The Victorian Ombudsman has found the state’s border exemption scheme resulted in ‘unjust’ and ‘inhumane’ outcomes. An investigation into the scheme revealed that of the 33,252 exemption applications that were submitted from 9 July to 14 September, only 8% were approved. Victoria closed the border to NSW on 9 July when the state was deemed an “extreme risk zone”.
Many Victorians had submitted complaints to the Ombudsman after being refused an exemption to travel back to Victoria for circumstances including attending a funeral, starting a new job, looking after a sick loved one and attending medical appointments.
The team that oversaw Victoria’s border exemptions “was scaled up from 20 staff in early July to 285 by early September”. However, workers responsible for processing applications were still expected to complete 50 per hour.
The Ombudsman recommended the Victorian Government should consider payments by application to help cover the financial cost of not being able to travel home.
It was also recommended the Victorian Government should look to improve policy and guidance for such schemes.
“Aside from the myriad of cases that should have been cause for compassion, it is difficult to understand how a fully vaccinated person, testing negative to COVID-19, willing to self-quarantine on arrival, and able to drive to their destination on one tank of fuel, could pose such a risk to public health to justify refusing an exemption.” — Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass