Australia Building watchdog defends Brisbane travel

02:27  27 october  2020
02:27  27 october  2020 Source:   aap.com.au

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The Melbourne-based boss of the building industry watchdog has defended flying to Brisbane to interview construction workers at the height of Victoria's coronavirus crisis.

  Building watchdog defends Brisbane travel

ABCC commissioner Stephen McBurney travelled to Queensland on July 16 after receiving a travel exemption from the state's chief health officer.

There were 372 new cases in Victoria on the day he left.

Mr McBurney took a coronavirus test in Melbourne before leaving and then wore a mask on the flight.

He kept the mask on during his transfer to a hotel and stayed in his room until the test came back negative.

Mr McBurney told a Senate estimates hearing he didn't wear a mask for the remainder of his trip to Brisbane, where he undertook three investigations.

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Labor senator Murray Watt questioned if the travel was necessary during the pandemic.

"Do you think it showed good judgement for you to personally travel to Brisbane, in the midst of the COVID second wave in Melbourne?" he asked on Monday night.

Mr McBurney said he believed the travel was appropriate because it complied with all health directions.

"At all times, senator, I've acted in accordance with the best health advice of the states and territories," he said.

Mr McBurney didn't tell the chief health officer he had the power to defer the examinations, but he did provide a copy of the legislation which outlines all the powers.

"It was my decision that I would be responsible for conducting these examinations," he said.

The commissioner said while he was allowed to delegate, there was no one working at the ABCC who had previously conducted examinations.

Senator Watt said the commissioner followed the rules but failed to disclose important details that showed he could have travelled at a different time.

"Mr McBurney heads one of the government's anti-union task forces and he claims that he's about workplace health and safety but he didn't disclose these powers to the chief health officer," he said.

Mr McBurney returned to Melbourne on July 25, the day masks became mandatory in the Victorian capital.

Construction union officials were furious with the visit, with workers not aware the commissioner was from a coronavirus hotspot until after the interviews.

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