Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 10 Hansard (Wednesday, 6 October 2021) . . Page.. 2773 ..
In speaking about the advice from the AHPPC, there are two issues, Madam Speaker. First, a number of other jurisdictions have already moved in relation to requiring healthcare workers, particularly those on the front line, to be fully vaccinated. The AHPPC has recommended a time line around that which would make it very difficult to do through primary legislation. So, as other jurisdictions have done, the initial response to this is through a Chief Health Officer public health direction, which is perfectly allowable under the Public Health Act and is an appropriate response in this circumstance.
MRS JONES: A supplementary. Minister, why have you so far failed to act on consistent pleas from the disability community for disability support workers to be included in the vaccination mandate?
MS STEPHEN-SMITH-: On the one hand, mandatory vaccination is very concerning and needs primary legislation and, on the other hand, we have got to rush in and do something—
Opposition members interjecting—
MS STEPHEN-SMITH-: which does not really sit in our portfolio! As I indicated in a press conference today, which Mrs Jones may or may not have been watching, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee has been considering the potential to require vaccination of disability support workers. It was due to report back to national cabinet by the end of September, but, of course, the Prime Minister, setting the national cabinet agenda, did not bring on that item and did not ask for the AHPPC to expedite its consideration—in the same way that the commonwealth has been pretty much putting everything to do with disability at the back of the queue and on the backburner in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are some challenges associated with identifying the workforce in disability settings and crafting a direction that relates to work that is undertaken in a person’s private home. The same considerations relate to non-residential aged-care workers, so in-home aged-care workers. The ACT government has maintained that the commonwealth should be considering using its own regulatory power through NDIS worker screening to include the requirement for workers to be vaccinated, particularly those who work in high-risk settings.
Now, we recognise that that would not capture all disability support workers, but it would cover workers who work in residential care settings, who work in day programs and anyone who is working for a registered provider and is required to be screened under the NDIS worker screening program. Unfortunately, the commonwealth has steadfastly refused to consider this option. Therefore, ACT officials are considering what options are available to