News

Walsh urges locals to do the right thing

By Riverine Herald

TODAY we are being officially plunged back into the early days of the COVID-19 crisis — not quite lockdown, but there is a risk that is the next stop on this line.

Understandably many of us will be reluctant — but we have no choice.

It seems all our initial compliance, as successful as it has been, counts for naught now the second wave of the virus — a second wave everyone knew would almost certainly come — has got out of control.

But we must also see this for what it is — something that is for the benefit of all Victorians, not just those of us in the relatively COVID-free north.

Our real concerns and thoughts must also be directed to those within our local community who from midnight today will be out of work, or be working very reduced hours, or be isolated in their homes with a lack of contact.

Regional Victoria can once again lead the way for the state and show if we do the right thing we can exercise genuine control over the spread of this virus. I sincerely thank all of you who, since Monday, have accepted the need to wear masks — of all shapes, sizes and colours — and your willingness to make yet another major change to your lives.

People are dying in Melbourne and tragedy of that scale has not reached us.

Yet.

Because if you look at the local government map of Victoria you can see the ripple effect of the hotel quarantine mess and contact-tracing farce.

Shires and their smaller country towns that were, only a week or two ago, free of any cases, now have one, or two or more.

At the time of writing, Campaspe Shire had one active case. We want that figure to be zero.

Do we feel let down by this whole process? Absolutely.

Are the main streets of our towns going to be hurt, and hurt badly? Sadly, they will be. And you can’t hide that disappointment behind a mask.

Many more country Victorians will lose their jobs. Many more of our small businesses will be forced to close their doors.

Our cafés, restaurants and pubs in country towns that have not recorded a single case of coronavirus but now face six weeks of shutdowns, are questioning why we are copping these consequences.

Premier Daniel Andrews says every decision is ‘based on the data’. But while Melbourne and Mitchell Shire had been singled out — based on the data — a blanket shutdown has now been thrown across regional Victoria.

There is still time to change this decision before more people are put out of work and small businesses close.

I am calling on the Andrews Labor Government to urgently review postcode level data to put restrictions in place where they are needed most, while ensuring towns that haven’t recorded positive cases can survive.

The next six weeks will be some of the most difficult we have ever faced as country Victorians.

It has never been more important to reach out to family, friends and neighbours, to check in with vulnerable people in your community, to buy local whenever you can and to pull together and embrace the proud community spirit our country towns are famous for.

And you can’t mask that either.

Peter Walsh, Member for Murray Plains and leader of The Nationals