Media event date: 
31 March 2020
Date published: 
3 April 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

ANDREW SCHMIDT:

Now, Mark Coulton is the Federal Member for this seat that we’re in.

SASKIA MABIN:

Indeed, yeah.

SASKIA MABIN:

I did manage to still speak to him yesterday. Thank goodness for phones. But basically, the question that everyone’s asking at the moment is: is it possible to close down an entire local health district? Broken Hill is part of the Far West Local Health District and we’re the only in all of New South Wales to not have a case of coronavirus yet. So, you know, people are starting to say: maybe we should lock us down a little bit more to stop a case from getting in here. And yeah, I mean, I guess it’s something that we’ve had meeting about. In Wilcannia yesterday we know there was meetings to discuss whether or not that would be possible in Wilcannia itself. And so, I managed to get Mark on the phone yesterday and chatted to him about whether he thought that would be possible.

[Excerpt]

MARK COULTON:

Look, I think we need to be very wary of a complete lockdown because that can mean very difficult to deliver essential services.

It’s quite difficult with a major highway going through there, but the traffic on that now I would suspect would be quite minimal with the blockade at South Australia. So, I think we all should be living our lives as if we are taking the utmost care and working from home where we can, self-isolating if we can’t; if we have to go out to work, making sure we’re doing that in a safe way.

But everyone has their role to play, and so I think we all should be acting like we are in the most heightened sense of awareness, but I think it would be very difficult to enforce that. That’s the next step. I don’t think we have the resources to actually enforce that. And in some cases, it may be not practical with some services needing to come in and out of those smaller communities that don’t have [indistinct] services on hand.

This could go for some time.

SASKIA MABIN:

Yeah. I mean, hypothetically, if we were to introduce some measures, maybe not to enforce a complete lockdown, you know, still permitting for essential things to come in and out of the town, I mean, how would that be enforced and who would be responsible for enforcing that?

MARK COULTON:

Yeah, look, I don’t think we have the resources.

I think that ultimately, the responsibility for law enforcement comes down to the state government and the New South Wales Police Force.

But you know, it’s a very, very big area. It would be very hard to police.

We’ve got a lot of people who live in small towns, but also on stations that need to actually travel at some stage. They don’t - probably not as much as they used to - but there are issues with them gaining supplies with the- we’ve seen the hording from supermarkets.

Some of the people in the Far West are having a difficulty in getting the supplies that they actually need in single trips. So, that’s also an issue.

But this is an issue for every single person. And so, we are hearing reports, not in your listening area, but in other parts of my electorate. And as late as this last weekend, people conducting parties and gatherings like that – that can actually now be stopped and people can be fined by the New South Wales Police Force if that is shown to be actually happening.

Now we’ve got to stop the irresponsible behaviour. Everyone needs to take extreme caution. If we do that, we won’t have to actually restrict completely the flow of people from one community to the other.

SASKIA MABIN:

Indigenous communities are among the more vulnerable to COVID-19, and if it was to enter a predominantly Indigenous community that would be quite a concern. What sorts of measures have been put in place across your electorate to protect people in these vulnerable communities?

MARK COULTON:

So at the moment, we’re working with the New South Wales Government to identify where those communities may be.

But we need to differentiate between what is considered an Indigenous community and a community that has a large number of Indigenous residents.

You know, we’ve got communities like [indistinct] that- and possibly Goodooga that- you would consider Toomelah definitely, Murrin Bridge are their Indigenous communities. But then we’ve got places like Wilcannia, Menindee, Walgett, Bourke, who are communities with a large number of Aboriginal people living there as residents. And so, they are not considered Aboriginal or Indigenous communities.

But you are right, those communities are at risk because a lot of those communities have higher levels of chronic illness – diabetes, kidney disease and the like – and so those folk are more vulnerable.

So, it’s even more important that the people that live in those communities are taking extra special care of themselves and that the travel in and out of those communities is kept to a bare minimum.

SASKIA MABIN:

That’s Federal Member for Parkes Mark Coulton there, Andrew, speaking about the possibility of closing down a community.