No sport "Down on the Border"
Updated: Aug 11
When SA Premier Steven Marshall began speaking at this morning's press conference the signs were not positive.
The rhetoric that we have become all too familiar with through the pandemic was rolled out once more.
"It's fair to say we are very concerned here in South Australia with the situation around the rest of the country," said Mr Marshall.
"We are on high alert here in South Australia"
It was obvious from these opening remarks this wasn't going to be good news. Then something extraordinary happened. Marshall explained the transmission committee had met this morning and he was about to announce a "modest" easing of restrictions. Next, the Premier uttered words I had longed to hear. Words I didn't expect but was delighted to hear.
"I thank the transition committee for their careful deliberations today," he began.
"Weighing up the health aspects with the well being and the economic, we want to get as many people back to work as possible".
This is the first time I could recall the SA Premier acknowledge there were other aspects of the pandemic response that were being considered other than potential health issues directly linked to COVID-19 cases.
My initial optimism was quickly dashed. Please Premier don't say but.....
"But!" (darn it.....he said it).
"We also don't want to go backwards here in our state"
It was my turn to speak. In frustration, I yelled at the screen "Too late for that!" The backwards the Premier was referring to was the risk of another COVID-19 outbreak. My version of South Australia going backwards is different, and we are going backwards at a rate of knots.
Take the situation at the South Australian/Victorian border.
In 1983 The Little River Band released a song called "Down on the Border". The first few lyrics from this song keep playing in mind.
"I just got back from the border.
And what I saw made me know for sure,
We're out of order".
Whilst I haven't physically been to the border in quite some time, I've been able to speak to several members of border communities recently. Their stories haunt me and Mr Marshall, they are surely out of order.
One lady from Murrayville told me how she has had over 30 COVID tests since the beginning of the pandemic. Thankfully, she is classified as an "essential worker" so she is able to cross from her home in Murrayville into South Australia to work at Pinnaroo. Her reward for her work has been 30 rather uncomfortable procedures and still having a job. Never mind the fact that in SA we get to benefit from her professional expertise. When I asked her how she's been able to put up with all those tests her reply was "What choice do I have?"
There are worse stories. People being isolated from family members for extended periods. Banned from checking up on elderly relatives because they live the wrong side of a line on a map.
What risk do these people pose to South Australia?
Now we hear of sporting clubs fighting for survival. The Murrayville Football Club has somehow earned the right to play finals football and netball this season in several different grades. This is despite multiple fixtures being cancelled and points being split with opposing clubs. These fixtures were abandoned due to lockdowns and border restrictions, while SA clubs were able to continue playing.
Again I'm forced to ask what risk do these people pose to South Australia?
The total number of cases of COVID-19 in the Murrayville and district community during the pandemic is zero. Not one, single case. We have had a border bubble in place for much of the past 18 months. Sometimes it's been 70kms, at other times 40kms. At other times the border has been completely open; at other times completely closed.
Mr Marshall's transition committee expects border communities to stay up to date with what the current restrictions are, get permits when required, get COVID tests when required, don't play sport when required, don't visit family members when required, shop when it's OK, live frugally when it's not.
Steven Marshall and his transition committee have been the masters of mixed messages.
They decided today that despite the fact that there is no lockdown in regional Victoria there would be no change to border restrictions.
In other words, Victorians stay out. Well, mostly. Unless you work in Pinnaroo, want to get vaccinated, need to go to the doctors or need some fuel or general shopping. You can come in for those reasons, but don't you dare play sport. Apparently, that's not on.
Now we hear stories of Mallee Football and Netball turning ugly off the field. The frustration of all clubs involved in the Mallee is evident. Murrayville simply wants to play finals matches they have earned the right to participate in. The South Australian based clubs are trying to ensure likewise. All well-intentioned, all trying to do the best for their members. Member for Hammond Adrian Pederick outlined the work these committee members are doing behind the scenes to keep the competition going. It's been hard work.
But it seems tensions have boiled over. Now we have club officials sparring with league and association committee members. I've even heard rough shot rumours of potential legal action. The end result of this tension has been meeting after meeting for clubs and Association committees. More volunteer hours for already exhausted volunteers. Friendships are being frayed and once-great working relationships between clubs and committee members are now broken.
Is this Mr Marshall's transition committee "Weighing up the health aspects with the well being and the economic (aspects)"?
There will be no finals matches played this week in Mallee Football or Netball. The clubs are not to blame, nor is the league or its committee. The blame lies squarely at the feet of a transition committee that today claimed to be taking people's well being into account. I see no sign of that extending to border committees.
As of tomorrow, more people in South Australia are able to go to the movies, head to a cafe and have a counter meal at their local pub. But don't you dare cross that border. Border communities contribute so much good to this state both economically and socially. These residents deserve better.
Regarding the border situation, Mr Marshall had the following to say at this morning's press conference.
"There are no changes to the borders today,"
"I know that's tough news for some people, who have people stranded interstate,"
"We acknowledge that they're (the restrictions) tight, they need to be tight at this point in time".
Perhaps if Mr Marshall did travel to the border, LRB's lyrics would ring true and he would know just how out of order this decision is. However, let me leave you with the final lyrics of the same song.
"At the top life looks so easy,"
"But they'll never know what they'll never know,"
"They're much too busy countin' all their dough,"
"From the border".
In the below video, the Flowman and the Statman discuss the situation on Wednesday's Morning Show on FlowFM: