People power has left Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews “a little green around the gills” according to The Nationals leader and Member for Murray Plains Peter Walsh.
He said united border bubble communities had been attacking the border closure since it was inexplicably slammed shut on New Year’s Eve, sending more than 60,000 Victorians fleeing south before they were locked out of their own state.
“Campaigns such as Echuca-Moama’s Turn The Bubble Green – which my office helped launch – were punching well above their weight, and with protest T-shirts, placards and a very clever video, this spectacular example of grassroots politics was pivotal in forcing the government backdown; changing bubble towns in NSW from orange to green,” Mr Walsh said.
“And I congratulate them, and all the twin towns along the length of the Murray, for the success of their movements and their refusal to simply lay down and die,” he said.
“But that doesn’t solve the problem of cashflow from a summer season sacrificed on the altar of incompetence that is the Andrews Labor government’s whole disastrous management of the COVID crisis at every turn.
“You only have to look at the unfolding farce of the Australian Open and a government approving the importation of positive COVID cases because we don’t seem to have enough of the homegrown variety to deal with here.”
But Mr Walsh said this wasn’t as good as it gets – he said the next round in the fight must be a campaign for compensation for those businesses which have “lost incredible amounts of money because of government refusal to recognise the complexity of cross-border communities”.
“The people of Echuca-Moama, Swan Hill and Murray Downs, Koondrook and Barham, Yarrawonga and Mulwala and Albury and Wodonga, and many others, became collateral damage when the Andrews government lowered the boom on the border,” he added.
“But people campaigns saw whole communities band together and in a very short time achieve a stunning result for us all.
“It just goes to show the value of life in regional towns, where people do give a damn and where people do help each other; and this is what we can achieve – and I am proud I and my office were able to play a small role in helping get some of them – such as the Echuca-Moama Turn The Bubble Green protest – off the ground.
“Now we can start the fight for compensation for the losses people have already suffered and won’t easily – if ever recover.
“So yes, it’s a big congratulations to everyone – and now we must continue the fight to claw back some of that lost money.”