Australia’s shared mainland state and territory land borders exceed almost 19,000 km. Add Tasmania’s total main island border and you have just over 21,000 km of borders. That’s almost like flying from Australia to the United Kingdom and then half the way back again.

Australia’s state border history is rich with issues. The definition of where state and territory boundaries lie has been constantly reviewed, sometimes causing fierce rivalry. Border disputes have occurred between several states over the course of Australian history and although we should be a more mature country today, I’m not so sure this is accurate. 

Queensland hospitals are for Queenslanders! Melbourne, Victoria in Lockdown! Western Australia Borders are Closed! 

Headlines scream at us, with border politics stopping us from seeing friends and families. Funerals, weddings, anniversaries and just the freedom to travel in our own country for a holiday are also off the agenda. In Melbourne, venturing out after 8pm without good reason, could find you $1,600 poorer. And please, no Facebook posts. Handcuffs are only for criminals, or so I thought.

In the business of Convenience and Petroleum we need mobility of people to thrive. Of course, the current circumstances are emotional and it’s difficult to make 100% correct decisions around people and safety. But as a community and Industry, we have a job to do. We have to think about today and the longer-term sustainability of our Industry and our people. These should be put above personal or short-term decisions such as upcoming state elections or football competitions.

Who would have thought in 2020 we would have any state premier unable to have another take their phone call? Gladys said it straight out in a recent press conference: that the Queensland Premier wouldn’t take her call.

We are being led by health professionals who suddenly have their five minutes of fame, appearing on our TV every morning. Do they ever want us to get back to normality? If normal comes they disappear back into obscurity. In Melbourne we had 100 doctors sign a petition to relax lockdowns – they are concerned that people are too scared to go to the doctor for a cancer diagnosis.

To top that off I heard on Sky News a report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which confirmed that only 6% of US deaths had Coronavirus as the ONLY cause of death. Yes only 6% of all recorded Coronavirus deaths were solely attributed to COVID-19. The balance had pre-exiting or underlying issues. One such coronavirus death in North America was a motorbike accident. Guess what. That too was listed as coronavirus related. What do we want? Just honesty from our politicians and our media.

My question to those politicians, public servants (state medical officers) and political commentators (media) that keep repeating ‘keep the borders closed’, ‘stay in lockdown’ ….you go on JobKeeper or you cut your salary to three or four days per week and see if you have the same sentiment to the border closures and lockdowns.

People will lose their houses, businesses will close forever and there are kids who will transition from school to the workforce and miss many valuable rites of that transition. Bottom line is somebody has to pay for all of this, and it will be our grandkids!

Please don’t think I am saying open slather. I’m saying we are smart enough to be able to live with many diseases and manage them, we should be able to do the same with Coronavirus.

Each day I deal with some of the smartest and resilient business leaders, I can see the changing of their behaviours since March. If you haven’t seen your colleagues face to face, heard the laughter of a team joke, felt the passion of differing opinions, then your attitude, energy and optimism are not fed. 

But I think one thing that has shown through this crisis, if we communicate regularly and are transparent about what we are doing and how we are feeling, we might not make everyone happy all the time, but we can maintain a sense of trust, unity and teamwork. I call it humanity.

It’s humanity that we now expect to see from our leaders. Scaring the population into believing that the only way to deal with a threat is to all hide in our own homes, is not leadership. We must care for our vulnerable. We must also care for those that we think are strong but are privately fighting hard to maintain their mental wellness. Their vulnerability is just as real.

The pathway to human engagement and being open for business is not via Zoom or Teams or Google Duo. It’s through trusting good people to act sensibly. It’s through people engaging. It’s through open borders. 

We must get back to business, it will be healthy for everyone.

C&I thanks Darren Park, CEO United Convenience Buyers, for writing this opinion piece for the Oct/Nov issue of C&I Retailing magazine, which is online now.

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