​Push to adopt National Cabinet close contact definition

Public news

Last month, National Cabinet agreed to a new definition of a close contact, and exemptions for workers in critical occupations which included:

  • Transport, freight and logistics
  • Vehicle repairs and maintenance including disinfection, roadside assistance and towing
  • Transport operations
  • Vehicle hire
  • Road, rail, air and sea transport services
  • Distribution centres
  • Passenger transport
  • Education and childcare
  • Adult and higher education

Skill shortages are all too well known in the automotive industry and as South Australia and the Northern Territory adjust to life with COVID-19 in the community, businesses are understandably concerned about the impacts to their staff and operations.

Following National Cabinet’s announcement, the MTA put a survey out to all members, asking whether they supported workers in the automotive industry who are a close contact of a COVID-19 positive case being able to return to safely work if they meet specific criteria, in line with the National Cabinet agreement.

The message from members was loud and clear, with 95%, in South Australia and 90% in the Northern Territory answering YES to this question.

MTA CEO Paul Unerkov wrote to both the Premier of South Australia, Steven Marshall and the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, Michael Gunner to immediately adopt the National Cabinet definition of a close contact and the list of new occupations agreed to at National Cabinet.

While we were pleased to see the Northern Territory align itself with the National Cabinet definitions for close contacts and return to work provisions for the automotive industry, SA Premier Steven Marshall responded to the MTA acknowledging our request, but disappointingly did not commit to national alignment.

For South Australia, this means exemptions for workers in critical sectors are limited and do not include most of the automotive industry, as well as a stricter definition of close contacts regarding exposure time.

The MTA will continue to raise this issue with both the State Government and the Opposition in the lead up to the South Australian State Election on behalf of the clear desires and interests of our members.