Dr WOODRUFF question to PREMIER, Mr GUTWEIN
As you know, the Greens as community leaders take responsibility in this pandemic very seriously and we raise concerns as necessary and always back in the advice of Public Health. You have taken the decision to open our borders to seasonal workers without requiring them to have a strict two-week quarantine. Understandably, some in the community are fearful of this big change to our tight borders and the potential risk of coronavirus infected workers entering the state.
How many fruit pickers are you intending to allow into Tasmania? Will you allow the arrangements for coronavirus testing and work isolation for these people? How will you reassure Tasmanians that there will not be any mixing between imported fruit pickers and local pickers?
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Franklin for that question and for her interest and, if I could say, for their support of Public Health throughout this period.
Only this morning I was being briefed by the Director of Public Health regarding matters related to testing and our border to ensure that my understanding of the arrangements that are in place as we gradually step our way back into this are suitable, and importantly, are going to provide the protections that we need.
Regarding seasonal workers, the question was, how many do we expect to come into the state? Could I say, as few as possible because I hope as many Tasmanians as possible put their hand up and take on board these jobs. Importantly, I hope that Tasmanians take on board these jobs and displace the need for significant numbers, as has occurred in previous seasons in Tasmania and around the country. Broadly, Australians and Tasmanians have not been prepared to take on these jobs in the past, but, as we all know, circumstances have changed. I am hoping that more Tasmanians will step up and take on these jobs.
The answer to that part of the question is, as few as possible, and hopefully as many Tasmanians as possible will take on that work. We are working closely with the sector and the industry and the minister has been highly engaged in ensuring that we get the message out that jobs are available.
Regarding seasonal workers coming in, first and foremost they will only enter the state from low-risk jurisdictions. In entering the state - the same as anyone else entering the state now - they will have a health check, including a temperature check, at the border and if they are symptomatic then they will be tested. Regarding the arrangements for the first 14 days, they will need to stay either in their accommodation on the farm or in their residence and only travel between the farm and that residence.
I want to touch on the issue of testing. This is an issue that interests many people in this place and interests Tasmanians. The advice from Public Health of why we do not test everybody at the border is that the disease is not detectable in people until it has entered the bloodstream usually three, four or five days after they have come into contact with somebody with the disease. The view of Public Health - and I admit I agree with this - is that if people come in and get a test at the border they then believe they are COVID-19 free, which increases their level of confidence to go and do things in the community that then puts other people at risk. Public Health has been very firm that the testing at the border can lead to the wrong outcome in that it can increase the level of confidence people have because the disease is not detectable at that particular time.
Regarding the requirements seasonal workers will be under, they will be able to leave their accommodation for medical assistance or to purchase essential supplies. But under the terms of the direction, if those seasonal workers become symptomatic, if they are unwell, then they must stop work and be tested. Likewise, with the COVID-safe plans that employers put in place, there is a responsibility on the employers to have a safe workplace and ensure that the people working for them are healthy as well.
There is a range of protections in place. The key protection is that these seasonal workers will not be entering the state from Victoria or from other hotspots around the country. They will be coming from area where there is a very low incidence of the disease, if any, at all. Therefore, under the requirements Public Health has laid out, I am confident that we have a framework in place that will protect Tasmanians and at the same time enable sufficient numbers of seasonal workers to come into the state that we need over and above those Tasmanians who put their hand up to do the work.