Mr D O’BRIEN (Gippsland South) (19:06): (6278) My adjournment matter tonight is for the Minister for Health, and the action I seek is for the minister to take action to alleviate the chronic labour shortages around Victoria. Now, bear with me on why this is going to the Minister for Health. There are two issues in particular that I think are the Minister for Health’s responsibility, and he could assist with these issues, acknowledging that labour shortages have myriad reasons behind them. But there are two at the moment that are causing huge problems for our employers and workers right across the state, particularly in Gippsland South. One is the seven-day isolation period required for household contacts, which is placing enormous stress on workers and businesses, with many fit, healthy people forced off work because someone else in their household has tested positive to COVID. Now, I appreciate this is something that needs to be carefully managed from a public health perspective, but it is time that we look at whether it continues to be necessary to ensure that all household contacts are actually isolating in the case of someone testing positive. Of course there are exemptions for critical workers, so if there can be exemptions for critical workers, I think it is getting to a point where that should be looked at across the board. I am aware also that this is an issue that is probably being discussed at a national level.
The second issue is the ongoing exclusion of some workers due to the vaccination mandates, which surely are no longer serving any public health purpose, when we have 94 or 95 per cent of the population already vaccinated, with the exception of health and aged-care workers, where I believe it continues to be necessary, given the vulnerable people that they are working with. But everywhere I go in my electorate of Gippsland South at the moment and in every business I walk into, labour shortages are an issue. Whether it is a coffee shop, whether it is schools, whether it is the health system, whether it is restaurants and pubs, small manufacturing and everywhere in between, it is just a constant story. Coupled with a lack of available and affordable housing—that is another issue, because often people can get the new employees but they cannot actually find anywhere to live—these are significant issues.
As I said, these are not the only two reasons for a shortage of labour. There are myriad reasons for it, not the least being of course the closed borders in the last couple of years, the lack of backpacker labour and many others. But there are two things the government could do, I believe, that would actually get some people back into the workforce to increase the pool for everyone, and they are: remove the seven-day isolation period and the vaccine mandates. These are impacting on other workers because many businesses are actually closing—many cafes, for example, are closing two days a week because they simply do not have the staff to keep open—so those staff are missing out. So I ask the minister to take this action to ensure that we do have the staff to employ in our businesses.