Industry slams NSW-Vic border shutdown

A major employer group has warned a “Berlin Wall” between Victoria and NSW will severely hamper Australia’s economic recovery.

Federal MPs and senators based near the border have also raised concerns about the strict COVID-19 measure, with Nationals accusing state governments of punishing regional communities over the Melbourne outbreak.

The Victoria-NSW border will close at midnight on Tuesday as states desperately try to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Permits will be issued to people who need to cross the border for work or healthcare.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt says the closure is difficult, temporary but necessary. He says the focus now is on helping Victoria trace every coronavirus case and containing the spread.

“Nobody is being punished. Everybody is being protected,” Hunt told the ABC on Tuesday.

But Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said the closure would pull the rug out from under the economic recovery and spark chaos.

“The border closure puts up a Berlin Wall between our two biggest states which represent more than half our national economy, and cuts in two our country’s main economic artery,” Willox said.

“It is a sledgehammer approach when what is required is focused strategy that is community and hot-spot based and not based on arbitrary borders that split communities.”

Willox said freight should be waved through without any delay, warning traffic jams at borders could cause a huge economic cost.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the decision was necessary but couldn’t say how long the border would remain closed.

Albury-Wodonga has Australia’s only cross-border health service, with cancer treatment and dialysis on the NSW side and the maternity unit at the Victorian campus.

Independent MP Helen Haines, who is based in Wodonga, said locals needed certainty that health care and business wouldn’t be affected.

Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie, whose office is in Wodonga, criticised the “one size fits all” approach of shutting down the borders.

Victorian authorities recorded 127 new coronavirus cases on Monday, while two men died in the state to take the national toll to 106.

Nine public housing towers in Melbourne are in complete lockdown with 53 confirmed cases among them.

Federal Labor MP Peter Khalil, who grew up in public housing, says the lockdown has added to disadvantage experienced by residents.

He wants all levels of government to work together in order to reform the public housing system.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth says the cases in Melbourne are in a younger age group and people are experiencing milder symptoms.

“That means it’s so much more important now that, even with mild symptoms, people actually go and get tested,” he told the ABC.

“It’s still going to be a problem with people going to hospital and getting very sick with coronavirus disease, so no-one should underestimate the impact of COVID-19.”

This story first appeared on our sister publication Inside Retail