Agriculture Minister Urges ‘Common Sense’ on State Borders

Victoria Will Exceed Its Share of National COVID Spending
August 22, 2020 Updated: August 22, 2020

Borders remain a top priority for the federal government, which has asked the states asked to apply “common sense” to coronavirus restrictions on farmers.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud says “arbitrary restrictions” placed on regional and rural Australia are having serious impacts.

Premiers need to figure out practical solutions to get food on tables, and also consider the wellbeing of those in the agricultural sector, Littleproud told ABC News on Aug. 22.

“I’m just asking them to use common sense,” he said.

Australia’s medical expert panel continues its attempts to define a coronavirus “hotspot” to provide clarity on when states should close their borders.

The term is being used to restrict travel but there are no guidelines on its meaning and the measures are having impacts including on people accessing health care, and agricultural supply chains.

National cabinet is due to develop an agricultural workers’ code for cross-border travel—similar to arrangements already in place for truck drivers when leaders meet again in two weeks’ time.

Tourism businesses have also said they’re at boiling point over the lack of clarity on closures.

Western Australia has no border opening in sight and Tasmania’s borders will remain closed until at least Dec. 1.

Queensland has warned its borders could remain sealed for several months or until its infections have fallen to zero.

Victoria’s Spending

Meanwhile, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has said his state will exceed its share of national COVID-recovery stimulus spending.

The Labor leader of the state worst-hit by the pandemic on Saturday vowed “people who have lost the most will get the support they need”.

National cabinet was told by the Reserve Bank on Friday that states should lift their fiscal investment to two percent of GDP, or $40 (US$28.6) billion, over the next two years.

“Our share of that would be about 10 (billion dollars),” Andrews said.

Victoria reported another 182 virus cases on Aug. 22, and 13 deaths, bringing the national toll to 485.

Queensland and New South Wales each reported nine new cases on Aug. 22.

An additional NSW case emerged later on Aug. 22 after a security guard working at the Marriott Hotel in Circular Quay tested positive.

Six of the latest Queensland cases are linked to a youth detention centre cluster, prompting an immediate lockdown of aged care homes in the state’s southeast and caps on social gatherings in the area.

Australians trying to fly home will have to remain patient after a decision not to increase international arrival numbers.

Acting Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly said on Aug. 22 the cap on arrivals was to do with capacity and resources in quarantine hotels.

About 4,000 people are still returning to the country each week, and consular officials are supporting around 15,000 Australians abroad.