Border communities deserve respect and reward, not eviction

Letter to editors

September 6, 2021

It’s ironic that five of the Northern Victorian local government areas cut from the border zone on September 2 have at least two things in common.

First, Buloke, Yarriambiack, Benalla, Loddon and Greater Bendigo are places without COVID cases.

Second, the member-communities that comprise these council areas have achieved some of the highest vaccination rates in Victoria, with Buloke’s population recording the state’s top rural count of both first and second doses in the latest Commonwealth local government area vaccination report*.

So, I share the deep disappointment of communities, mayors, councillors and staff whose councils have been dumped from the bubble without consultation or explanation from the state government.

Like the rest of us, they were left to make sense of this statement from Victoria’s Health Department:

‘With over one thousand cases per day, and a trajectory of exponential growth, the risk that NSW poses to Victoria is bigger than ever. That’s why we are reducing the number of communities in the border bubble from 11.59pm on…2 September.’

The border bubble has proved a relief for Northern Victoria’s communities after months and months of disruption.

It’s enabled people to go to work and medical appointments, visit their families, play sport and contribute to their communities in very difficult times. They’ve responded to the pandemic, lived by the rules, gone out and got tested, and kept COVID-safe.

It’s a lesson in risk management that deserves respect, engagement and reward, not eviction.

Tania Maxwell MP
Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party Member for Northern Victoria

* First and second dose vaccination % (population aged 15 and over) by local government area

  • Benalla 66.7, 43.8
  • Buloke 71.6, 48.4
  • Greater Bendigo 62.0, 40.7
  • Loddon 62.7, 35.8
  • Yarriambiack 67.0, 41.3

Source data [August 28, 2021]

Places without cases deserve a green light

June 9, 2021

I’ve asked Victoria’s Health Minister, Martin Foley MP, to tell the Northern Victorian communities I represent what modelling the government has done so that future COVID lockdowns are targeted where coronavirus breaks out.

Constituents in my electorate – where there’s not been a single case – deserve to know, because a targeted approach is what we need to ensure regional communities, business and local economies survive.

I’ve advised the minister that retailers and service providers from Corryong to Ouyen and Kinglake to Echuca are reporting substantial losses from the state government’s state-wide ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown imposed from May 28. But we have no cases.

A constituent last week wrote to me wondering if the government would shut down metropolitan Melbourne if three cases were reported in Mildura? It’s a sharp question.

Last year I proposed a traffic light system that would allow us to go about our daily life, work, school and sport, with prudent levels of alert, when cases or exposure sites emerge.

I was assured this was being considered.

In January, the Premier introduced just such a system to identify COVID-risk local government areas interstate. Combined with a permit system, these ‘lights’ prevented travellers from red zones and limited those from orange zones coming to Victoria.

Surely, we could adapt this for use inside our own state. But here we are again, places without cases, wearing the impact.

It’s time to give us the green light.

Government needs to fix ambulance response times

Letter to the editor

Many readers will be aware of recent reports about more distressing delays in ambulance arrivals at emergency incidents in some Victorian communities.

I’ve advocated repeatedly for more ambulance resources in the rural and regional areas that I represent.

I’m also continuing to push for a concerted effort by the state government, Department of Health and Ambulance Victoria to fix bottlenecks caused by practices such as ‘ramping’.

This occurs when hospital emergency departments are extremely busy and instruct paramedics to keep a patient on board until given the go-ahead to deliver them.

I’m prompted by the Heart Foundation’s Heart Week (May 3-9) to reiterate the clear need for a sustainable, permanent fix.

In the past year, ambulance response times have been under the spotlight – especially in Indigo, Loddon, Mansfield, Mitchell and Hepburn shires.

I’ve been working with these councils and taking their communities’ very real concerns to Parliament and the government so the disturbing delays that some people experience will become a thing of the past.

Earlier this year I welcomed the government’s additional $14.8 commitment to support regional ambulance services, but recent incidents show we’re not yet at the point where we can be confident that a fast, reliable and effective ambulance service will be available in emergency situations in our communities.

I’ve also been talking with Ambulance Victoria about ways we can each contribute to a solution.

Preventative health is one of them. Heart and brain health are things we can manage with good diet, exercise and regular check-ups, but heart attack and stroke still make up a substantial number of Ambulance Victoria call-outs.

The GoodSAM (Smartphone Activated Medic) app, where someone with basic first aid knowledge can be alerted to help at an incident nearby until an ambulance arrives, and the placement of defibrillators in communities, are also vital assets.

But proper resourcing that enables paramedics to attend rapidly to emergencies remains the best solution, and I’ll keep pressing the government to make sure that our Northern Victorian communities’ expectations can be met.

Tania Maxwell MP
Member for Northern Victoria, Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party