NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro is urging the Queensland government to put politics aside and broker a solution for the border communities of NSW and Queensland.
“Let me make this clear, despite noise from the Queensland Government, the NSW Government vehemently opposes moving the border check point south to the Tweed River – what we want is a genuine border bubble so that workers can get to work and people can access vital health care,” Mr Barilaro said.
“Since late July, NSW Government officials have attempted to work with their Queensland counterparts to develop workable solutions for our border communities, which has fallen on deaf ears.
“NSW correspondence goes unanswered, even my own letter to the Queensland Health Minister has gone unanswered. It is becoming clear Queensland is not serious about finding a solution for our border communities.
“Since Federation, our border communities have done an incredible job working together to create thriving townships, but right now they are struggling to survive.
“The Queensland Government has made it clear they are unwavering on their decision to close the border to NSW, but our border communities should not bear the brunt of that decision on the front line.
“There are workable solutions and I am keen to put politics aside to not only keep the people of NSW and Queensland safe, but to ensure our border communities, like Mungindi, can access work and vital healthcare.”
The NSW Government opposes moving the border checkpoint south because:
• There is no neat geographical feature which can be used to support enforcement and compliance operations.
• The Queensland government will not guarantee that access to essential services for residents will be maintained if checkpoints were moved into NSW.
• A substantial proportion of the population of the Tweed LGA and the Northern Rivers lives in areas south of the Tweed River, including many essential workers.
• Many essential workers from Queensland are required to work in areas south of the Tweed River.
• Many essential NSW services are located north of the Tweed River, including the Tweed Hospital and Police Station. The next nearest major hospital is in Lismore, which would involve substantial additional travel times and reduce medical service availability to NSW residents.
• A whole-of-NSW-Government response to the pandemic would be compromised, and if emergency access to Tweed Hospital was required, there would be substantial consequences with coordination of medical and other response activities.
• The requirement for NSW agencies, most notably NSW Police, to resource compliance and enforcement operations would be substantial.
The NSW Government welcomes the opportunity to work with Queensland on the following:
• Establishing a consistent ‘border bubble’ region.
• Establishing consistent travel conditions for ‘border bubble’ residents, including expedited travel for essential health workers who provide vital services in both regional NSW and Queensland.
• Operational improvements on the border including additional crossings.
• Establishing an appeal process for NSW exemptions.