Virus promise

By Olivia Duffey

Coronavirus was second on the priority list for residents who met with Federal Member for Farrer Sussan Ley during an electorate tour in the region last week.

In Deniliquin and district to primarily discuss water reforms and the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, Ms Ley said the dreaded virus and the impact it is having on livelihoods also dominated discussion in each of the regional towns she visited.

She said while the Federal Government does not have the power to overturn state public health orders, she said that does not mean it cannot try to influence state decision making on the issue.

And she has vowed to continue lobbying for a less restrictive system until borders are reopened.

‘‘The reason the border is closed is because of a New South Wales Government Public Health Order, so recognising the Federal Government has no power over a New South Wales Public Public Health Order means while we don’t set the policy I have certainly been arguing very strongly (to change it),” she said.

‘‘I have had conversations with the Prime Minister and, in turn, he has had conversations with the premier leading from my representations.

‘‘What I did was spell out exact examples of farmers, of shearers and shearing contractors who couldn’t get their teams across (the border), farmers who couldn’t get their machinery across, of bigger rural industries that couldn’t get their workers to actually come and start the plant.’’

As for individual compassionate cases, Ms Ley has been directing them directly to the NSW Health Minister and premier’s office.

‘‘Individual compassionate cases are very concerning so I send them directly where I can,’’ she said.

‘‘Again, recognising that we don’t control the public health orders, all we can do is really use our voices to raise the issues as loudly as possible.

‘‘I am pleased to say I have had some results.

‘‘I have talked to a few people about individual cases and I always say send them to me, my office, and we will push them forward for you on an individual basis.’’

Ms Ley’s visit to Deniliquin on Tuesday came one day after a possible vaccine was announced.

While there is now doubt about when a vaccine will be made available, Ms Ley said she would be pushing for NSW residents to be among the first in the queue to receive it.

‘‘This means we are going to be at the front of the queue when two of the most promising vaccines come on the market, and that is important,’’ she said.

‘‘Everyone in New South Wales should feel very proud of the New South Wales Public Health System.

‘‘It is contact tracing, it has an ability to do that quickly — identify where the virus is and where the people who have recently been diagnosed are. That has actually been the secret of our very strong response.’’

Ms Ley said the main role of the Federal Government during the pandemic is to support communities and industry through it.

She believes the JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments payments have been instrumental in doing just that.

‘‘JobKeeper has been an absolute boon for regional communities,’’ she said.

‘‘I was speaking to a large club along the river, so far they have received $500,000 of JobKeeper income and that pattern is repeated with a lot of the businesses I speak to.

‘‘Talking to businesses JobKeeper has, in many cases, been a lifeline. That is the word I hear the most often — a lifeline.

‘‘However there is anxiety about what happens after JobKeeper. The good news is that we have extended it to June next year.

‘‘If you are unlucky enough to have lost your job between the virus and now, your access to JobSeeker is still going to be easier, and the Coronavirus supplement will support and help you until you are able to get another job.

‘‘That is the main job the Federal Government is doing.’’