Friday, September 18, 2020

Regional Victoria being punished, says Member for Mallee

FEDERAL Member for Mallee Anne Webster has labelled the Victorian Government's decision to class regional Victoria as a single unit as "beyond belief".

Mildura remains under the same set of strict restrictions as the rest of regional Victoria after Premier Daniel Andrews outlined his four-step plan to return to a "COVID-normal" life on Sunday.

"We are being treated as nothing more than an afterthought," Dr Webster said.

"The fact that Premier Andrews had to return to the podium to address regional Victoria after finishing his statements on Melbourne and handing over to health officials is typical of what regional Victorian communities have come to expect from this state government."

Dr Webster said under the road map announced on Sunday, a spike in cases in Mallacoota at the other side of the state, 11 hours' drive away, would shut down businesses in the Mallee.

"To put all of Regional Victoria's diverse communities into one basket is ridiculous," she said.

"It is no better than making our road map the same as Melbourne.

"We were promised significant steps forward (on Sunday) but we have been forgotten once more.

"Parts of Mallee have had zero cases for four months, while other parts, such as Buloke Shire, have never had a case.

"These areas have already met the trigger points for step 3 of the Andrews Government's new road map, but they will be held back by other areas such as Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo.

"The fact we are all considered as a single unit is not fair or reasonable."

Dr Webster said this new road map would continue mental health issues and anxiety in our communities, and did not give businesses and employers the confidence they need to find a way forward at this difficult time.

"What we need is a clear definition of a hot spot, where community spread is identified, and then ensure reliable testing, tracing and isolation occurs," she said.

"We need not punish people across the whole state for a relatively small increase in a single community.

"This road map needs to be reconsidered from the ground up so that regional Victoria is treated fairly and sensibly.

"Individual communities need to be treated based on their own circumstances – not on case numbers hundreds of kilometres away."