The past few weeks has seen significant national debate about the merits of the various border closure regimes introduced by State and Territory Governments across the country. The debate has primarily centred around whether the border closures are warranted on health protection grounds, particularly given the emergence of an increasing number of stories about the social and economic disruption that is being created by these measures.

ACAPMA, like many industry bodies, has received numerous complaints from members about both delays in securing valid border crossing permits and inconsistencies in the approach taken to border crossings both between State/Territory Governments and within State/Territory Governments.

“Differences in the approaches of State/Territory Governments to border management, coupled with conflicting advice being provided by individual departments of each level of government, is causing considerable confusion for cross-border movement of freight and the transit of workers in border communities”, said ACAPMA CEO Mark McKenzie.

“We’d like to think that we have the government contacts and engagement needed to resolve member challenges in this area, given the essential nature of the fuel industry, but it is fair to say that even with essential status and effective advocacy relationships there has been increasing complexity in identifying the right authority within individual governments to consider requests that don’t fit neatly into the permit categories on offer has been particularly challenging in past weeks”.

The difficulties being experienced by the fuel industry in terms of moving fuel across borders and facilitating the movement of workers between their home and their workplace in border regions, is not limited to the fuel industry alone. Numerous industry bodies are reporting that the adverse economic and social impacts of the current border regimes appear to far outweigh the health protection benefits – and that message is even coming from noted community health professionals.

To that end, earlier this week, ACAPMA recently partnered with 28 other business and industry bodies to call on the National Cabinet – and particularly the State/territory first Ministers – to standardise border crossing rules and procedures as far as possible (See https://acapmag.com.au/2020/08/inconsistent-border-restrictions-destroying-jobs-and-crippling-the-economy/)

“The other key aspect that has to be addressed is improving the responsiveness of government decisions on border crossing requests that don’t fit the standard criteria”, said Mark.

In one recent case, ACAPMA has been working with a fuel retailer who is trying to establish a new fuel/grocery outlet in Wagga Wagga. The business had proposed that a single senior manager from Victoria would undertake a COVID test then quarantine on the Victorian side of the border until a negative test result was delivered, then make the journey from Albury to Wagga Wagga, attend the site and drive back to Victoria in a single day.  This activity was to oversee necessary building work approvals to allow the project to continue to final completion.

While a permit for the worker to travel from Victoria to New South Wales was granted due to the essential nature of the work, the conditions of the permit required the senior manager to fly from Melbourne to Sydney and then drive down to Wagga Wagga before turning around and going back the same way.

“What is extraordinary about this case is that it doesn’t even appear to make sense on health grounds.  Requiring an individual to travel into Melbourne, then fly to Sydney, then drive to Wagga Wagga travelling over 1,000 kms, with multiple stops for food and fuel, encountering many people just to attend the site, and then repeating the process in reverse, exposes the worker and the communities through New South Wales to unnecessary risk.  Particularly when compared to the proposed alternative of the worker making a 250km return trip between Wodonga and Wagga Wagga in a single day, being in the vehicle alone or on the actual site with the builder as the only human contact”, said Mark

The business involved started the process to have this decision reviewed nearly 5 weeks ago and it is understood that they are still waiting for a decision despite ACAPMA representations to the NSW Health Minister.

“Clearly, there is a need to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 within the national community – and border restrictions provide part of the solution”, said Mark

“But there is also a need to ensure that the economic livelihoods and social well-being of individuals are not disproportionately impacted by poorly considered and inconsistently administered border measures”, concluded Mark

If your business is experiencing problems with border restrictions and you need help in resolving these issues, please contact the ACAPMA Secretariat on 1300 160 270 or by emailing communications@acapma.com.au

ACAPMA