Raising the BARR- Week ending 25 June 2021

Raising the Barr



Eleven days ago, there were 7 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Sydney that were declared as areas of concern after a growing COVID outbreak. One of these was the Sydney CBD, where NSW Parliament is based.

Ten days ago, before I left Cessnock to go into the Sydney CBD for Parliament I rang Parliament and asked what I thought was an obvious question – “Surely regional MPs are not being asked to come from their COVID free communities into the COVID hotspot of the Sydney CBD?” The answer was that Parliament would continue during the week ahead, business as usual.

Ten days ago, 4 of my regional MP colleagues went out for dinner, in the Sydney CBD. This is what regional MPs generally do, given that they are often otherwise in a motel room with very limited cooking facilities. This very obvious activity seemed to be lost on NSW Parliament in its decision to take a “business as usual” approach.

Nine days ago, those 4 regional MPs, having gone out for dinner together the previous night, came into Parliament and the day did indeed progress, as usual. All MPs mixed and mingled, sat close to each other in the Chamber, walked and talked along the corridors, lined up behind/in front of each other at the café, etc.

Eight days ago, those 4 MPs were told that the restaurant in which they had dinner had also, at the very time they were dining, been attended by a now confirmed COVID case. Those 4 MPs, nor Parliament (my employer) could have known this at the time of the dinner.

During that day, 8 days ago, for those of us working in Parliament, we waited nervously while those 4 MPs were tested. For privacy reasons it was not possible for us to know who these 4 MPs were which prevented each of us from understanding if we had been a “close” or a “casual” contact of the 4 MPs. Also, during this day, those 4 MPs were concerned about COVID, but had not yet tested positive or negative.

On that day, 8 days ago, at 2.00pm regional MPs were told that they could leave Parliament and travel home. It was officially no longer “business as usual”. And then seven days ago it was confirmed that the Northern Tablelands MP, Adam Marshall, had tested positive to COVID.

Adam and I get on really well and we will generally have a chat most weeks in Parliament. Last week was no different. We had sat down and chatted briefly on the Tuesday, nine days ago. I was now a “close” contact to a COVID case and I had come home into our community. I took a “lockdown” and a “quarantine” approach as quickly as possible, to limit the risks.

None of the 4 MPs did anything wrong. The other unknown person, that later tested positive for COVID, that went out to dinner at that same restaurant, did nothing wrong. But this is the nature of the current COVID strain – the “delta strain”. It is just so contagious. It can spread so quickly and easily.

The serious threat of this new delta strain is not new news. This is why I cannot believe that Parliament was scheduled to go ahead “business as usual” the way that it did. I am just a regular guy that reads the news, both local and international, that is easily available on the web. It was pretty clear to me that the risk in those 7 LGA’s that was identified eleven days ago was going to be high. Parliament sits right in the middle of one of those LGA’s, and yet we pretended the risk was low.

I can’t help but think that the throwing of stones and rocks, at other States, like Victoria, when they have gone into lockdown in the past, by the NSW Premier and the NSW based Prime Minister, had us painted into a corner. It seems to me that the Health and wellbeing of our State, of our regional MPs and their communities, was taken to a COVID casino and gambled. She lost! And now it may cause deaths and months of heartache to get things back under control.

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For enquiries regarding the State Government or its departments, or to put you in contact with someone who can help, please contact my office.  My office can be contacted by phoning 4991-1466, by email to cessnock@parliament.nsw.gov.au or call into 118 Vincent Street (PO Box 242), Cessnock 2325.

You can also follow me on my Facebook page “www.facebook.com/claytonbarrmp”, go to Twitter and search @claytonbarrmp or check out my website at www.claytonbarr.com.au

Cheers Clayton

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