105 Cameron Street Launceston Tas 7250

ROSS HART– Australian Labor Party candidate for Bass

A healthy Tasmanian economy needs a healthy workforce.
The recent CommSec State of the States Report records that the Tasmanian economy leads the other states for the 8th quarter in a row.
However, the report notes that this is a reflection of Tasmania’s ability to exclude COVID 19 from its borders, which has all changed from 15 December 2021.
We now realise the enormous debt of gratitude that we owe for those who work in health, allied health, childcare, disability care, aged care and transport.
Recent disruption to supply chains and the pending opening of schools for the new school year emphasise that normal life, or something that passes for normalcy, relies upon many in vital workforce roles.
We have seen pictures of empty supermarket shelves, and unlike the early onset of the pandemic where uncertainty led people to seek products like toilet paper, now supply chains are being severely strained by the impacts of the threat of Omicron.
Whether the workforce is directly infected with the virus, or is required to isolate upon the requirements of existing or relaxed arrangements dealing with close contacts, the present situation emphasises that the availability of Rapid Antigen Tests, the ability to isolate where necessary so as to prevent spread of the disease through a workplace, and arrangements for payment of entitlements when a person is isolating are absolutely central to maintenance of our supply lines.
So too, are teachers, support staff and early childhood educators concerned that appropriate arrangements are made for return to school. There are obvious concerns with respect to vulnerability of young children, particularly if they have yet to receive either their first or second doses of a vaccine, but also there are very real concerns expressed by those who have vulnerable children as to how a return to school will operate.
The public have the very real right to question the commitment, planning and competence of the Morrison Liberal government. We know that the Prime Minister expressed a little over 12 months ago that the vaccination roll out was “not a race”. So, too, there have been delays with the roll out of booster shots and the delay in providing for a stock of Rapid Antigen Tests, despite warnings given to the government before September last.
Just as there were very real concerns expressed in the early stages of the pandemic with respect to the vulnerability of those in aged care or disability care, those vulnerabilities have not reduced. The government must do more than simply make announcements.
From Monday 24 January 2022 concession card holders are able to access Rapid Antigen Tests for free, or rather they would have been able to access Rapid Antigen Tests if the Morrison Liberal government had paid attention to the requirement to access and obtain these vital tools at the present stage of the pandemic.

We know that PCR testing regimes have been rapidly overwhelmed by the Omicron version of the virus.
We also know that the community has acted rationally in seeking to protect itself from infection, hence the caution expressed by people in public settings.
What all of this tells us is that our community relies upon a range of people within health, transport, aged care, disability care and our education system, including early childhood education to be able to safely undertake their day-to-day duties.
This requires the federal government to play its part in ensuring the supply of Rapid Antigen Tests. Labor believes that Rapid Antigen Tests should be made available for free to the whole community, so that people can act with confidence and isolate when needed.
The government needs to be proactive in addressing these issues rather than Scott Morrison waiting until each issue becomes a crisis. For Scott Morrison every problem is someone else’s fault and when he is called out on his failures, he’ll say anything to avoid responsibility: “it’s not my job” or “I don’t hold a hose”.
A healthy Tasmanian economy means healthy Tasmanian workers, particularly in critical sectors of our community.
Australians needs a government on their side.