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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 12 Hansard (Wednesday, 24 November 2021) . . Page.. 3592 ..

certificate for COVID testing. You also said that Canberrans are being turned away if they are there for domestic travel. The national partnerships agreement clearly states that the federal and territory governments will foot the bill fifty-fifty if Canberrans are required to have a COVID test for state or government reasons. Why is the government profiteering from this by charging Canberrans $112 for tests that are meant to be free?

MS STEPHEN-SMITH: We are not. What they have been charging for is the provision of a certificate. That has all been clarified. In fact, it was clarified in the interview this morning that Mrs Jones refers to. I talked through the fact that the $112 charge was for the certificate, but also the fact that there had been some confusion. I was very clear in the advice that was provided to me by health officials yesterday, and which I relied on yesterday, that requiring a test for interstate travel was not part of the criteria for testing. This had been unclear to staff, and therefore some people had been turned away from testing facilities while others had not been. This was a statement of fact, not a statement of policy.

MRS JONES: Minister, why have Canberrans been turned away when they turn up for a COVID test that they are required to have to travel?

MS STEPHEN-SMITH: There has been some level of confusion about what it means to be required to have a COVID test. One of the things that has been clarified in the last 48 hours, particularly in relation to Queensland, is that they are accepting, as proof of a negative PCR COVID test, a text message. It was most people’s understanding—indeed, up until yesterday morning, it was Minister Hunt’s understanding—that in order to prove the negative PCR COVID test for interstate travel people required a certificate. Minister Hunt has been very clear in his comments that the national partnership agreement does not cover free testing in a circumstance where people are required to have a certificate to support interstate or, indeed, international travel. He has been clear that in his view the national partnership agreement covers a circumstance where people are required to get tested as part of a public health order, but not where people are required to produce a certificate for various purposes relating to travel.

So there has been a lot of confusion over the last 48 hours, not least on the part of Minister Hunt, who has now clarified his position. In a press conference just at lunch time, one of the journalists pointed out to me that it is still unclear on a number of jurisdictions’ websites, what evidence is required of a negative PCR test. This is one of the things that has caused considerable—

Mrs Jones: Point of order. The question was about why people are being turned away; it was not about the certificates. The Minister has still not answered. The whole question is about why they were being turned away when they needed a test.

MADAM SPEAKER: My understanding—I am not paraphrasing you, Minister—was that it is related to some confusion within the centres.

MS STEPHEN-SMITH: Indeed, Madam Speaker. In fact, I answered that specific question in my first answer, if Mrs Jones had been listening.

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