Josh Frydenberg says ‘balance’ is needed as Australians met with empty shelves at supermarkets

Courtney GouldNCA NewsWire
Josh Frydenberg has returned from his Covid-19 sick bed to defend the government’s handling of the Omicron surge as stores battle with widespread food and supply chain shortages. Brendan Radke
Camera IconJosh Frydenberg has returned from his Covid-19 sick bed to defend the government’s handling of the Omicron surge as stores battle with widespread food and supply chain shortages. Brendan Radke Credit: News Corp Australia

Josh Frydenberg has returned from his Covid-19 sick bed to defend the government’s handling of the Omicron surge as stores battle with widespread staff and supply chain shortages.

Unions will today hold an emergency meeting to consider if they need to take action after national cabinet agreed to exempt close contacts in essential workforces from isolating, as long as they are asymptomatic.

Speaking with ABC News, the Treasurer said the change was necessary to keep food on shelves.

“We need to keep food on the shelves. We need the trucks to continue to ensure the deliveries. We need the abattoirs to keep working,” Mr Frydenberg.

“Indeed, we need water and energy and telecommunications and other essential services to keep going. We need our schools to open at term one and to stay open.

Staff shortages across the country have led to many being met with empty shelves at local stores.
Camera IconStaff shortages across the country have led to many being met with empty shelves at local stores. Credit: NCA NewsWire

“We’re trying to balance here a series of objectives – not just the health objective, but also the economic objective.

“And what is absolutely clear from the health advice is that while Omicron is highly transmissible, it is less severe and people such as myself can have the virus but not be hospitalised and can get through it.”

But union boss Sally McManus has warned the recent changes to the definition of a Covid close conduct would only put workers in harm‘s way.

MYEFO CANBERRA
Camera IconJosh Frydenberg contracted Covid-19 earlier this month. NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage Credit: News Corp Australia

“We have a monumental workforce crisis with a record level of essential workers sick and unable to work. This has led to an overwhelming of our health systems and a crippling of our supply chains,” the ACTU Secretary said.

“Some employers are responding by pressuring Covid-positive people to work, others have not changed safety measures despite the more infectious nature of Omicron, workers are sick, many now without income and there is a serious lack of national leadership.

“Too many people are being put in harm’s way and the failure of the Federal Government to secure RATs means we do not have the tools to keep ourselves and the community safe.”

The unions are warning the changes could only put workers further at risk.
Camera IconThe unions are warning the changes could only put workers further at risk. Credit: NCA NewsWire

Later on Nine Radio, Mr Frydenberg said criticism the government was unprepared to handle the unfolding crisis was unfounded.

“The problem is not unique to Australia. Every country is going through the same challenges,” he said.

Asked if he believed Australia should return to lockdown, Mr Frydenberg said in his experience, lockdown was worse than Covid.

“Lockdowns are worse than Omicron, I think there’s no doubt about that,” the Treasurer said.

“We shouldn’t be going back to even thinking about lockdown.”

Originally published as Josh Frydenberg says ‘balance’ is needed as Australians met with empty shelves at supermarkets

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails