The New South Wales government is under intense pressure from the construction industry over its sudden decision to close the whole sector down across Greater Sydney.
Construction union CFMEU said the industry was “bloody angry” after the announcement was made on Saturday.
“Last Friday, we were still told the industry could keep going,” CFMEU Secretary Darren Greenfield told 2GB radio on Tuesday. “To come out and flip a switch was atrocious.”
“We’re still angry, but we need to start telling the government—everyone in the industry and everyone in NSW as well—that we need to get back up and running.”
On Monday, NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said she did not specifically advise the closure of the construction industry, and the cabinet had made the decision.
According to 2GB, the construction ban was backed by Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Deputy Premier John Barilaro, Paul Toole, and Victor Dominello. However, treasurer Dominic Perrottet, Stuart Ayres, and Health Minister Brad Hazzard opposed the idea, resulting in a 4:3 split for the measure.
The Australian Constructors Association (ACA) said the lockdown of construction work was unnecessary, but they were committed to working collaboratively with the government and supporting the industry.
“The construction industry has a long tail, and we need to ensure all parts of the industry are supported,” an ACA spokesman told The Epoch Times. “The ACA is taking a holistic approach to minimising the impacts of the shutdown, supporting businesses, and restarting work.”
The ACA was “optimistic” that work would resume when scheduled, but called on the NSW government to provide greater certainty going forwards.
The Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) said it was time to include a cost-benefit analysis of lockdown decisions.
“For too long, we have heard state leaders quote “health advice” for their job and life-wrecking decisions on lockdowns,” Ai Group CEO Innes Willox said. “Until that advice becomes more transparent and includes more than health advice, doubts will continue to grow as to whether we are on the right path, and confidence will be further eroded in the decisions made by state governments.”
Willox said the NSW government’s decision to shut construction, despite the “extremely minimal” risks, could not be justified without data or proper risk assessment.
South Australia also announced a lockdown from 6 p.m. today, including the construction industry, which Willox describes as a “knee-jerk response.” He is concerned that Victoria will also follow suit with their own construction shutdown.
The two-week construction ban began on Monday and is estimated to cost over $1 billion per week and leave over 250,000 people without work. It is Australia’s first complete shutdown of the sector due to lockdowns.