Chris Oldfield, Naracoorte Community News
Member for MacKillop Nick McBride crossed the floor of State Parliament last week, preventing his party from extending its state emergency COVID powers to April 30 next year – after the next state election.
He supported amendments by Mount Gambier Independent Troy Bell, and the state’s emergency Act will now be reviewed again before December 1, inclusive of some changes for regional people.
The State’s emergency Act has given great power to police commissioner Grant Stevens to restrict civil liberties, enabling lockdowns, border closures and other COVID restrictions.
Such restrictions have changed almost 45 times during the past 18 months. Under Mr Bell’s changes, SA Health must respond to travel exemption requests within 21 days and resources are to be made available if more staff are required to assess requests.
Additionally, a regional representative is to be included on the state’s high level Transitional Committee.
Soon after crossing the floor, Mr McBride told 5THE FM community radio the move was in line with Premier Steven Marshall’s statements – that the emergency powers should not be in place a moment longer than necessary.
It was also in line with the Prime Minister’s statements regarding 70 – 80 per cent of the population being vaccinated by December.
Mr McBride said he raised the matter in a Liberal Party room meeting prior to the vote in parliament, and described crossing the floor as “difficult”.
However, he said he needed to represent his electorate and described the difficulties confronting those who lived and worked in the cross-border community.
Children had been locked out of school, teachers locked out of schools, nurses had been locked out of hospitals, people could not get to work or play sport.
“People are worn out, the ﬁght has gone. They tear up (cry) very easily,” Mr McBride said.
“They are emotionally worn down and worn out.”
He praised all the people involved who had helped keep the SA community safe and highlighted the importance of a “strong” representative on the state’s powerful transitional committee.
“In the last lockdown we had eight COVID people in Modbury in Adelaide, and yet we are locking the whole State down for those eight people in Modbury,” he said.
“People just can’t understand why they’ve been locked down if you are at Ceduna, or you’re at Port Lincoln or out in Coober Pedy or you might be in the southern end of Mount Gambier – and there’s no cases there.
“I don’t think people in the city realise the difﬁculty the people in the regions have had to work through.”
Mr McBride said when there was an outbreak in Adelaide there had to be a better way than locking down the whole state.
He was pleased to support Mr Bell’s amendment for a representative to be included on the powerful Transition Committee.
The committee decides what COVID restrictions to impose in response to outbreaks and risks and Mr McBride said the regional representative, whoever it was, needed to be a strong voice.
In state parliament, Mr Bell highlighted a series of cases regarding people struck by border closures and lockdowns.
“Casterton, which plays in the Western Border Football League, is not able to travel across the border at certain times, yet Melbourne clubs are able to ﬂy in to play at Adelaide Oval, not that Casterton has had a case of COVID-19 in, I believe, the entire time it has been in Australia,” he said.
Member for Mawson Leon Bignell, who grew up in the South East interjected: “They had to cancel the Kelpie Muster too, which is very disappointing, Dusty and I were going over for that on the long weekend.”
After highlighting the need for a regional representative of the transition committee, Mr Bell said his phone started ringing at 8.30am, and did not stop until 5pm.
“The frustration is whether SA Health has enough man-power, and that needs to be looked at,” he said.
“When we ring (SA Health) the phones now ring out and nobody gets back to us.
“We send emails and nobody gets back to us.”
Mr Bell told parliament one of his amendments related to regular brieﬁngs.
He said it was a reminder to the Transition Committee that MPs were “actually on the frontline and one of the government’s greatest assets”.
He said it was about “making sure that we are not just watching it on TV or having to sift through a COVID direction on a website, because as soon as it is on TV or on the radio we are hearing and watching it at the same time everyone else is, and then trying to determine what that means”.
Attorney General Vickie Chapman explained the difﬁculties of how such brieﬁngs would actually work.
Opposition Health Minister Chris Picton put forward an amendment to Mr Bell’s amendment, which was carried.
Subsequently, MPs are to be briefed by the minister on the effect of any new COVID related directions or requirements “within seven days”.
This article appeared in Naracoorte Community News, 8 September 2021.