Andrews bursts Vic-NSW border bubble
People in some NSW border towns with Victoria will have to apply for a permit or exemption to enter the southern state in a COVID-19 crackdown.
Victoria has tightened its border restrictions with NSW, as Premier Daniel Andrews renewed his call for a "ring of steel" around COVID-19 ravaged Sydney. The call was rejected.
Mr Andrews on Tuesday burst the border bubble that had been operating during his state's fifth lockdown, which allowed residents to travel freely between towns despite the rest of NSW being declared an "extreme risk" zone.
NSW state MP for Murray, Helen Dalton, told FlowNews24 on Tuesday afternoon the situation was unacceptable:
"We keep hearing that we need to work together, but we keep shutting the state borders and throwing regional communities under a bus.
"We really don't have border MPs advocating for the border. there are some MPs like independent MP Ali Cupper - she's making some noise - but government MPs like Sussan Ley and Justin Clancy are completely silent."
Ms Dalton said some responsibility also lay at the feet of the NSW Premier:
"If Gladys Berejiklian had not dithered around and had actually locked down Sydney when it first appeared - the Delta strain - we would not be in the position we are in now."
The Member for Murray pointed specifically at the health impacts of the decision:
"There have been no cases of COVID-19 in Hay or Murrumbidgee for over a year ... our lives have been intertwined (with Victoria) for over a century.
"The NSW government has been bludging off the Victorian health system for years.
"As you can imagine, there are people that have, say, regular cancer treatments in Bendigo or Melbourne and can't make those treatments or its difficult.
"There are at present no health permits, I've been trying to contact (NSW Health Minister) for a week about this. I've written to the Prime Minister and premiers as well."
From Wednesday, the City of Wagga, Hay Shire, Lock Shire and Murrumbidgee councils will be included under the "extreme risk" zone, meaning residents will need to apply for a permit or exemption to enter Victoria.
Mr Andrews told reporters on Tuesday:
"We're only granting permits for those who are approved workers and even only then when it is absolutely necessary.
"I take no pleasure in having to essentially lock out those four communities from Victoria, but there's a refusal to lock people in Sydney into Sydney, so I have no choice but to make these changes."
Mr Andrews said he did not phone NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian before announcing the change:
"I've had a busy morning and so has she and my views on these matters are well known,"
Mr Andrews' push for a 'ring of steel' around Sydney was rejected last Friday by National Cabinet.
NSW recorded 172 new locally acquired cases on Tuesday, at least 79 of whom were in the community while infectious.
Victoria recorded 10 new cases, which were all in quarantine throughout their infectious period, paving the way for a statewide lockdown to end as planned at 11:59pm on Tuesday.
Mr Andrews insisted he was not "lecturing" NSW but again urged the state to impose a "ring of steel" - a hard border managed by police and the defence force - around Sydney.
"A ring of steel will work. It will, and that's why I called for it.
"The NSW government have a different view. I would respectfully say to the NSW government, you're not just making decisions for NSW. You're making decisions for the whole country."
The move has previously been rejected by Ms Berejiklian and NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard.
Mr Andrews said he was hopeful that once the Victorian public health team had cleared all existing close contacts linked to the state's outbreak, they would be able to offer greater support to NSW.
Victoria is not the only jurisdiction to change its border stance against NSW on Tuesday, with the Northern Territory bringing regional NSW in line with Greater Sydney and declaring the entire state a hotspot.
Federal Member for Farrer Sussan Ley has been contacted for comment, with a spokesperson saying:
"Sussan, Justin and our offices are spending the bulk of each day trying to assist and support people on the border caught up in these changing travel restrictions.
"Throwing stones at Victoria and other local MPs just because Helen is unhappy with the circumstances of a global health emergency actually achieves nothing."