Nats want national hotspot definition to end erratic border closures

Jan 21, 2021 | News

Jamieson Murphy

A GROUP of senior National Party politicians are calling on the National Cabinet to agree to a country-wide definition of a COVID hotspot to end the inconsistent border closures.

The National Cabinet, where the leaders of each state and territory sit down with the Prime Minister, will meet on Friday.

Six federal Nationals penned a letter to the Premiers of NSW, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia on behalf of the border communities who had been “significantly impacted” by the closures.

Along with a nationally consistent hotspot definition, they want guidelines for cluster travel restrictions and agreed exceptions for essential industries, such as freight, healthcare and ag.

Signed by Nationals senators Bridget McKenzie, Perin Davey, Susan McDonald and MPs Anne Webster, Damian Drum and Kevin Hogan, the letter also called for exemptions for cross-border communities and rural students traveling interstate for school or university.

“Had such guidelines and practices been in place, we would not have seen the confusion that has been evident this year,” the letter states.

“The most frustrating aspect is that lessons learned during last year’s border restrictions do not seem to have been applied prior to announcements this year.

“Much was said and agreed last year but we find ourselves dealing with the same issues with the latest round of closures.”

Thousands of Victorians were left stranded when the border to NSW was closed on New Year’s Day with only a couple of days’ notice.

The same decision forced Victorian harvest workers to go home as an agricultural worker permit system was only set up as an afterthought.

Since July last year, the Victoria-NSW border has been closed for 39 weeks and Senator Davey said communities across regional Australia were pleading for consistency.

“Those of us living in border communities want a set of rules that are clear and consistent, so businesses can prepare and plan, and people don’t get caught on the wrong side of a knee-jerk decision,” Senator Davey said.