Country MPs join forces to urge rethink on welcoming Sydneysiders
Protecting their regional electorates from COVID-19 has been the cause that united usually diametrically opposed MPs across New South Wales.
A multipartisan push for a ban on travel to northern NSW for Sydneysiders is underway as MPs from the Nationals, Greens and the Labor Party combined to pressure Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Deputy Premier John Barilaro on Thursday.
At the forefront of concern is that local residents may be vulnerable due to being unvaccinated from COVID-19, be it due to vaccine hesitancy or a lagging regional vaccine roll-out.
Nationals MPs Geoff Provest, Chris Gulaptis and MLC Ben Franklin, along with Labor MP Janelle Saffin and Greens MP Tamara Smith joined together and crafted a letter addressed to Berejiklian and Barilaro expressing their alarm, writing:
“Without policy changes our region will suddenly become deeply vulnerable to a major influx of newly freed Sydneysiders, while we are still short of the 70 per cent safety target.”
The underlying rhetoric offered by the parliamentary representatives is that all regional travel was “not good health policy,” with vaccination rates not being fast-tracked in certain areas.
The push from the aforementioned members followed Wagga Wagga independent MP Dr Joe McGirr publicising his stance on the same issue earlier on Thursday.
McGirr wrote to Minister for Regional NSW Barilaro seeking a clear regional roadmap that would guarantee protection for regional communities experiencing slower vaccination rates than metropolitan Sydney. Dr McGirr said in a statement:
“I am concerned that while the overall state average will have reached 70 per cent, the vaccination rates in many regional areas will not. This puts these communities at risk.”
McGirr also emphasised his fears that NSW regions could see a high volume of the virus spreading once NSW citizens from more heavily populated areas travel around the state:
“Once people are allowed to travel more widely, particularly from Sydney and other impacted areas, our regional communities are at increased risk ... this virus only travels when people travel and we do not want it travelling to regional areas which have not had the same opportunities to access vaccinations as metropolitan areas.”