The detection of viral foot and mouth fragments on products brought in from Indonesia and China last week was a wake-up call and a worrying reminder of just how easy it would be for the virus to enter our country.

In response to these detections, Labor has finally acquiesced to repeated calls by the Nationals to introduce sanitised foot mats at international airports. A move more than two weeks overdue. Thousands of people have come into Australia from Indonesia since FMD was found to have spread to Bali, and Labor’s delay in implementing this simple but important measure is frightening.

The Labor government must urgently pursue stronger measures such as offering a 3D X-ray scanner to Indonesia so biosecurity officers know what is in passenger luggage before it gets here. Labor is failing this basic test on biosecurity, and it’s time to toughen up and take control, particularly as the situation in Indonesia escalates.

Largest ever pavement upgrade of Newell Highway begins

Work has commenced along the first two sections of the $261 million Newell Highway upgrade between Narrabri and Moree.

This includes an eight-kilometre stretch about three kilometres south of Moree, and a four-and-a-half-kilometre stretch about 46 kilometres north of Narrabri, through Bellata.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the sod turn to mark the beginning of works last week, but I’m looking forward to seeing work progress on this project – the largest ever pavement upgrade of the Newell Highway.

The upgrade involves building entirely new sections of road as well as five new overtaking lanes, two new heavy vehicle rest areas, intersection upgrades and multiple new bridge-sized culverts for improved drainage.

The former Coalition government invested $205.7 million into this major upgrade because we recognise how important this stretch of highway is to our nation’s productivity.

This upgrade will complement the work currently happening on the Inland Rail between Narrabri and Moree and, once complete, will improve access to the future Moree Special Activation Precinct and Northern NSW Inland Port at Narrabri, helping our region unlock its full potential.

Catch up with community groups

Last week it was good to catch up with groups in Dubbo and Lightning Ridge that have received funding under the 2021 Volunteer Grants program.

The National Association for Loss and Grief, based in Dubbo, received a $5000 grant to provide specialised training in counselling for its local volunteers; the Dubbo Community Men’s Shed Incorporated also received $5000 to purchase new equipment and improve the conditions for the local members; and the Piranhas Swimming Club in Lightning Ridge received $2000 to enable local volunteers to travel for a conference and training so that they can offer more learn to swim programs to the community. It’s wonderful to hear how each of these groups is benefitting from these grants.

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