INVISIBLE lines on maps have become impenetrable barriers preventing producers with properties in different states from checking on the welfare of their livestock, as calls grow for common sense to prevail in regional areas.
In a concerning outcome of recent State border lockdowns, producers such as Andrew Walsh are being prevented from crossing borders to check cattle, despite living and operating vast distances away from city and coastal COVID hotspots.
Andrew’s home property is near Girilambone east of Bourke in western NSW.
He has another property across the border near Surat in southern Queensland.
Both properties lie only a postcode or two either side of the designated Queensland/NSW border zone, in which residents of postcodes on either side of the border are allowed to travel across the border for any purpose, provided they stay within the designated border zone.
Map showing Queensland-NSW western border postcodes – see full maps at this link
For most of the COVID-pandemic Mr Walsh has been able to cross the border at Hebel to visit his Surat property and check on his cattle on a weekly basis.
However, Queensland’s decision on Saturday August 8 to classify all of NSW as a COVID-19 hotspot meant he was no longer able to freely cross the border.
He applied for a specialist worker permit almost two weeks ago but has yet to receive a response, despite assurances that applications would be processed and assessed “as quickly as possible”.
He has not been able to check on his cattle on his Queensland property now for almost three weeks, and concedes he is quickly becoming “one very stressed livestock owner”.
He is aware of several other friends with properties either side of the border who are in the same situation.
His Surat property is currently locked up and he has the only keys.
A neighbour has helped by going through a back fence and opening internal gates to ensure cattle have more country to graze.
Mr Walsh said the property is carrying a lot of dry grass so he is not particularly concerned about their access to feed, but is concerned about not being able to check waters and the condition, or indeed whereabouts, of his stock.
“How do we show someone waters, gates, paddocks, cattle, locks, etc from across the border? One very stressed livestock owner!!,” he said in a comment to Beef Central.
States need to show common sense: Littleproud
While producers such as Mr Walsh desperately wait for slow bureaucratic wheels to turn Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has this week called for States to show more common sense in their approaches to border closures.
In an interview with Adelaide Radio Station 5AA, host Leon Byner made the point that the Federal Government is about to allow in 300 international students from Singapore and other areas that are COVID positive.
“We’re told the strictest precautions will be taken but of course, whilst that’s going on, we’ve got border communities who can’t even cross the border to teach or go to school,” Mr Byner said.
“This is where we just need some common sense and some leadership,” Mr Littleproud responded.
“I think Premiers of all political persuasions have done a good job but unfortunately, what’s happening is there’s some arbitrary decisions made from chief medical officers in capital cities that don’t quite understand the nuances of regional and remote communities.
“And particularly those communities that haven’t had any cases.”
Mr Littleproud said State borders were put on maps a hundred years ago but modern Australia has “moved past those arbitrary lines”.
“We actually interact across borders and a lot more and do business by wherever our closest proximity of our town may be whether that be on one side of a border to another. We don’t particularly care. And that’s where we just need some leadership of our premiers.
“If they want a modern federation and they don’t want to become irrelevant, it’s time for them to understand that they just can’t make arbitrary decisions from capital cities without understanding the importance of regional Australia and the role we play in feeding and clothing people.”
Political support for dismantling border permit system grows
Earlier today NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro told media he thinks it is time to scrap the permit system on the NSW-Victorian border, and relax coronavirus restrictions.
“It is not just agriculture; this has really impacted on essential health workers, educators, students, mental health support counsellors, case workers and tradies et cetera,” she said.
“Protecting the health of the Australian community is the number one priority but farms are at a standstill and businesses are being forced to shut without any medical evidence to support state border closures.
“Ridiculous cross-border movement requirements in COVID-19 free regional Australia are dumbfounding.
“For more than six weeks now people in COVID-19 free regions have been refused access to vital services and work because of their postcode and a clear failure of the Victorian Government to properly lockdown the initial Melbourne outbreak.
“I welcome the Deputy Premier’s commitment to deliver for regional people and look forward to other State Premiers taking action at National Cabinet tomorrow that shows we are all in this together, including regional Australians.”