O’Brien urges use of rapid testing to avoid workforce shortage

The Nationals Member for Gippsland South Danny O’Brien is calling on the Labor Government to permit the use rapid testing for employees who are not vaccinated as an alternative to standing them down.

Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday, Mr O’Brien highlighted the need for more support for small business and clearer information for employers and employees about the consequences of the Labor Government’s mandatory vaccination requirement for authorised workers.

“I hold great concern for the impact of these directions on our local community, in particular on local businesses and their ability to keep their businesses staffed. There is no doubt it has also created great stress for employers and workers,” Mr O’Brien said.

“In the last two weeks I have been inundated by people across a wide range of industries that are facing significant uncertainty due to an inability to backfill for unvaccinated workers as a direct result of the mandates.

“A local farmer contacted my office this week expressing her devastation at the prospect of being forced to lose great employees because of these mandates. I’ve heard from one electrical business that has two-thirds of its staff refusing a vaccine.

“Businesses are also incredibly concerned about the legal ramifications come Friday should they have to make decisions around unvaccinated workers.

“The Government has not provided any clarity to businesses who are worried about privacy, unfair dismissal and what unvaccinated workers are entitled to receive. Small businesses feel extremely vulnerable to legal action, which is just another source of stress from a Government that shows an incredible lack of understanding.

“Alternatives like rapid testing must be considered, particularly in regions where there are no localised cases of COVID and very high rates of vaccination.

“While I am encouraging all of my constituents to get vaccinated, the reality is that not everyone wants to. I support the mandating of vaccines for aged-care and healthcare workers because they are working with vulnerable people. But I do not support the wider mandate.

“There was already a critical shortage of workers in many industries, including education, childcare, hospitality and agriculture and these mandates will only exacerbate these issues by forcing business and providers to sack staff who have not been vaccinated.”

Mr O’Brien said an inability to fill these vacancies in the immediate future will result in a significant impact on the wider community.

“Rapid testing is already being used in the health and transport sectors to reduce transmission risk and there is certainly a case to be made for how it could be used to ensure these mandates don’t result in businesses and essential services across our community being forced to close.”

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