OPINION: Border communities struck in middle of state mud-slinging

GIVEN the war of words going on between Adelaide and Melbourne, maybe it is time to pull Princeland out of the history books.

Mount Gambier was to be Princeland’s capital city and Portland our major port for imports and exports.

The Princeland colony was to include the Western District, Wimmera, Mallee, Riverland and South East, according to The Border Watch editions of 1861 and 1862.

Instead of drip-feeding Adelaide and Melbourne, most of our hard-earned cash – in the form of state taxes, fees, charges, licences, levies, rates and duties – would fund the works and services of Princeland.

Had Princeland eventuated, the current shenanigans of Adelaide and Melbourne would have little effect on us.

For our family and friends on the Victorian side, we have sympathised recently as their embattled Labor government lost three ministers to allegations of branch stacking and corruption.

And, despite some lockdowns, inconsistencies have enabled the wandering COVID-19 to hide out in Melbourne.

So, South Australia opened its borders to states virtually clear of the disease, but not Victoria or NSW.

In response beleaguered premier Daniel Andrews said: “I do not want to be offensive to South Australians but why would you want to go there?”

He appeared to have no clue about his own border communities.

For some nurses and health workers, travelling into SA to work at hospitals in Bordertown, Naracoorte, Penola and Mount Gambier from Kaniva, Apsley, Dartmoor, Mumbannar and Nelson, is pretty important.

Likewise, teachers and some sales people also live on one side of the invisible border, but work, socialise and play sport on the other.

Similarly, farmers around Nelson, Dartmoor, Mumbannar, Casterton, Heywood and Portland have agents in Penola, Mount Gambier and Lucindale.

Meanwhile, timber mills and abattoirs stretching from Mount Gambier to Naracoorte and Bordertown are reliant on many employees who live a short drive east, in Victoria.

All of these areas have been free of COVID-19 for a couple of months or more.

Only seven cases were ever reported in the Limestone Coast, all people recovered many weeks ago and the region has been free of the disease ever since.

Over the border, only two cases were ever found in regions making up Princeland and those communities have also been free of the disease for a couple of months.

Shortly after Mr Andrews sneered at South Australia, our State Premier hit back with a video.

It featured Mr Andrews sledging SA, claiming “here’s why” they want to visit SA and showed young people frolicking along our state’s coastline.

Some Liberal heavyweights claimed Mr Andrews was picking a fight with SA to take the focus off the loss of three cabinet ministers and alleged corruption, currently embroiling his government and political party.

In 1861 the calls for Princeland were led by former politician Edward Henty who was frustrated by the amount of money the Victorian Government was taking out of the Western District – more than five hundred thousand pounds.

Yet “streets were impassable”.

He found a lot of support from meetings attracting several hundred people in Mount Gambier’s Farmer’s Inn – now the Federal Hotel.

While Queen Victoria was eventually petitioned, the bid for Princeland failed because permission had to be sought from the Victorian and SA governments.

In the 1860s, Adelaide and Melbourne did not care much about the needs of people who made up the proposed new colony.

But neither state wanted to lose the money produced in Western Victoria, or the South East.

In 160 or so years, it would seem not much has changed since the meetings and petitions of 1861 and 1862.