The Federal Government has abandoned towns along the Victoria-NSW border, while at the same time announcing millions of dollars of funding for the NSW-Queensland border, says Helen Haines MP, Independent Federal Member for Indi.
On Tuesday Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan announced a $53 million package of funding with the Queensland Government, for businesses in Queensland affected by the border closure with NSW.
“People living along the Victorian-NSW border have been crying out for help for months, and the Federal Government has paid them barely any notice. It is an insult to the people of Indi that the Government can see need in one state but not another,” Dr Haines said.
“I have no doubt businesses along the NSW-Queensland border need financial help, because I can see what is happening to businesses in my electorate. It makes no sense why the Federal Government would help one state and not another.”
It’s been reported that the Albury-Wodonga region has taken a $500 million hit to the economy in the year to March, according to Tourism Research Australia. Lockdowns and border closures have continued the economic pain since then. Victorian state government figures estimate spending in the Victorian High Country dropped by 50 per cent in the same time.
“The economic pain felt in our region is undeniable. Yet the Federal Government has looked the other way,” Dr Haines said.
Dr Haines has been speaking to businesses along the border in the electorate of Indi daily, many of whom have described how their businesses are barely hanging on with the paltry assistance available to them.
“We had 138 days of a hard border closure last year, where was the Federal Government’s targeted assistance package then? We have had border restrictions for months now, with very limited reasons to cross the border between Victoria and NSW in place now. Where is the targeted support for the businesses sent to breaking point here?
“There is a double standard at play, and I will not stand by and let this pass unnoticed. Mr Frydenberg and Mr Tehan need to be straight with the people on the Victoria-NSW border. Why do the livelihoods of people in Victoria matter less than those of people in Queensland?”
Now that it is clear the Federal Government understands how border communities are affected by border closures and lockdowns in other states, they need to front up with a support package for the Victoria-NSW border, Dr Haines said.
“This package for Queensland shows the Federal Government will provide specific funding for border regions. Well, we have one right here that should have been first in line,” Dr Haines said.
“Now the Federal Government must commit to specific funding and support for the Victoria-NSW border region without delay.”
“The NSW and Queensland Governments have provided support packages for border businesses, and the Victorian Government must also come to the table and ensure businesses in the border region aren’t left to close their doors.”