NT tightens border as cohesion calls continue

Labor seeks action to end uncertainty; SARTA looks for drive test change

NT tightens border as cohesion calls continue
NT border fines are tough


Border restrictions continue to develop in line with events, with the Northern Territory tightening the screws on Queensland over its south-eastern outbreak.

NT has declared Brisbane, Logan and Ipswich to be a Covid-19 hotspot.

Truck drivers who have been in these areas in the past 14 days will not be allowed entry to the NT or will be required to undergo a supervised 14 day quarantine period at a cost of $2,500.

Noting the likelihood of further moves from the territory government, the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association (ALRTA) noted on Saturday that "given the extremely short notice, it is possible that members or other drivers are already loaded and in transit to the NT".

It urged members to help spread the word to drivers who may be affected.

Newcastle, greater Sydney, Eurobodalla shire and all of Victoria are the other hotspots for the NT.  

"If you are intending to travel to the Northern Territory from an identified coronavirus hotspot you are advised to cancel your plans," the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) advises.

"Likewise if you are a Territorian intending to travel to a hotspot you are advised to cancel your plans.

"Any exemption granted before the 17 July 2020 are invalid if the person travelling has been in an identified hotspot."

Read how NSW and SA are move towards consistency, here

On a federal level, Opposition transport spokesperson Catherine King and road safety spokesperson Glenn Sterle call for Canberra to work with the states to develop a consistent national protocol that enables trucks and freight to move around the country as easily as possible.

"Throughout this crisis, Australia has been as dependent on trucks as ever – but the transport workers keeping Australia moving have too often been forgotten, the pair says.

"Currently, interstate truck drivers must operate according to complex rules and regulations that are regularly changed with minimal notice.

"This has left drivers across the country uncertain of their rights and responsibilities and fearful that they could be personally liable for fines – even if violations are the result of incorrect instructions provided by their employer.

"Truck drivers are essential workers, and they must be treated as such."

The federal government is urged to consult broadly with the industry and immediately:

  • work with the states to standardise testing and permit requirements so drivers can ensure they comply with rules
  • provide targeted assistance to those operators who are experiencing financial pressure
  • help fund paid pandemic leave so truck drivers and all essential workers can isolate if required to do so
  • ensure that individual truck drivers do not bear the brunt of fines that are the result of poor systems implemented by their employers.

"Unclear and conflicting regulations are putting at risk truck drivers and the entire road transport industry," the pair says.

In South Australia, the South Australian Road Transport Association (SARTA) spoke with premier Steven Marshall separately with new transport minister Corey Wingard as it looks for shift to random testing of truck drivers, supplemented by any necessary targeted testing.

The association reports Marshall took the proposal to COVID Recovery Committee and subsequent discussion ensued on issues including "the number, location, hours of operation and truck-friendly set-up of COVID Testing facilities specifically for truck drivers".

SARTA hopes for:

  • mandatory weekly testing to be dropped
  • heavy vehicle ‘essential traveller’ drivers to be tested randomly at truck-friendly facilities on key freight routes and at any pop-up facilities used by the authorities
  • some targeted testing may be done based upon police intelligence and road-side observations.

Despite government and industry assurances that grocery supply chains will continue to work, there have been some reports of panic buying likely exacerbated by reports of issues at meatworks and distribution centres.

Woolworths warehouse workers at the Melbourne Liquor Distribution Centre in Laverton have taken protected industrial action following a positive test last week.

The United Workers Union is seeking a deep clean of the facility.

It comes as four of the company’s Melbourne stores closed in 24 hours following staff positive tests.


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