Vic truckies being refused entry to SA

Victorian truckies being turned back at SA border

Agribusiness
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A sudden change in coronavirus testing rules has seen Victorian truckies blocked from SA.

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WELFARE ISSUES: Former Livestock & Rural Transporters Association of Victoria president John Beer says the sudden change in testing rules raises serious animal welfare issues.

WELFARE ISSUES: Former Livestock & Rural Transporters Association of Victoria president John Beer says the sudden change in testing rules raises serious animal welfare issues.

Victorian livestock transporters say they've been blocked from entering South Australia, after a sudden change in coronavirus testing rules.

At least one livestock driver was stopped by South Australian police at Servicetown, while trying to take a load of pigs from Victoria to Murray Bridge.

And SA police confirmed a "large number" of drivers had been turned back, at the border.

Former Livestock & Rural Transporters Association of Victoria president John Beer said that raised serious animal welfare issues.

"We had to hire a South Australian prime mover, whose driver was up to date with all his COVID stuff," Mr Beer said.

"They wouldn't even let the driver go anywhere into Bordertown to get tested and get up to date with what he was missing."

"Obviously you can't take the pigs back."

Livestock transport industry representatives have already flagged that it's becoming too difficult for drivers to keep up with state border changes and ensuring they are compliant with guidelines.

Afternoon call

WM Beer owner Wayne Beer said he received a phone call, around 3:30pm on Monday from the driver who was stopped at Servicetown.

"He was pretty much terrified because he'd heard on the UHF, five minutes prior to that, they were turning trucks around at Servicetown if you hadn't had a COVID test 72 hours prior," Mr Beer junior said.

"The last information we had, on the Friday, was that once you were in SA you had 24-hours to get a COVID-test.

"We did that every Monday and we were right, after that."

Mr Beer said he explained the situation to the officer in charge.

"His response to me was 'that's my problem, why?"

"They directed my driver to get back over to the Victorian side of the border."

Mr Beer said his driver could not get back to Horsham for testing, as it shut at 12:30pm.

"Kaniva was just a doctor's surgery, so he couldn't get in there either, and Edenhope was by appointment only.

"Bearing in mind we have 330 pigs on board, and you don't want to be going to much further away from Murray Bridge, because they are already off feed and water.

"We could have had a massive catastrophe, with 310 dead pigs."

He said he was most upset about the flat refusal to come up with any compromise

"There was no leeway," Mr Beer said.

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Welfare issues

Another driver, Andy Jacobs, said the lack of consultation with the livestock transport industry was deeply concerning.

He said no account was being taken of animal welfare concerns.

"We are not about to rewrite the rule book on how to manage COVID, but animal production, regardless of the pandemic, must continue," Mr Jacobs said.

"It highlights how vulnerable the industry is and that animal welfare is not taken into consideration."

"We, as an industry, have done an incredible job to get this far without having a major animal welfare disaster."

He said there needed to be a practical solution.

"Put some testing stations on the border, where they are required - it doesn't matter if you are travelling east, west, north or south.

"If you have that testing facility on the border you can access it from either side of the fence.

"This blanket 'no' is putting everyone at risk."

South West Coast Liberal MP Roma Britnell said with no freight friendly testing sites nearby, truckies were forced to turn around and go to Horsham for testing.

She said all state governments must immediately implement a uniform set of rules for interstate freight to stop this chaos and confusion.

National Cabinet agreed to a framework but states are not compelled to implement it meaning each state has its own set of rules and requirements which leaves truckies caught in the middle.

The state opposition had a plan to keep freight moving, with an increase in freight-friendly testing sites, introduction of rapid testing, priority vaccination appointments and making freight workers exempt from the authorised worker permit system.

"Our truckies have had enough - they are being caught in the tangled web of border entry requirement that each state puts in place," Ms Britnell said.

"The supply chain is already pushed to the brink - if we keep making it harder for truckies to do their job, the system will fall over and Victorians won't have the goods they need.

"(Premier) Daniel Andrews is guilty of having no plan to work with neighbouring states towards a standard set of rules to keep interstate freight flowing."

A South Australian police spokesman said new testing requirements for commercial transport and freight services, from NSW, ACT and Victoria, came into effect on Friday, August 27.

"There have been a large number of truck drivers arriving at the border without having had a COVID-19 test in the past 72 hours," the spokesperson said.

"Some of these drivers have been assessed as not having a reasonable reason for not having such a test.

"Consequently, these drivers have not been able to enter South Australia."

South Australia police were working to ensure business continuity and the safety of the state.

"While further work continues to refine requirements police will, as an interim measure, be issuing drivers who have not received a COVID-19 test in the 72 hours prior to entering South Australia with a stand-alone direction to be tested within 12 hours of their entry.

"When that driver next returns to South Australia they will need to have proof of a COVID-19 test within 72 hours they will be refused entry and the subject of significant enforcement action."

SA border restrictions add pressure for long-haul truckers

Australian Trucking Association chair David Smith said the 72-hour testing threshold would create serious issues for operators travelling between states.

"The difficulty is the 72-hour threshold - it sounds fine, three days is a long time, but someone that is driving a semi trailer, who may be living in their truck, has to have access to a site that he can access with a truck," he said.

"While I can understand the tighter restrictions because everyone's running a bit scared, they have got to be workable."

"It's not feasible to make it that tight of a schedule to maintain that 72-hour regime."

Mr Smith said he could understand why the rules had been put in place.

"It is about keeping the community safe and so on but hell, it is pretty harsh when we are talking about people's livelihoods here," he said.

"Long distance drivers have done a fantastic job but we do not seem to get a lot of recognition for doing that.

"In regards to the 72-hour testing requirement, they really do make life difficult and we have got enough pressure now, just doing our job - that is enough pressure and this is added on top."

He said the testing rules had the potential to impact drivers' compliance with log book requirements if they were turned away from borders after having already done a lengthy drive.

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