Businesses to get virus-safe restart path

Matt Coughlan
(Australian Associated Press)


Employers must guarantee coronavirus-safe workplaces before they’re allowed to reopen as the government sets a July target to restore business and industry.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday chaired a national cabinet meeting with state and territory leaders focused on getting millions back to work as the virus costs the country $4 billion a week.

The Safe Work Australia website has been turbocharged to provide 23 sectors specific advice about cleaning standards, appropriate products and other anti-virus requirements.

National cabinet has nominated July as the target for establishing a safe economy, with physical distancing and hygiene to remain crucial.

Businesses will also be given advice on managing potential outbreaks and reconfiguring sites to meet health recommendations.

Mr Morrison stressed the importance of coronavirus-safe workplaces as the nation looks to repair economic damage.

“At $4 billion a week we have a very strong incentive for all Australians, who are wearing that cost every week, to reduce that as much as possible as soon as we can,” he told reporters in Canberra.

Some restrictions are expected to be eased after the next national cabinet meeting on Friday.

Unions want bosses to be legally obligated to provide safe workplaces for customers and workers to prevent infections.

Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus has called for employers to be compelled to report virus cases, an idea the government is open to.

The ACTU is also pushing for paid pandemic leave for workers who believe they are infected.

“Workers and the public need to be kept safe should our economy reopen,” Ms McManus said.

Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter believes existing laws will force employers to provide safe workplaces.

His main concern is making sure businesses understand their obligations.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern joined Tuesday’s national cabinet meeting to discuss a trans-Tasman travel bubble.

Mr Morrison said there were important economic benefits for both countries in restarting international travel.

“The most obvious place for that to start is between Australia and New Zealand,” he said.

He said the return of domestic tourism routes like Melbourne to Cairns would likely coincide with travel across the Tasman.

Ms Ardern said a travel bubble could be considered because of both countries’ strong performance in stopping the spread of coronavirus.

“When we feel comfortable and confident that we both won’t receive cases from Australia, but equally that we won’t export them, then that will be the time to move,” she told reporters in Wellington.

Travellers should not expect to be forced into two-week quarantine periods when flights restart.

Pacific nations will be next in line to join the travel zone after Australia and New Zealand reopen their borders.

Australia’s coronavirus death toll has risen to 97 after a 16th person died at Sydney’s Newmarch House nursing home.

There have been 6849 detected cases nationally, with more than 5800 people recovered.

A cluster at a Melbourne abattoir has grown to 45 cases, with the outbreak behind 11 of Victoria’s 17 new infections on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, almost five million people have downloaded the COVIDSafe tracing app.

Legislation to boost the app’s privacy protections has been released, with maximum penalties of five years in jail and $63,000 fines for accessing data without authorisation.

The Morrison government has also pledged $352 million to a European Union global research fund to create a coronavirus vaccine.


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