on that committee.

“I put down a number of names including [Limestone Coast Local Government Association] executive officer Tony Wright and Nick McBride because these guys are at the coalface and could have valuable input into the decision-making process.”

Mr McBride welcomed the opportunity to represent regional residents on the Transition Committee, pledging to strongly advocate for country communities across the state.

He said he was not concerned about his position in the Liberal Party, saying “being ousted is not even on my radar”.

“I’m not doing this for the Liberal Party, I’m not doing this to disenfranchise myself from the party – I’m doing this because the state needs a good Covid amendment plan,” Mr McBride said.

“This is not political.”