The peak freight body in New South Wales fears the “integrity” of the supply chain could be compromised after Queensland announced stronger border rules will come into effect from Friday.
- NSW freight services and producers are worried that Queensland’s new border rules will seriously disrupt the supply chain and their livelihoods
- Freight NSW says truck drivers have done their best to get vaccinated but the health order will make a tough situation worse
- A cheese business based in both states says its staff have received conflicting advice from police and the Queensland government
Queensland’s chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young said anyone crossing the border from New South Wales into the Sunshine State must have had at least one COVID-19 vaccination.
“I’m asking that, at the latest by Friday … they must have had at least one dose of vaccine,” Dr Young said.
Queensland Health was unable to confirm if the freight industry would be included under the new rules.
Road Freight NSW head Simon O’Hara said that would cause problems for truck drivers.
“If this is the case for freight workers, it’s going to compound an already difficult situation.”
Mr O’Hara said freight workers had embraced vaccination where possible, including in south-west Sydney, where more than 500,000 additional doses were being prioritised for authorised workers in Greater Sydney’s areas of concern.
“We’ve also been calling for some months now for prioritisation across the entire supply chain for freight workers to get the vax,” he said.
The Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) is also calling on transport workers to be prioritised for vaccine access.
Western Australia is due to close its borders to unvaccinated New South Wales transport workers from tomorrow, and Queensland will introduce the same measure from Friday.
TWU assistant national secretary Nick McIntosh has warned the restrictions could see essential supplies cut off from communities.
“Now it is hardworking truck drivers — and the regional communities that rely on them most — that will suffer greatly.
“The Federal Government’s failure to provide national leadership in transport has meant truck drivers have struggled to get vaccinated, have waited hours for COVID-19 tests, have been drowned in paperwork to meet ever-changing border requirements, and have struggled to find open truckstops where they can rest, eat and shower.”
Truck drivers living in hotspot local government areas in New South Wales have been added to the priority list for vaccinations as of today.
‘Nightmare’ for Nimbin business
Paul Wilson said the entire team at Nimbin Valley Cheese had a received a first dose and would be fully vaccinated within three weeks.
However, the dairy farmer and cheesemaker was concerned what impact the Queensland border closure would have on operations this week.
Mr Wilson travelled to the company’s factory on the Gold Coast last night but other staff were turned away at the border this morning.
He said some staff who travel up to the Gold Coast from New South Wales each day were asked to reapply for a permit after 8:00pm yesterday, which they did, but when they approached the border at 6:00am today, “the cops just turned them around and said their paperwork’s not valid”.
“We were meant to have more milk arriving this afternoon, but some trucks with produce on them have been turned around, so maybe we won’t even get our milk up here.”
Mr Wilson said the police officer’s comments differed from what appeared to be the official advice from Queensland Health.
“The website says if you’re involved in the production of an essential supply – I would’ve thought food was pretty essential – then you can travel into Queensland, but the cops are just saying no,” he said.
Artisan cheese fed to pigs
The business was already hard hit last week after the cancellation of a number of farmers’ markets in the Northern Rivers.
Mr Wilson said that new homes had to be found for the cheese, but some of the artisan cheese was fed to the pigs.
“We dropped around 30 per cent of our income last week,” he said.
“The other thing is our orders have been all over the place — cafes and restaurants have been ordering and not ordering.
Meanwhile, New South Wales cross-border commissioner James McTavish said people could not go between the two jurisdictions unless they were entering either state for permitted purposes.
“That means they can go to permitted work, and there’s essential workers only included in that,” he said.
“So, if you’re a healthcare worker, if you’re an emergency worker, if you’re involved in those essential retail activities, you can go to work.
“But, if you’re a teacher, if you’re not a medical professional, if you’re providing non-essential retail services then you cannot cross the border to go into Queensland.”