Bricklayer, construction worker, lineworker, boat repairer, driller and engineer were among the workers granted exemptions from quarantine requirements when entering Tasmania in the initial months of the COVID crisis, data has revealed.
The Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment released the aggregated list after a Right to Information request from Labor, covering the period up until May 15.
The professions were deemed “critical to maintaining key industries or businesses” in Tasmania, but unions have reacted angrily to the list, claiming Tasmania “easily” has the workforce in these areas.
Communications Electrical and Plumbing Union Tasmania state secretary Michael Anderson said it was “laughable” that there were no local workers considered capable of fulfilling a range of these jobs.
“What I’ve seen so far horrifies me, even in just a general list like this. There are members of our union, and others, that are out of work when these people have been allowed in,” he said.
“One is an NBN repair technician. Just look at the job losses at Telstra and you tell me there wouldn’t be a worker here who could do that job.
“A workplace health and safety adviser came in. They weren’t tested, they flew into Tasmania to do a job for a couple of hours – there’s hundreds of local people who could do that job at the drop of a hat.
“Lift technician is another one. They’ve been made redundant in Tasmania, but we’ve brought one into the state. Another is crane repair technician – there’s hundreds in Tasmania that could do that job too.”
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Unions have been raising concerns throughout the coronavirus crisis that certain industries were receiving special treatment in regards to workers being allowed in from interstate. They have reiterated calls for more details about why these workers were seen as critical for Tasmania.
Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union Tasmania official Richard Hassett said concern had been raised about a roofer being granted an exemption to put silicone on the roof of the Royal Hobart Hospital.
“It’s a joke to think there isn’t a roofer in Tasmania capable of putting silicone on a roof,” he said.
“There’s plenty of plasterers, carpenters, roofers, joiners all capable of doing the work that they’ve allowed workers to come in for.”
Government defends exemption process
Labor leader Rebecca White said the government must “prove no Tasmanian can do the job first” when granting the exemptions.
A government spokesperson said quarantine exemptions were a matter for the State Controller.
“Labor is fully aware of the stringent rules that apply in regards to essential workers, having recently been personally briefed by the State Controller,” she said.
“There are very strict rules regarding essential traveller exemptions, and businesses must provide confirmation those services or skills for the required work, cannot be sourced in Tasmania.
“Businesses should only source essential services not available in Tasmania from other states, ahead of Victoria or designated hot spots in other jurisdictions, unless it is for life-saving or industry-critical needs.”
A spokesperson for the State Control Centre said interstate workers deemed to have specialist skillsets had applied for essential traveller status in relation to large-scale building projects “across the state”.
“As part of the exemption they must comply with Annexure A of the legal direction which requires them to monitor their health closely and take appropriate action,” she said.
“Each of those applications went through the same process, requiring written confirmation that the appropriate skills were not available in Tasmania.
“The onus is on employers to provide the written confirmation that the specialist skillsets are not available in Tasmania and the skillset is required for time critical continuity. Each application is then assessed individually based on the information provided.
“While the exemption process is administered through Biosecurity Tasmania, the final decision rests with the State Controller. Final decision are based on finding a balance between the situation in Tasmania and the need to maintain the proper functioning of the state.”
Since July 16, previously approved essential traveller applications have been required to reapply through G2G PASS.