Scott Morrison must use tomorrow’s national cabinet meeting to extend pandemic leave payments to all other states and territories, ensuring all Australian workers can stay home if they’re sick.
Australia needs a universal paid pandemic leave scheme to protect workers, public health and the national economy.
Labor and the unions have been calling for paid pandemic leave since the start of this pandemic five months ago.
After nearly half a year of dithering Scott Morrison finally conceded this week that paid pandemic leave is necessary, when he announced funding for Victoria.
What he did not seem to understand is paid pandemic leave is meant to prevent outbreaks. We need a national scheme now to prevent a repeat of the Victorian outbreak in other states.
A national scheme also needs to ensure that workers do not face financial barriers to getting tested – something the Victorian scheme fails to do, because it only kicks in after someone has been told to self-isolate or quarantine.
Mr Morrison should have acted on this months ago. But it is surely clear by now that any further delay could be deadly.
A Victorian disaster payment will not stop a worker in New South Wales or Queensland turning up to work sick and potentially infecting their colleagues, customers or patients.
With 80 per cent of new coronavirus infections in Victoria linked to workplaces it is obvious we need financial incentives to keep people at home when they’re sick or have been exposed to the virus.
Workers cannot be forced to choose between paying their bills and protecting their colleagues, customers and patients. Whenever we force that choice on people the community is put at risk.
Unless we get a universal scheme we will have more community transmission, leading to more outbreaks and economy-smashing lockdowns.
We cannot afford not to do this.