Mildura has this week faced its greatest challenge since the beginning of the pandemic. With four cases of the Delta variant of COVID-19 the community is on high alert. I want to thank everyone for their diligence, patience, and commitment to the safety of our community. I want to highlight the dedication of our health professionals, who have led the way in maintaining this outbreak. I’d like to thank the council, the Sunraysia Community Health Service, and all staff in each medical facility.
It goes without saying that this lockdown, the second in two months, is devastating for many individuals, families, and businesses. Devastating in a social and economic sense, we can at least be grateful it is not in terms of health outcomes. I sought Minister Hunt to declare Mildura a Commonwealth Hotspot because of the additional support that could be made available. This occurred and I am pleased that income support is being made to eligible people who have lost hours of work, through the COVID-19 Disaster Payment. If you’ve lost more than 20 hours, you can access $600 per week of lockdown. If you’ve lost between 8 and 20 hours, you can access $375.
The Prime Minister and Premier of Victoria agreed that the Commonwealth would provide income support, while the Victorian Government would provide significant support to businesses. However, I am concerned that many small business owners have told me that the current Victorian programs are not fit for purpose. This is particularly true for businesses that don’t pay GST. I appreciate that bills continue to stack up, which is why I am advocating for more support for small businesses in particular.
And while the Mildura community continues to face this outbreak, border communities continue to suffer. Border restrictions continue to impact access to urgent medical treatment and disrupt the daily lives of people who live in communities that have always been COVID free.
Unfortunately, it looks unlikely that state governments will do away with border restrictions as a response to outbreaks. I acknowledge the fantastic work that is done by Cross Border Commissioners in Victoria and New South Wales to manage these closures, but there is no such office in South Australia. We need to see much greater coordination between the States to provide confidence and consistency to border communities.