POLL: Is it time to open up WA’s border?

Vehicles on the Nullabor Plain, symbolizing the coronavirus hard border closure between Western Australia and the rest of Australia.

This month’s Mining People Poll wants to hear your opinion on the hard border closure. Is it time to open up the border? Tell us what you think.

Is the mood around WA’s hard border closure beginning to shift?

 

When State Premier Mark McGowan closed the border at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, it threw many people’s lives into chaos — including many FIFO mining industry employees who commute interstate.

 

HAVE YOUR SAY NOW: Should WA’s hard border be lifted?

 

The move has been incredibly popular, as West Australians enjoy freedoms resembling pre-Covid life that people almost everywhere else in the world can only dream of.

Cracks in hard border policy support starting to show

But, as Clive Palmer’s ongoing court challenge to the hard border foreshadowed, the border closure is proving both difficult and costly to businesses as well as employees.

 

By late September, the Australian Financial Review was running articles about the hard border closure making it impossible for WA businesses to find enough workers to fill a 10.6 per cent increase in job vacancies.

 

Job ads for labourers in WA, for example, were up 64.4 per cent in August, compared to a less than two per cent rise in other states. Job ads for tradespeople were up nearly 17 per cent in WA and down more than 17 per cent for the rest of the country.

 

The mining industry is just one of many industries finding existing skills shortages exacerbated by the border closure, an influx of applications from inexperienced candidates, and fears of a wage bubble just around the corner.

Calls for hard border to soften

Some hard border restrictions are already being softened, with Victorians entering WA being allowed to self-isolate in a house — instead of being forced into hotel-based quarantine — from 5 October. But it goes nowhere near far enough to solve the problems it’s causing industries and businesses

 

For mining industry employees, the sacrifices imposed by Covid and the hard border have been huge. It has torn families apart, as some FIFO workers choose to stay in WA so they can continue to earn, while their loved ones stay in their home state.

 

On the flip side, West Australians living in other states have been unable to return to WA since the border closed on 5 April — drawing the ire of politicians from across political divides. WA Greens Leader Alison Xamon said the border closure lacked “any fairness, natural justice or transparency”, while Opposition Police Spokesman Peter Katsambanis called it “Byzantine bureaucracy”.

 

The Premier has said he would require other states to have not had a community transmission of Covid-19 for 28 days before he would consider opening the border to travellers from those states.

Have your say in this month’s MPi poll

In the meantime, businesses, FIFO workers, the mining industry and families are all suffering.

 

With that in mind, this month’s Mining People Poll wants to hear your opinion on the hard border closure. Is it time to open up the border? Tell us what you think here.