COVID Cross-border travel

Ombudsman to investigate bungled border handling

16 September 2021

The Victorian Ombudsman has announced an investigation will be launched into the Andrews Labor Government’s failed handling of border entry and the state’s travel permit system.

Member for Euroa and deputy Nationals leader Steph Ryan said she welcomed the investigation, describing the indefinite locking out of Victorians from their homes as one of the worst overreaches by the Andrews Labor Government to date.

“The Andrews Government’s decision to keep Victorians locked out of their homes is by far, one of the cruellest blows they’ve dealt yet,” Ms Ryan said.

“I’ve been contacted by dozens of residents from across our region who are stuck on the NSW border and unable to return home – many of whom are quickly running out of money for accommodation and food.

“The 24-hour travel window requirement for those needing to transit through NSW from Queensland is just ridiculous, and I am aware of several elderly residents who have pleaded for exemptions to allow for extra time to return to Victoria safely.

“Daniel Andrews’ draconian rules and total disregard for due process is callously separating families and effectively exiling Victorians.”

Announcing the investigation, Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass said the concerning case reports “raised concerns about the exercise of discretion under the relevant public health directions” and “potentially systemic issues about the departmental decision-making.”

Ms Ryan said while she welcomed the Ombudsman’s investigation, it was crucial to ensure steps are taken right now to get regional Victorians back in their homes as soon as possible.

“The Nationals have been calling on the government for weeks now to establish a process to allow people to come home if they return a negative test, have had at least one vaccination and can self-isolate at home,” Ms Ryan said.

“The government has belatedly opened a pilot program along these lines but with only 200 people to be allowed in and thousands still locked out, it’s not enough.

“The people stuck in NSW are people who took up the call to “holiday domestically” and get out and support our nation’s economic recovery and now they are locked out of their own homes.

“I’ve said all along that throughout this pandemic that the government’s response must be a balanced one. The announcement of this investigation by the Ombudsman is a clear indicator that the Andrews Labor Government continues to miss the mark.”

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