Rural border zones ‘not Coolangatta’: Lister

James Lister pictured at the border crossing at Sugarloaf south-east of Stanthorpe yesterday, Friday 3 April. He is lobbying the Queensland Government to review border crossing restrictions in the bush.

By Jeremy Sollars

State MP for Southern Downs James Lister has voiced community concern over the Queensland Government’s use of concrete barriers to block rural border crossings in his electorate, as part of COVID-19 control responses.

Mr Lister this week also pointed to firearms dealer restrictions and closures of waterways and lakes to boat traffic and fishing as other examples of where he says a “different response” is needed in the bush compared to metropolitan centres.

“Everywhere along the border in Southern Downs, from Killarney to Mungundi, people who have an acknowledged right to cross between the states, are forced to travel long distances just to visit the supermarket or the doctor,” Mr Lister said this week.

“One farmer in the western end of my electorate advised my office that a local border crossing closure has resulted in a 200km round trip to move his farm machinery between his adjoining land on either side of the Macintyre River border.

“I also share in everyone’s concerns regarding access to emergency services like ambulance and RFB when 6-ton concrete blocks close off our local roads.

“Whilst I am cautious not to knock’ the state government while it is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, our communities are entitled to representation, and I can honestly say there have been too many hasty and ill-informed decisions happening lately.

“Particular examples include, but are not limited to –

• the announcement of the border closure on twitter without any accompanying details or plans and the physical sealing off of many important crossings;

• the decision to close all licenced firearms retailers and armourers (including those which also sell outdoor goods, spare parts, hardware etc) without any plan to fulfil the needs of legitimate firearms users (in a face-saving move the Queensland Government has partially reversed the bans but many legitimate users are still left out!); and

• the botched decision to close all waterways, including inland lakes, to boat traffic and fishing (although this decision has been partially overturned for coastal users, I am still fighting to get the same rights for users of our inland lakes!).

“These bungles always hit the bush harder than the city.

“The problem is that our Brisbane-centric state government (with not a single minister from a bush electorate) doesn’t understand the bush, and more importantly, it doesn’t ask us for advice or consult before making momentous decisions.

“When they think of ‘the border’ they think of Coolangatta.

“When they think of firearms dealers, they imagine homicidal gun-nuts.

“And when they think of boating and fishing, they think of Moreton Bay.

“Please rest assured that my staff and I are doing everything we possibly can to get the state government to fix the access problems that have been imposed on us.

“I appreciate that resources are not unlimited, and that our police are doing a great job with the resources that they have.

“I’m sure they didn’t expect to become border guards when they joined.

“But I am calling on the Queensland state government to be fair dinkum, and to open (rural) border crossings to traffic, and to supply whatever personnel they need to check passes and uphold the law.

“Our safety and our communities still depend on this access.”


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