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Labor play politics with the safe reopening of Australian schools



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The Hon Stuart Robert MP Acting Minister for Education and Youth

MEDIA RELEASE

Authorised by S. Robert MP, Canberra

Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Labor play politics with the safe reopening of Australian schools

The Morrison Government condemns Labor’s bald-faced attempt to politicise the reopening of Australians schools. The medical advice is clear that it is safe for Australian kids to go back to school.

While the Federal Government continues to work constructively with all States and Territories to reopen our schools safely, Labor have sought to peddle fear through a cheap political stunt on school ventilation one week out of schools reopening.

National Cabinet has already considered and agreed a clear process to reopen schools safely. As part of their return to school operational plans, States and Territories have undertaken checks on ventilation within their schools and identified appropriate localised solutions in accordance with medical advice.

The Federal Government has regularly engaged with state and territory governments to identify further supports that could be provided by the Commonwealth to support return to schools and face-to-face learning, including ventilation systems. The overwhelming feedback was the need for localised solutions rather than broad-brushed one-size-fits-all policy.

Acting Minister for Education and Youth, Stuart Robert, called for Labor to apologise for seeking to politicise the reopening of schools.

‘One week out from Australian schools reopening, Australian parents deserve better than Anthony Albanese using his national platform to scare them and their kids and undercut the reopening plans,’ Minister Robert said.

‘The public health advice is clear, schools are safe for kids. The only person suggesting otherwise is Anthony Albanese.’

Just like their thought bubble to waste $3 billion in taxpayer money encouraging Australians to get a vaccine, this latest effort is similarly a solution looking for a problem.

Labor have reheated their Rudd-era school halls plan which resulted in millions of dollars of taxpayer money being blown on overpriced school halls, local contractors missing out on payments and multinationals laughing all the way to the bank. This latest iteration is wildly underfunded with less than $46,000 allocated for each school in Australia, not even enough to build a single classroom. They need to be straight with the Australian people, who will miss out?

Labor needs to say how much they will spend on school refurbishments and how much will they spend on students’ mental health.

Authorised by S. Robert MP, Canberra

Since March 2020, the Morrison Government has made available more than $1 billion to respond to the mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a substantial investment in mental health supports via telehealth.

The Morrison Government has made mental health and suicide prevention a national priority, investing $2.3 billion in the 2021-22 Budget for the National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan.

We are also providing nearly $276 million for other school-based wellbeing programs, including the National School Chaplaincy Program and the Student Wellbeing Hub.

Labor’s track record on delivering government programs is disastrous. Just like cash for clunkers, overpriced school halls and Pink Batts, this latest effort should remind Australians why Labor cannot be trusted with your hard-earned taxpayer money.

[ENDS]

Media contact: Minister Robert’s Office (02) 6277 7610

Background Ventilation in Australian Schools based on local needs VICTORIA Improving ventilation is a key measure to slow the spread of the virus around schools, particularly in high-risk areas like staff rooms, music rooms, indoor

canteens and other high traffic areas. All 51,000 air purification devices that were ordered will be delivered to government and low-fee non-government schools for the first day of Term 1.

More than 1,800 schools have applied for a Shade Sail Grant, with grants progressively being rolled out and shade sail construction already underway at more than 300 of these schools to allow more classes to learn safely outdoors.

The Government has invested $7.5 million in early childhood services to improve ventilation, alongside a further $7.4 million to support kindergarten services to implement the best COVIDSafe measures for their individual settings, keeping children and staff safe.

Source - https://www.premier.vic.gov.au/keeping-education-open-and-safe-2022 NEW SOUTH WALES

VENTILATION • Fresh air is the most effective form of ventilation to minimise the risk of transmission. • All learning spaces in public schools have been checked to ensure appropriate levels of ventilation and air purifiers have been provided where needed. • Using outdoor spaces will continue to be encouraged.

https://education.nsw.gov.au/content/dam/main-education/en/home/covid-19/advice-for-families/covid-smart-measures.pdf TASMANIA

Natural airflow will be increased by opening windows and doors and learning outdoors where possible. • Windows in Government schools have been assessed and repaired where needed to ensure they can be opened. • All Government schools have been provided with air purifiers to assist with increased ventilation where required. • Periodic maintenance of air conditioners and air purifiers is ongoing, including the replacement of air filters.

Authorised by S. Robert MP, Canberra

• Work is occurring in Government schools to identify further opportunities for outdoor learning and to enhance existing outdoor learning areas.

Source - https://publicdocumentcentre.education.tas.gov.au/library/COVID19%20Docu ments/Return-to-School-Operational-Plan-2022.pdf, page 4 SOUTH AUSTRALIA Ventilation, to be maximised by leaving doors/windows open, continued use of air conditioning (set to fresh air intake where available) and fans, including with doors and windows open.

https://www.education.sa.gov.au/sites/default/files/return-to-school-and-covid-safe-measures.pdf NORTHERN TERRITORY

Given COVID-19 can spread easily through the air, the first layer of protection is having proper air ventilation in classrooms.

Mr Gunner said air-conditioning units at all Territory government schools had been audited to ensure they provided adequate circulation.

He said 500 portable air purifiers would be delivered to schools that did not have central air-conditioning systems, especially schools in remote areas.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-01-21/nt-back-to-school-plan-details-students-parents-2022/100773770 QUEENSLAND The department has carefully considered expert advice from health authorities, Safe Work Australia, the World Health Organisation, the Doherty Institute and

actions taken by other states and territories to inform this advice to schools.

Ventilation of learning spaces can be provided naturally (through opening of windows and doors when safe to do so, or relocating learning to outdoor settings) or mechanically, via ventilation and air conditioning systems that introduce fresh air from outside.

The department will continue to review the latest advice and undertake necessary actions in relation to ventilation.

https://qed.qld.gov.au/covid19/covid-safe-for-education/creating-a-covid-safe-environment

This page also notes - The department's $477 million Cooler Cleaner Schools Program will ensure that every classroom, staff room and library in state schools across Queensland will soon benefit from cooler and cleaner air.

AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY

Ventilation improvements have been made in some schools over the holidays. The ACT public schools have not purchased air purifiers but will be relying on natural ventilation and programming HVAC systems to improve airflow.

https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/7591943/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-acts-back-to-school-plan/ WESTERN AUSTRALIA For public schools, an assessment of ventilation (windows and mechanical ventilation) has been undertaken. Advice will be provided to schools accordingly. This includes the use of natural ventilation, supplemented by the use of air purifiers where required. CO2 monitors are also being procured to ensure every public school can have access to at least one monitor. The Catholic Education System is also undertaking a ventilation assessment.