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MP moves to avert cross-border chaos

Tuesday, 24th March, 2020

Barwon MP Roy Butler Barwon MP Roy Butler

By Callum Marshall

Barwon MP Roy Butler has sought to reassure the community that essential supplies and medical transfers will continue to occur across the NSW-SA state borders, while the state government makes plans around the issues.

Mr Butler’s comments follow moves by the states to close their borders for all non-essential travel due to the spread of COVID-19.

On Sunday, South Australian Premier Stephen Marshall announced that the state’s border will close from 4pm today with SA police staffing 12 border patrol stations.

Speaking to the BDT yesterday afternoon, Mr Butler said discussions with Health Minister Brad Hazzard around the issue of medical transfer had so far been positive.

“As soon as I got the heads up that the border might be closing, I spoke to his office and they were very quick to get back to me yesterday on the Sunday afternoon,” he said.

“This afternoon, Brad Hazzard has had a discussion just before 2pm with the South Australian Minister (Stephen Wade) and they’re currently negotiating exactly what they’re going to do to make sure that people who need to go to South Australia for medical reasons can still access those services. 

“They’re working towards a solution for that now.”

Mr Butler said all of this had been happening at a rate of knots.

“The first time I flagged it with Hazzard was yesterday (Sunday) and his office got back to me yesterday (Sunday) afternoon, and he’s had this discussion today for a briefing with all the MPs,” he said.

“He had a discussion with the South Australian Ministers.

“From a government perspective, it is moving very quickly in terms of trying to find out how we can come up with a way of managing it so that people that require certain services can still get them.

“It was 1:39pm (yesterday) when (Queensland Premier) Annastacia Palaszczuk tweeted that they’re going to close the borders.

“And it was probably only about 10 minutes ago (2:45pm) that we found out that that’s happening on March 25 at midnight.”

On freight and essential food items, Mr Butler said he’d had positive discussion with Woolworths about their stock still coming in from across the SA border line or, if that wasn’t an option, via Sydney.

“They’ve advised that there’s not going to be any impediments to their freight coming across the border,” he said.

“The advice we’ve had again is that anything that is normal freight like fuel and groceries and other supplies, that’s not going to be interrupted.

“When I spoke to Woolworths they said that even if the South Australian border was interrupted they’d have a plan to bring groceries out of Sydney. 

“We’re still going to see trucks coming in with the goods that people need.

“The travel across the South Australian border that’s going to be a problem is non-essential travel.”

Asked if he’d heard anything about what controls might be put in place for train drivers and others who could still potentially cross the border lines, Mr Butler said all the specifics still needed to be resolved.

“We haven’t nailed down exactly how that’s going to look and what the controls and restrictions will be,” he said.

“It would be totally unreasonable for somebody to come across and pick up groceries and then go into 14 days of isolation.

“I think the South Australian Premier did make some comments about where people do that, where they normally would cross the border and where there aren’t cases of coronavirus (that) would more than likely still be okay. 

“(But) at this stage, we haven’t got in black and white exactly what it’ll (the border controls) be. 

“We’ve got some references and some quotes in the media but there’s nowhere we can actually go at this point to get a clear and firm answer on exactly what it’ll be like.”

Mr Butler did reiterate that solutions were being worked though, while reminding individuals to adhere to the public health guidelines.

“The message at this stage is that there is a solution being worked on to make sure that essential medical services can still be provided,” he said.

“But also (wanting to) remind people to follow the public health advice in terms of social distancing, hand washing and, (being careful about) touching your face.

“Sub-consciously or unconsciously we touch our face hundreds of times a day and trying to get people to make the effort not to (is another important message), especially if they haven’t washed their hands recently.”

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