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Parliamentary Questions

Question Without Notice No. 516 asked in the Legislative Council on 21 May 2020 by Hon Ken Baston

Parliament: 40 Session: 1

Answered on 21 May 2020


516. Hon KEN BASTON to the Minister for Regional Development:

I refer to the Western Australian government's response published on the ABC Kimberley Facebook page to a plan, co-signed by the Kimberley shire president, the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service and the chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group on COVID-19, outlining a 12-point strategy to assist in enabling the lifting of the Kimberley designated biosecurity area travel restrictions.

(1) Did the minister suggest to the attendees of the Kimberley virtual visit, hosted by the Kimberley Development Commission on 19 May, that these restrictions could be lifted by 8 June?

(2) If yes to (1), why was the date mentioned?

(3) If no to (1), what date was discussed during this meeting?

(4) Considering the government's response to the letter mentioned, when will it be possible to provide Kimberley residents, businesses and authorities with some clarity and consistent advice on when the region can reopen?


I thank the member for the question.

(1)–(4) The Premier has always been very clear that we are doing this in tranches. We went into an early and quite comprehensive lockdown, particularly in the Kimberley, where we had three layers of restrictions and where we were able to lift those restrictions that were based on the shire boundaries, to take effect. The Premier has also repeatedly said that in the three to four weeks following the previous decision, we will assess what the impact has been and then look at the next tranche. I think I said that at the very earliest, if we are looking at three weeks, that would be a date in early June. What we have seen emerge in the Kimberley is absolutely fantastic and it is why in the last tranche we have been able to lift those boundaries between the shires with a great deal of confidence. We have had the four shire presidents, together with the Aboriginal leadership—people like Lawford Benning and Peter Yu and the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service, led by Vicky O'Donnell, I believe—coming together with the various chambers of commerce and arriving at a united strategy. I think that a really positive thing has been emerging in the Kimberley.

As Premier McGowan has said time and again, we do not want to impose more restrictions than are necessary to keep the community safe. We are going to be guided by the performance and rate at which we have been able to contain infection levels. We are very mindful of the fact that there are lots of businesses—indeed, lots of Aboriginal-owned businesses—that want to see people coming into their region again. There is a degree of complexity in this matter, because it is subject to a federal biosecurity regulation, and we are working closely, obviously, with the federal government. But I think that having such a united front emerging in the Kimberley will help us find an early and widely accepted resolution to the issue of the restrictions.