Pandemic leave disaster payment for Queensland workers

Queenslanders who can’t earn an income because they must self-isolate or quarantine, or are caring for someone with COVID-19 can now access support with a $1500 Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment.

The Australian Government has extended Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment arrangements to include Queensland following agreement with the Queensland Government.

The $1500 lump sum Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment is already available in Victoria, Tasmania, New South Wales and Western Australia.

If an individual is instructed by a health official to self-isolate or quarantine, and has used up all appropriate leave entitlements, including any special pandemic leave, they may be eligible for the payment. They may also be eligible if they’re the parent or guardian of a child aged 16 or under who has been instructed to isolate as they are a close contact or has tested positive for COVID-19, or they are caring for someone with COVID-19.

In line with arrangements with other states, Queensland workers will not be eligible for the payment if they are receiving income, earnings or salary maintenance from work, receiving JobKeeper Payment or other forms of Australian or Queensland Government income support.

To date, more than $15.5 million in Pandemic Leave Disaster Payments has been paid for some 10,300 granted claims since 6 August.

The fastest and easiest way to make a claim is over the phone by calling 180 22 66. Please do not visit a service centre.

More information is available at www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/disaster.

Pandemic leave disaster payment for South Australia

The Australian Government has extended Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment arrangements in place with Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia and Tasmania following agreement with the South Australian Government. The Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment is a lump sum payment to help an individual during the 14 day self-isolation, quarantine or caring period.

The agreement will see the Commonwealth Government extend the $1,500 Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment to South Australian workers who cannot earn an income because they must self-isolate, quarantine or care for someone with COVID-19.

If an individual is instructed by a health official to self-isolate or quarantine, and they have used up all appropriate leave entitlements, including any special pandemic leave, they may be eligible to make a claim. They may also be eligible if they’re the parent or guardian of a child aged 16 or under who has been instructed to isolate as they are a close contact or has tested positive for COVID-19, or they’re caring for someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

In line with arrangements with other states, South Australian workers will not be eligible for the payment if they are receiving income, earnings or salary maintenance from work, receiving the JobKeeper Payment or other forms of Australian Government income support, or receive a Pandemic Leave payment from the South Australian Government.

The payment can be claimed again should an extended self-isolation or quarantine period longer than 14 days be instructed by health officials, or their period of caring is extended.

To date, more than $15.5 million in Pandemic Leave Disaster Payments have been paid for more than 10,300 granted claims since 6 August.

The fastest and easiest way to make a claim is over the phone by calling 180 22 66. Please do not visit a service centre.

PLUM and HATS helping to save Indigenous kids hearing

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families are being encouraged to use an Australian Government toolkit to ensure young children are meeting their milestones for hearing and speaking.

The Australian Government has made ending avoidable deafness for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children a priority, with their rates of hearing loss and ear disease significantly higher than the non-Indigenous population.

Between 2018–19 and 2022–23, almost $104.6 million will be provided for ear health initiatives to reduce the number of Indigenous Australians suffering avoidable hearing loss, and give Indigenous children a better start to education.

The Parent-evaluated Listening and Understanding Measure (PLUM) and the Hearing and Talking Scale (HATS) have been developed by Hearing Australia in collaboration with Aboriginal health and early education services.

As part of a $21.2 million package of funding over five years from 2020-21 to advance hearing health in Australia, the 2020–21 Budget includes an additional $5 million to support early identification of hearing and speech difficulties for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, and embed the use of PLUM and HATS Australia-wide.

Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services will be able to access $2 million from that funding, through the Service Maintenance Program, to establish quiet spaces that can be used for audiology assessments.

PLUM and HATS uses questionnaires that help parents and carers, early childhood educators and health professionals to screen for hearing and communication difficulties in young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and ensure action can be taken to address problems early.

The Australian Government has also provided $30 million for diagnostic hearing assessments and follow-up treatment for Indigenous Australian children in the years before starting school. The resulting Hearing Assessment Program – Early Ears (HAP-EE), also delivered by Hearing Australia, was co-designed with the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health sector and other stakeholders.

HAP-EE was initially focussed on rural and remote areas, and more than 3,100 diagnostic hearing assessments in 93 communities have been conducted from when it began in 2019 to September 2020. The program will be expanded to metro areas by the end of the year.

Other ongoing initiatives include the Healthy Ears Program providing a range of clinical ear health services for Indigenous children and youth, including ear nose and throat (ENT) and speech pathology. Funding is also available to deliver access to culturally safe surgery, streamline care pathways, train health professionals, supply equipment and provide the Care for Kids’ Ears health promotion resources.

More information about PLUM and HATS is available online – https://plumandhats.nal.gov.au

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families can also call 134 432 to have their child’s hearing assessed. Hearing Australia is offering appointments in many Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, in its hearing centres and via teleservice.

Appeal for information after child approach – Medowie

Police are appealing for information after reports of a child approach in the Hunter region yesterday.

About 5.40pm (Thursday 23 October 2020), a seven-year-old boy was walking in Willow Close, Medowie, when a man riding an orange and black motorbike pulled up beside him.

Police have been told the male rider asked the boy to get on the bike. He refused and walked away. The man then conducted a U-turn and drove out of Willow Close in an unknown direction.

The incident was reported to officers from Port Stephens-Hunter Police District who commenced an investigation.

As inquiries continue, police would like to speak to a man who may be able to assist with their inquiries.

The man is only described as having greyish coloured hair and wearing a khaki-coloured back-pack.

Police are appealing to anyone who might have been in the Medowie area yesterday and either saw the motorbike or has dash-cam footage, to come forward.

Inquiries are continuing.

GOVERNMENT SPEND BACKING SMALL AND MEDIUM BUSINESSES

New data has revealed the NSW Government spent more than $40 billion on goods, services and construction in 2019/20, with nearly half this amount going to small and medium businesses, reiterating its support for the business community.

Figures collated from NSW Government agencies revealed $19.1 billion was spent with small and medium businesses – from food catering to technical consulting and construction work – an increase of more than $3 billion from the previous year.

Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said small and medium businesses continued to be a key focus for the success of NSW.

“Small and medium business owners are the backbone of the NSW economy, and we’re committed to supporting these businesses to grow and employ more people,” Mr Perrottet said.

“Of the $19.1 billion spent with small and medium businesses, $16.6 billion went to more than 51,000 small and medium businesses located in NSW.

“This is more than just a big number – every time we engage a small or medium business, we support jobs, families and local communities.”

Minister for Finance and Small Business Damien Tudehope said it was important for small businesses to be front of mind when departments were considering which suppliers to engage.

“There is no doubt that small businesses have been doing it tough, first with drought, bushfires, floods and now COVID-19.

“Almost half of the money spent by the government on goods, services and construction was with small and medium sized businesses demonstrating their importance to the NSW economy.”

NSW Government agencies are responsible for conducting their own procurements in line with the NSW Procurement Policy Framework to ensure suppliers are sourced with consideration for value for money, fair and open competition, economic development, social outcomes and sustainability.

Businesses can register and search for opportunities to supply to the NSW Government at: https://suppliers.buy.nsw.gov.au/

BOOSTING HOUSING OPTIONS FOR HOMELESS YOUTH

Young people experiencing homelessness will benefit from more accommodation options and support services to help them break the cycle of homelessness, thanks to a $6.1 million NSW Government investment announced today.

Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services Gareth Ward said the package of support would help put young people on a pathway to housing independence.

“Secure housing is an important foundation for young people to live a happy and healthy life, and to realise their full potential,” Mr Ward said.

“With a safe place to call home, and support tailored to their individual needs, young people can live independently, study, train, work and pursue the things they love.”

The new funding will provide additional accommodation options for young people experiencing homelessness, including more medium-term housing options with appropriate support and supervision.

The NSW Government will continue to work closely with the sector to build on our responses for young people, informed by the recent evaluation of the Homelessness Youth Assistance Program.

Yfoundations CEO Pam Barker said the hidden nature of youth homelessness was becoming more visible through the pressures of the pandemic.

“Young people find themselves on the streets, without a permanent roof over their head, often through no fault of their own. Now more than ever, we need a pathway out of homelessness for our most vulnerable children and young people,” Ms Barker said.

“We welcome this desperately needed support from the NSW Government, and we will continue to work to keep seeing our youth homelessness services protect the increasing numbers of vulnerable young people.

The investment builds on the work the NSW Government has done during the pandemic to support young people at risk of homelessness. More than 360 people have been helped into housing through our Rent Choice Youth program since April.

Anyone who is homeless or at risk of homelessness can contact Link2home on 1800 152 152. Services and support are available 24-7, every day of the year.

VENUES NSW TO DELIVER BLOCKBUSTER EVENTS

NSW has strengthened its position as Australia’s number one destination for sports and live entertainment as Venues NSW supercharges the state’s major sports and entertainment venues.

NSW Parliament has passed legislation to enable Venues NSW to be the single entity managing sport and entertainment venues in order to attract blockbuster events and drive economic activity across the State.

Acting Minister for Sport Geoff Lee said the merging of the Sydney Cricket & Sports Ground Trust (SCGT) and Venues NSW will ensure taxpayers receive maximum bang for their buck.

“The NSW Government has delivered a reform that will deliver enormous benefits for the state,” Mr Lee said.

“Now we have one organisation which can take control of hosting the most exciting and in-demand events which will bring major economic windfalls for NSW.

“We have invested in world-class venues and facilities which are the envy of the world and Venues NSW will ensure we get maximum returns.”

Incoming Venues NSW Chairman Tony Shepherd AO said the stage is set to make NSW unbeatable in attracting major events.

“Venues NSW now has an asset base which is the envy of other states around the country, giving NSW tremendous firepower to attract the biggest and the best sporting and entertainment events,” Mr Shepherd said.

“We can also capitalise on the experience and history of the SCG Trust which forms an intricate part of this clever and dynamic merger.”

The new entity will also focus on affordability and access to sports venues in NSW, to ensure NSW communities make the most of their government’s substantial investment.

All Venues NSW and SCGT contracts, agreements and membership entitlements with sporting codes, clubs, partners and members will continue to be honoured and preserved by the merged entity.

LIFE-SAVING DUST LAWS PASS NSW PARLIAMENT

The process of tracking, responding to and preventing deadly occupational dust diseases such as silicosis and asbestos has been vastly strengthened following the passage of new laws through the NSW Parliament.

Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation Kevin Anderson said that under changes to the Work Health and Safety Amendment (Information Exchange) Bill silicosis, asbestos and mesothelioma will now be notifiable diseases and if acquired through workplace exposure they will be placed on a new Dust Diseases Register.

“These new laws will save lives,” Mr Anderson said.

“Making silicosis, asbestos and mesothelioma notifiable diseases is a huge step in our journey to stamp out workplace deaths by dust exposure.

“Under the changes, these occupational dust diseases become a scheduled medical condition, requiring our doctors and nurses to notify NSW Health of identified cases, who in turn will provide this information to SafeWork NSW.

“Once SafeWork NSW has these notifications our inspectors can target their compliance and enforcement efforts based on each diagnosed individual’s current or previous workplaces and ultimately prevent further cases.

“Over the past 12 months, 344 people were reported to have been diagnosed with an asbestos related disease and more than 100 with silicosis. Where workplace exposure is the cause, I want these numbers to head towards zero.

“I want to thank the Opposition and the cross-bench for working with us on this legislation to eradicate illness, injury and death caused by occupational dust and keep our workers safe.”

Mr Anderson said the Dust Diseases Register will monitor and analyse the incidence of dust diseases that are notified by NSW Health to SafeWork NSW.

“The NSW Government is also set to release the first strategy in NSW’s history to protect workers from exposure to occupational dusts,” Mr Anderson said.

“A fundamental part of the NSW Dust Strategy 2020-2022 will be the requirement for SafeWork NSW to provide annual reports on the prevalence of dust diseases to test the effectiveness of the strategy, and ensure transparency by requiring these reports to be published and accessible to the public

MARTIN PLACE METRO CAVERNS COMPLETED

The completed underground caverns for Sydney’s new metro railway station at Martin Place have been revealed for the first time.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Minister for Transport Andrew Constance today inspected the new Martin Place metro station, where the caverns have been completed about six months ahead of schedule.

“In a few short years, Sydney’s new driverless trains will be running through the heart of the city every few minutes – a fast, new, reliable and safe railway extending from the Metro North West Line,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“This is an extraordinary milestone: excavation, tunnelling and caverns completed – next stop is laying tracks and building the new station which will service the heart of the Sydney CBD,” Mr Constance said.

It took nearly two years to excavate and build the mammoth caverns that will house the metro platforms.

The caverns under Castlereagh and Elizabeth Street are each 28 metres below street level at Martin Place, are 220 metres long and 14 metres wide.

Excavation was completed ahead of the arrival of the first tunnel boring machine, TBM Nancy on 11 October 2019. TBM Mum Shirl was not far behind, breaking through into the cavern on 23 October 2019.

About 126,000 tonnes of rock was excavated from the two caverns and more than 5,500 tonnes of steel installed.

The smooth finished lining of the caverns required more than 21,500 tonnes of concrete.

Nine tunnels have also been built to connect commuters to the new station entrances as well as to the end of the platforms at the existing Martin Place Station.

NORTHCONNEX OPENING DATE REVEALED

Sydney’s newest motorway, NorthConnex, will be open to drivers from Saturday 31 October.

The $3 billion mega-project will be a game changer for motorists, reducing travel times by up to 15 minutes and allowing drivers to avoid 21 sets of traffic lights along Pennant Hills Road.

More than 17,000 people have been involved in delivering NorthConnex since major construction began.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said NorthConnex is designed to the highest safety standards, built and fitted to keep drivers safe.

“NorthConnex is Australia’s deepest road tunnel, reaching 90 metres underground at its lowest point. With construction complete, the final commissioning has almost wrapped up, with more than 50,000 tests and checks done so far to ensure the motorway is ready to open,” Ms Berejiklian said.

Federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge said the final checks are almost complete on the twin, nine kilometre tunnels.

“This is one of the most significant and eagerly anticipated road infrastructure projects ever delivered in Australia,” Mr Tudge said.

“It has not only provided thousands of jobs for Sydney, but will change the way people travel across the city.”
New South Wales Minister for Transport and Roads Andrew Constance said NorthConnex will also feature the latest in tunnel technology, including 24/7 monitoring.

“NorthConnex will be the first road tunnel in Australia to include innovative lighting features, including trees, starscapes and birds, aimed at keeping drivers engaged. Testing is being conducted on systems we’ve never seen in any other tunnel in Australia.

“Local communities are also looking forward to the tunnel opening, with up to 5,000 trucks a day to be removed from Pennant Hills Road, regularly voted one of the most congested roads in NSW.”

NorthConnex is expected to open in the early hours of Saturday 31 October, once the final safety checks have been completed.

Electronic message signs will be updated to inform motorists of the opening date.