Page 250 - Week 01 - Thursday, 10 February 2022
DR PATERSON: Minister, how have decisions made by the commonwealth government affected the safety of Canberrans at work during the latest COVID-19 outbreak?
MR GENTLEMAN: The commonwealth government have let down Canberrans and the wider Australian community by failing to source rapid antigen tests that can be used to manage risk in the workplace. They do not take the issue seriously. I know this because at the beginning of January the Prime Minister ordered an urgent meeting of work health and safety ministers to create guidance on the role of rapid antigen testing in the workplace. Ministers met and came very close to finalising the guidance. However, the Prime Minister removed it from the national cabinet agenda at the last minute, when he discovered it did not suit the narrative and promises that he had made to his big business mates. The guidance was put on hold by the commonwealth and it has still not been finalised.
Not content with stalling this important process, the Prime Minister decided to put young Australians and their workmates at risk by allowing children to drive forklifts. At the same time and in the same week, two Australians died in forklift-related accidents at work.
The Prime Minister wanted to lower the minimum age required for high-risk work licences. State and territory first ministers, including our Chief Minister, rightly squashed this plan at national cabinet, but the fact that it was even proposed in the first place tells us two very important things about the Prime Minister. It tells us that he is so desperate to fix the problem he created by yet again being unprepared that he is willing to try anything. It also shows us that he does not care about safety or who he hurts to get what he wants. The commonwealth government’s approach to workplace safety during the COVID pandemic has been disgraceful.
MR PETTERSSON: Minister, how is the ACT government ensuring that Canberrans are safe at work during the pandemic?
MR GENTLEMAN: I thank Mr Pettersson for his interest, too, in workplace safety across the territory. Unlike the commonwealth government, the ACT government has been working extremely hard to keep Canberrans safe during the global pandemic. It has been an effort across government. My cabinet colleagues and I have worked together on numerous issues. Our workplace safety laws in the ACT are strong. We have also had an exemplary regulator in WorkSafe ACT, who have provided guidance and protection for the ACT community and who were instrumental in the safe reopening of the construction sector last year.
The ACT government has provided a series of guidance papers on COVID-19 risk in the community, in households and in the workplace. This includes how to manage the changes to TTIQ requirements and contact definitions. We also have guidance for specific sectors about managing risks in the workplace.
We also want to make sure that Canberrans have access to entitlements and opportunities to allow them to make the best decisions for themselves and their