For six days, one hundred ACT residents were at the mercy of political point-scoring. While they were eventually freed, the whole fiasco proved how little co-operation exists at the highest level.
For the last six days, over one hundred Canberrans were stranded at the Victorian-New South Wales border due to COVID-19 and the snap judgement of Gladys Berejiklian.
According to The Guardian, “Tuesday marks the Canberrans’ fifth day at the border after a sudden rule change by the NSW government on Friday rendered their permits to travel through the state by road invalid. On Monday evening, those trapped at the border received an email from the ACT government suggesting they make accommodation arrangements in the border town of Wodonga.”
The NSW Premier refused to admit any fault in her actions, stating that: “I don’t think anyone would begrudge us for being cautious when people from (a) highly infectious area, a highly infectious state, are trying to make their way through NSW,” she said.
“I do understand that health and police and other authorities are getting to a place where that issue can be resolved, but I can’t apologise for putting safety first in NSW, and I won’t.”
Interestingly, New South Wales is a COVID hotspot and the ACT isn’t. Despite this, the ACT has decided to keep the NSW border open. Last week, Berejiklian chose grandstanding over diplomacy, alluding that Canberrans were so dangerous they can’t be allowed to even drive through the state without a military-style escort.
Over the past week, Berejiklian refused to allow the affected residents to drive through, even after ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr offered to have the Australian Federal Police escort the residents back over state lines.
I believe that Berejiklian’s actions are indefensible, especially when you consider the reality of the situation. The NSW town of Queanbeyan sits just over the border. Residents in the city rely on many ACT services and jobs. Obviously, their commute takes them over state lines. The ACT and NSW are tied to one another, whether anyone likes it or not.
Over the past week, Berejiklian refused to allow the affected residents to drive through, even after ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr offered to have the Australian Federal Police escort the residents back over state lines. The fact it took six days for this matter to be resolved, is ridiculous.
True leadership is needed, and while it has already been shown on one side of the border, it is sorely lacking on the other.
The previously trapped residents are now free and have been granted a four-day window to cross the border, it’s hard not to see Berejiklian’s decision as a short-sighted one though. I’m wondering what will happen to those who need to travel back to the ACT from Victoria in the weeks to come.
For now, that question is still up in the air, and frankly, that’s not good enough.