Country highways like the New England, pictured 30km south of Warwick, feel “quite eerie” with almost no traffic, Llew O’Brien says. pic David Martinelli
Country highways like the New England, pictured 30km south of Warwick, feel “quite eerie” with almost no traffic, Llew O’Brien says. pic David Martinelli

Closed borders ‘worse than drought’ for highway businesses

FOR small business owners who rely on highway traffic to bring them customers, closed borders are worse than a natural disaster.

This was the grim observation Llew O'Brien made while riding his motorbike from Gympie to Canberra for parliament.

Mr O'Brien said business owners on both sides of the Queensland-NSW border were doing it tough as their lifeblood, Australia's great country highways, remained almost empty.

He likened the financial and mental impact of the ongoing shutdown to farmers living through devastating drought.

The difference, he said, was drought was part of life on the land.

It was expected and, at least in some way, could be prepared for.

"Farmers have suffered a horrendous drought but that's a part of primary production," Mr O'Brien told the Chronicle.

"In some ways, they're a little bit geared towards it whereas a global pandemic that shuts down your motel or cafe, that's not on your radar.

"These people aren't geared for this. They're not insured for it.

"This is so out of left field."

Mr O'Brien said, apart from the obvious financial impacts, he was concerned for the mental wellbeing of business owners hit hard by the ongoing restrictions.

He recently shared his own struggles with PTSD in a raw interview and said he hoped his openness would help others talk about their struggles and seek help.

Mr O'Brien has made the trip to Canberra on his trusty Triumph Explorer 1200cc three times since COVID-19 struck.

Because of his role as Deputy Speaker, he said he had special permission to travel interstate while borders remained closed.

"I'm the same as a truckie or a courier or any person that's conducting their normal course of business," Mr O'Brien said.


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