Health | September 15, 2021
Kealy calls for SA Ombudsman investigation into border issues
Member for Lowan Emma Kealy has called for the South Australian Ombudsman to launch an inquiry into the South Australian Government’s border permit processes and travel exemptions.
Ms Kealy’s calls follow an announcement from the Victorian Ombudsman earlier today that it had launched a similar investigation into Victoria’s border permit system after more than 80 complaints from residents trying to return home from other states.
Ms Kealy said cross-border communities had been at the mercy of restrictions from two states for well over a year, and had faced enormous difficulties and stress in going about their daily lives.
“My office has received countless phone calls and emails from people who have been denied entry into South Australia for legitimate reasons or been forced to wait weeks for a response to their applications. These people’s lives have been turned on their head, and they are forced to jump through a seemingly endless number of hoops only to have the goalposts shift on them again and again,” she said.
“Despite the launch of a new exemptions portal recently, exemption application delays have continued to worsen, forcing people to miss medical appointments and other critical activities. There are currently about 7000 applications outstanding, meaning 7000 people are waiting for entry into South Australia.
“The amount of stress and uncertainty our cross-border communities have faced is immense. These residents deserve an assurance that the issues they have faced will not go ignored, and that everything that can be done will be done to improve the processes they are forced to go through.”
Ms Kealy said border issues also extended to the wider region, with significant impacts for freight and logistics workers, businesses and employees who live and work on opposite sides of the border, people outside the border zone needing to access services in South Australia, and even South Australian residents who were stranded at the border and could not return home.
“We have heard from businesses who can’t operate properly because their employees live in South Australia and wouldn’t be allowed to return home if they came into Victoria,” she said.
“We know of families who have been waiting weeks to be granted access to urgent medical treatments.
“We have seen truck drivers forced to turn around after getting to the border and finding out that extra conditions have been put on their entry into the state, disrupting the delivery of crucial supplies.
“There are a number of people who have been stuck at the border for days and even weeks, trying to return home to South Australia or Western Australia but unable to get an exemption.
“Our communities have been amazing in supporting these residents by offering them emergency food relief, access to facilities and organising accommodation for them.
“But more than 18 months into this pandemic, these situations shouldn’t be occurring in the first place. There is a better way to do this.
“This is why I am calling on the South Australian Ombudsman to immediately look into the delays for issuing border permits and exemptions, and also the treatment of members in our cross-border community, who do not deserve to be punished because of which side of an invisible line they happen to live on.”
Ms Kealy encouraged anyone who had been impacted by South Australian border closures and the permit and exemption systems to lodge a complaint with the South Australian Ombudsman online at www.ombudsman.sa.gov.au or by calling (08) 8226 8699.
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