The Nationals leader and Member for Murray Plains, Peter Walsh, says the Andrews Labor Government seems determined to destroy border communities the length of the Murray after his unexpected decision to start trimming both sides of the bubble.
Established in the earliest days of the pandemic 18 months ago, Mr Walsh said there was no rhyme or reason to have chopped massive areas and populations out of the bubble without any consultation, warning or explanation.
He said removing Bendigo was a massive disruption to so many lives in his electorate as well as the NSW side of the river.
“Bendigo is the go-to city for so many people and so many reasons,” Mr Walsh said.
From Swan Hill to Undera; my constituents and their families use Bendigo for hospitals, medical specialists, support services and agencies, shopping, education, sport and the list goes on,” he said.
“And the same goes for people on the other side of the river; Bendigo is also their big city and they are going backwards and forwards all the time as well.
“Now not only are these communities being torn further apart; they have also been thrown into utter confusion, no-one knows if they are coming or going – and good luck getting the same answer from two calls to the coronavirus hotline to sort it all out.
“The people making these absurd decisions in Melbourne still, after 18 months of pandemic, seem incapable of understanding twin town are one community; not two. If the people on the NSW side of the river suffer, everyone suffers.”
Other local government areas removed from the border bubble late yesterday include Benalla, Shepparton, Buloke, Loddon and Yarriambiack.
Residents from these shires can no longer obtain a permit to return from NSW.
Mr Walsh said while there may be an argument for suspending, not banning, Shepparton from the bubble until such time as the COVID situation was in hand, no reason had been given for removing Bendigo or the other local government areas suddenly cut overnight.
He said Bendigo has no COVID cases; making it illogical and unfair that its residents have also been excluded from the border bubble overnight.
“In the unlikely event the Andrews Labor Government dramatically eases regional Victorian restrictions ‘in due course’ next week this situation is just going to get worse,” Mr Walsh added.
“You can’t imagine Daniel Andrews will reverse the bubble decision when, or more likely, if, he makes changes to the current lockdown,” he said.
“What is the rationale for this decision? It’s this kind of ad hoc decision making, with no warning and no explanation, that shatters people.
“It is just ridiculous that after 18 months, we still don’t have a common bubble and a common set of rules with NSW.
“We are supposed to be one country; but the Andrews Government is turning us into a hermit kingdom.”
Mr Walsh said Ms Ryan said the changes meant residents who yesterday could go to work in NSW will now have to do 14 days quarantine if they come home.
“I have been advised by Victoria’s cross border commissioner this morning that no permit will be required for those who need to travel for time critical healthcare, however people should obtain a letter from their doctor.
“People are also able to travel without a permit if they have shared custody arrangements.
“The only people who can return from work in NSW are those the government has deemed to be ‘specified workers’. Those people will need to obtain a specified worker permit which may still carry quarantine and testing requirements,” Mr Walsh said.