Do the big states care about the ACT?
This is a serious question, not a brazen attempt to fan the toxic interstate rivalries playing out on social media amid the latest flare up in Australia's fight against COVID-19.
When NSW and Victoria consider shutting their borders, do they genuinely contemplate what it might mean for the ACT? Do they feel a sense of obligation to pass on critical information to the ACT government, so that it can pass on critical information to its citizens.
Do the big states even know the ACT exists?
The latter is probably a facetious remark. But if the Victorian government's handling of its new year border closure is any guide then it's an accusation not far from accurate.
ACT residents and visitors who raced back to Victoria on New Year's Day have been treated appalling by the Andrews government - told one thing, then another and then another again. The ACT government has seemingly not fared much better in extracting clear and consistent advice from its interstate counterparts.
It cannot be a simple case of the Victorian government's incompetence, can it?
Charting the chain of events on December 31 and January 1 helps to understand the confusion, anger and frustration felt by those who lived them. It also exposes the failures in information sharing between governments at times of high cross-border confusion.
Just after 3.30pm on New Year's Eve, Victoria's COVID-19 commander Jeroen Weimar provided an assurance that the ACT would remain a "green zone" after the Victoria/New South Wales border slammed shut, meaning Canberrans could cross without needing to quarantine on the other side provided they had a permit.
Weimar's statement was widely interpreted as meaning ACT travellers would be exempt from the 14-day quarantine requirement applied to people returning from NSW green zones on January 1.
Carloads departed the ACT on New Year's Day expecting some delays at the Victorian border, but no restrictions on the other side.
That wouldn't be the experience for many on Friday. Police told some travellers they would need to self-isolate upon arrival at their destination. Others were told they didn't need to.
Kristian Liddiard, who was among those told at the border that he would need to home quarantine back in Melbourne, summed it up: "It is confusing, stressful and frustrating".
Victoria's Department of Health and Human Services, meanwhile, provided no guidance on rules for ACT travellers.
The ACT government struggled to get clear answers from its counterparts interstate, before late on Friday announcing it had received confirmation that Canberra travellers would be exempt from quarantine.
But the Victorians never confirmed the confirmation. Cue more confusion. Cue even more confusion when, late on Saturday night, New Year's Day travellers received a text message from DHHS which instructed them to self-isolate for 14 days.
It would emerge the message was sent to all green zone permit holders, and the advice did not differentiate between people arriving from the ACT and NSW. Some travelers were on Sunday told to heed the advice, others were told it didn't apply to them.
The ACT government late on Sunday said Victoria had again assured it that Canberra travellers were exempt from isolation.
Victoria has since set up a dedicated transit permit system for ACT and Queensland travelers, which clearly exempts those people from quarantine. The system should prevent a repeat of the New Year's Eve confusion, thought that's likely cold comfort for those who made the Canberra to Victoria trip on January 1.
This isn't, of course, the first time Canberrans have been caught up in border chaos brought on by one of the big states.
About 100 Canberrans were left stranded at the Victorian border in August after NSW made snap changes to its permit system, which blocked them from travelling back to the nation's capital.
Despite Canberrans' anger, Chief Minister Andrew Barr refused to publicly criticise NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, choosing instead to resolve the predicament through quiet diplomacy.
It worked and Barr was praised for it - just in time for the start of the ACT election campaign.
But with another big state acting with scant regard for the nation's capital, now might be time for Barr to take a stronger stand for the people who elected him just months ago.
He could start by calling for an urgent meeting of Prime Minster Scott Morrison's national cabinet.
If the Prime Minister, premiers and chief ministers cannot reach a consensus on borders and other restrictions, the least they can do is come together and agree on a framework for passing on information and advice on their respective rule changes.
Barr should insist on this.
The ACT has been overlooked, treated as though it almost doesn't exist, far too often.
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