Border permit scheme failed stranded Victorians


The Victorian Greens have welcomed the Ombudsman’s report into the state’s border permit scheme and say it echoes concerns they had in August around vaccinated Victorians stranded interstate.

The Ombudsman found that the significant resources devoted to keeping Victorians out could have been used instead to figure out a safe way to get them home.

The Greens say it made no sense for the Government to keep the border shut with no system for safely returning vaccinated Victorians, particularly when Victoria’s case numbers eclipsed those of NSW. 

The Victorian Greens spokesperson for health, Dr Tim Read, was contacted by dozens of stranded Victorians at the time who were fully vaccinated and unable to return home. 

This included a couple needing to get back to Victoria to care for an elderly woman with worsening cancer, a man who had to move out of his house after it was sold, and others with deteriorating mental health.

Frustratingly, when many of these people had applied for an exemption to return to Victoria and nominated a preferred return date, they hadn’t received a response from the Department until after that nominated date, making their applications void. 

The Greens support the Ombudsman’s calls for compensation for those who suffered significant financial hardship and to withdraw fines given to people who were led to believe they were eligible to return.

Dr Read said he hoped the Ombudsman’s report would be a lesson for the government going forward, and that the new pandemic laws would ensure the reasoning behind decisions like these would be made public going forward.

Quotes attributable to Victorian Greens health spokesperson, Dr Tim Read: 

“After a few weeks, it made no sense to keep the border shut with no system for safely returning vaccinated Victorians, especially when Victorian COVID cases numbers began to outnumber NSW. 

“One reason we wanted the new pandemic laws was to see the reasoning behind decisions such as these, and whether they had the backing of experts.”