Tools remain on the ground as Barr says ‘today’s not the day’ to relax construction bans

Lottie Twyford 18 August 2021 25
Construction site

Construction has ground to a halt with the announcement of a three-week lockdown in the ACT. Photo: File.

A return to normality for the construction sector is unlikely in the coming days, Chief Minister Andrew Barr has flagged.

Over 1,000 construction workers having already been identified as close contacts, and in last week’s sweeping and immediate lockdown, all construction was shut down for a period of seven days, except for essential projects and emergency or essential work to maintain safety and security. This has since been extended to three weeks, ending, at this stage, on 2 September.

Today, the Chief Minister explicitly rejected calls from ACT Senator Zed Seselja to re-open construction sites.

In a letter to constituents, Senator Seselja said that in the most recent shutdowns in NSW and Queensland, the construction industry has continued to operate.

“The industry has responded to the pandemic by putting in place COVID-19 safety measures, just like they do for other dangers at their workplaces. Across Australia, we’ve seen very little evidence of breaches,” he said.

“The industry can operate safely while supporting the jobs of thousands of Canberrans who make a vital contribution to the economy and their local communities.”

Senator Seselja said he had written to Mr Barr, urging him to find a way to keep people in the building and construction industry working.

“He needs to act now to protect the workers and families who rely on the income they’re now losing. He needs to keep businesses open and the economy on track,” the senator said.

But at today’s press briefing, Mr Barr said that while the ACT Government continues to engage with the building industry, “we won’t put public health at risk and undo all the effort of the entire community to stamp out this outbreak”.

He understood that Senator Seselja was calling for a safe re-opening for the industry, but added: “if this is a political potshot, it is absolutely unnecessary, and Canberras would be disgusted by it … he’s playing some pretty ordinary politics, and the people of Canberra will judge him for what he’s just done.”

Michael Hopkins

Michael Hopkins says the MBA is working with the Government on transition plans to ensure construction work can resume safely. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

Master Builders ACT CEO Michael Hopkins acknowledged that the Territory’s construction industry, which employs around 20,000 people, had been significantly impacted by the current lockdown.

According to Mr Hopkins, around 70 per cent of construction workers attend building sites every day, meaning they are unable to work at all during this time.

“For each week of lockdown, there is $70 million of construction work shut down and $20.7 million of local wages at risk,” he said.

READ ALSO: YouTube architects cast fresh eyes on Canberra’s often-overlooked building marvels

Currently, the MBA is consulting with the ACT Government on how to safely and properly reopen the construction sector once it is safe.

“Transition plans are currently being worked on to determine how this can occur,” Mr Hopkins said.

ACT Policing is taking a no-nonsense approach to compliance in the sector, having issued six of eight compliance-related infringements on Sunday (15 August) in relation to a residential construction site in Taylor.

The ACT’s chief police officer subsequently said that officers would continue to work with WorkSafe ACT to conduct workplace compliance.

Both organisations remain on the lookout for any non-essential work being undertaken which could potentially be in breach of the public health directions, and any work being conducted during the lockdown needs prior approval from a WorkSafe ACT inspector.

READ MORE: WorkSafe, police crack down on illegal construction work during lockdown

Construction businesses that meet certain eligibility requirements can access a range of local and Commonwealth support measures designed to ease the financial burden on businesses during the lockdown.

These measures have been expanded in light of the lockdown extension.

Individuals who have lost work due to the lockdown can access Commonwealth disaster payments at a rate of $750 a week for people who lose more than 20 hours a week and $450 for people who lose more than eight hours but less than 20, or a full day of usual work.

An additional $200 is available for anyone currently receiving an income support payment who loses eight or more hours of work a week or a full day of their usual work hours.

See the full range of business support measures and keep up to date with the latest health information on the ACT Government COVID-19 website.

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25 Responses to Tools remain on the ground as Barr says ‘today’s not the day’ to relax construction bans
kenbehrens kenbehrens 10:51 pm 18 Aug 21

Lockdowns work when people stay at home.

Zed and the self-interested building lobyists, please look at Sydney and see what can happened with their softer lockdown.

JC JC 10:33 pm 18 Aug 21

Seeing as 4 exposure sites are electrical wholesalers probably best to keep construction lockdown for the time being.

Besides that what make construction so critical at this point in time. Plenty of other businesses would love to open too.

Sher Bee Sher Bee 9:55 pm 18 Aug 21

Go away Zed you don’t care about Ken-behrens. You prefer we suffer slow painful deaths, remember you block our rights to die peacefully.

Paul Berger Paul Berger 7:07 pm 18 Aug 21

Typical liberal member, money over people.

    Nathan Burraston Nathan Burraston 5:35 pm 21 Aug 21

    Paul Berger the largest employing private sector, largely working outdoors, in small teams that usually don't overlap other trades (ie plumbers are usually off a job before sparkies start their work, painters don't start until plasterers are done... it's a minimal risk sector that would keep the economy above life support.

    Paul Berger Paul Berger 5:56 pm 21 Aug 21

    Nathan Burraston its not a minimal risk though. Just because you think one trade won't overlap another dosent change the fact that at any given time you can infact have multiple trades in the house at the same time, not to mention multiple people going to multiple places at once.

Ian McGregor Ian McGregor 6:10 pm 18 Aug 21

    Ian McGregor Ian McGregor 6:58 pm 18 Aug 21

    Catalina Banksworth yes I did read this. Seems to not be a factor.

Judy Elferkh Judy Elferkh 4:55 pm 18 Aug 21

I was told pre-shut down in Canberra there was an influx of Sydney construction workers to commercial sites. Can Zed confirm he would be monitoring that situation closley for us.

    Sharee Schultz Sharee Schultz 9:52 pm 18 Aug 21

    Judy Elferkh as a person who works in the construction industry, the businesses were closely monitoring who was working on the sites. There were adequate checks & QR codes everywhere. I have not heard of any COVID cases on a Canberra construction site.

    Dave Lenihan Dave Lenihan 10:19 pm 19 Aug 21


Shayne Borger Shayne Borger 4:39 pm 18 Aug 21

Its a health issue in a jurisdiction that you dont have control of Zed. You must follow State health orders.

Brian Harris Brian Harris 4:10 pm 18 Aug 21

Zed describes his credibility.

Astrid Smith Astrid Smith 3:46 pm 18 Aug 21

Zed. No! Let's kick this first. My husband is a self employed construction industry tradesperson and he wants covid gone and completely understand the need for closure. Sure it is hurting us financially but health for all comes first.

    Shaun Lonergan Shaun Lonergan 5:31 pm 18 Aug 21

    Astrid Smith I honestly dont think covid will ever be 'gone' - even if we reach 80% eligible being vaccinated.

    Astrid Smith Astrid Smith 5:47 pm 18 Aug 21

    Shaun Lonergan I agree but until the rate of infections decrease in our small region and we have more immunised if it takes 2 weeks or 4 weeks we should at least give it that time before returning to construction works. Just my view wrong or right I don't have answers, but then no one seems to at this point in time.

Reidar Jorgensen Reidar Jorgensen 3:44 pm 18 Aug 21

Zed wants us to work until we drop dead.

Tracy Gorman Tracy Gorman 3:31 pm 18 Aug 21

“He understood that Senator Seselja was calling for a safe re-opening for the industry, but added: “if this is a political potshot, it is absolutely unnecessary, and Canberras would be disgusted by it … he’s playing some pretty ordinary politics, and the people of Canberra will judge him for what he’s just done.””

Uh.. the people of Canberra are already aware of Zed’s backhanded politics. People like him thrive on situations where the many lose and he can gain.

    Adam Rath Adam Rath 4:15 pm 18 Aug 21

    Tracy Gorman what’s to gain? Getting people back to work who can’t work from home and can’t earn a living. Guess that’s pretty backhanded huh

    Tracy Gorman Tracy Gorman 4:23 pm 18 Aug 21

    Adam Rath stopping the spread of covid is pretty important. I get it, and ideally people getting back to work is the best option possible in normal times, but these aren’t normal times. It’s not only the building industry that can’t work from home, so the best option is limiting potential cross contamination.

    The backhandedness comes from Zed always having a political potshot. At a time where our community is in trouble, our politicians should be working together, no matter where they sit politically

    Henry Kivimaki Henry Kivimaki 7:36 pm 18 Aug 21

    Tracy Gorman Been blinded by politics for long ? " ZED this Zed that...I hate only because he has a blue shirt" .. Zed wants most of the tradies back to work who live from paycheck to pay check to feed their families. There is no difference between delta and last years garbage. We worked very safely in small numbers with the protocols. And no problem.

    Tom Porter Tom Porter 7:56 pm 18 Aug 21

    Henry Kivimaki tell that to Sydney.

Adam Rath Adam Rath 3:29 pm 18 Aug 21

Bet it would be a different story if construction of his toy tram line was being affected 🖕

Scott Malpass Scott Malpass 3:24 pm 18 Aug 21

So Zed wants us to open during a pandemic, but won’t give the ACT self determination…… no Zed, No Zed

    Grant Jones Grant Jones 5:36 pm 18 Aug 21

    Scott Malpass not sure how the two are related.

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