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COVID-19 - Vaccine Mandate for Teachers and Childcare Workers

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Tags: Schools, COVID-19


When you open the borders on the 15 December, nearly a quarter of Tasmanians will not be vaccinated. This includes all children under 12 who will be vulnerable to COVID 19 Delta infection. The minister said just then that we will have COVID-19 in schools. In Tasmania, education and support staff who work with children with disabilities are all required to be vaccinated but teachers are not. Every other state and territory in Australia, except Queensland, has already enforced a vaccine mandate for teachers and childcare workers.

Is your reluctance to take this obvious Public Health safety measure due to widening fractures in the Tasmanian Liberal Party? Senator Eric Abetz has spoken in his defiance of Public Health mandated vaccines just today. Will you safeguard children and the people caring for them from COVID-19 by mandating vaccinations amongst these public employees?



Mr Speaker, I thank Ms Woodruff, the member for Franklin, for that question.

Ms O'Connor - Dr Woodruff.

Mr GUTWEIN - Dr Woodruff, thank you for reminding me, Ms O'Connor.

Let me deal with the public service. I clearly announced two weeks ago, and I know that you are aware of that, that we are conducting a risk assessment -

Dr Woodruff - Three weeks ago.

Mr GUTWEIN - You have been aware three weeks? So, you know the answer?

Dr Woodruff - You have not given us the answer.

Mr GUTWEIN - We are conducting a risk assessment across all the public sector. Currently, consultation is underway of that risk assessment. When that is finalised we will have more to say. I expect that would probably be next week. We are taking Public Health advice, which is what you have stood behind me on every step of the way. As I said three weeks ago, the Public Health advice was to conduct a risk assessment. The Public Health view was that we should put in place a mandate in terms of vaccination for the aged care sector, the health sector and the disability sector, which came into play last Sunday.

Dr Woodruff - You have two classes of people in schools.

Mr SPEAKER - Order.

Mr GUTWEIN - The risk assessment is underway and we will have more to say when that is completed.

Regarding the other matters the member raised, Senator Abetz has his views; I very strongly disagree with them. I very strongly stand behind the mandates we have in place, based on Public Health advice. Dr Veitch has been exceptional through this period. He is cautious but he is responsible; he is learned. Importantly, he has been prepared to make some pretty tough decisions as we have worked through this. I will continue to act on his advice.

You touched on schools. The minister has provided an update on where we are heading on schools. School will reopen on 9 February. Let me provide that certainty for our parents.

Members interjecting.

Mr SPEAKER - Order.

Mr GUTWEIN - There are a number of people here in the parliament today who know from day 1 this is not linear. We know that things change. Plans put out by the Victorian government and the New South Wales government have changed on multiple occasions. In terms of where we are heading, the one constant that we are absolutely clear on is that we will act on Public Health advice. That advice, right now, is that schools will reopen on 9 February.

Members interjecting.

Mr SPEAKER - Order.

Mr GUTWEIN - It is safe, as I said yesterday. I refer you back to the Hansard in terms of what I said yesterday.

Mr SPEAKER - Premier, if you could just cease for a moment.

Honourable members, standing orders tell us that when a minister or a member is on their feet, no one else is to speak. The question has been put to the Premier. It is an important question that the Premier is answering. I am sure that everybody, including Hansard, would love to hear the answer and not have to put up with the mumblings coming from my left.

Mr GUTWEIN - Thank you, Mr Speaker.

As I was saying, we will continue to act on Public Health advice. This is not linear. I do not think that there is anybody, apart from the Opposition on that side of the House, who does not quite get this. By last count, I think Victoria has had 12 changes to its opening plan. New South Wales has had a similar number of changes. In fact, the new Premier was changing things almost daily they started.

We will continue to act on Public Health advice.

Dr Woodruff - So far it has been silent on children. We want to hear more.

Mr SPEAKER - Order.

Mr GUTWEIN - Dr Veitch has not been silent on children. Dr Veitch has said, and I can almost quote him verbatim, that the best protection for those kids under 12 is to ensure that their siblings and their family unit is vaccinated. I encourage people to turn up and get vaccinated. Dr Veitch's advice, based on empirical evidence, is that the virus is not as severe on children. We know that and that is what is rolling out across the country and across the world.

Members interjecting.

Mr SPEAKER - Order.

Mr GUTWEIN - Let me be clear, we will continue to act on Public Health advice moving forward.

Regarding the views of federal senators both in Tasmania and across the country, let them knock themselves out. At the end of the day we will act on Public Health advice. That advice has been put in place; vaccine mandates for those three high risk areas and there is a risk assessment underway right across the public sector at the moment. We will have more to say about that next week.