Government wanted to keep building amid construction shutdown

Federal sources confirmed to The Age on Thursday night that Victoria’s Pfizer allocation be greater in the second half of October than in the first half.

The state’s building ban applies to all construction projects in metro Melbourne, City of Ballarat, City of Greater Geelong, Surf Coast Shire and Mitchell Shire with exemptions only for emergencies or work for health and safety.

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Prior to the announcement late on Monday night of the shutdown, the government said it expected that it would keep working on some of its projects, including level crossing removals where downing tools would cause prolonged transport disruption.

But after the intervention of the unions, who also worried about divisions opening up between members who would be sent home and those who remained at work, a sector-wide shutdown was announced.

Mr Pallas’ office did not answer questions on Thursday about what had transpired in Monday evening’s meeting, simply saying in a statement that safety and essential maintenance works were still permitted and that the shutdown had been imposed on health advice.

Meantime, Mr Andrews said he would appeal to Prime Minister Scott Morrison to intervene in the latest pandemic funding row between Spring Street and Canberra.

The Premier was responding to what he called “offensive” remarks made on Wednesday by federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who said he had knocked back a request by his state counterpart for special financial assistance for the Victorian building industry in the wake of its shutdown.

Mr Pallas, backed by Mr Andrews, said targeted Commonwealth assistance was made available to the NSW construction sector when it was shut by the Berejiklian state government for two weeks in July.

“I’m disappointed that the [federal] Treasurer has indicated that Victoria won’t be getting what NSW got,” the Premier said.

“We’re part of this country, we pay our taxes, we pay more than our fair share of taxes. We create more than our fair share of wealth and opportunity and prosperity in our nation and it is offensive.”

Mr Frydenberg told Sky News on Wednesday that he had told Mr Pallas that the Commonwealth had already provided “significant funding” to Victoria.

“I made it clear to him that we have already provided very significant funding to Victoria including the COVID disaster payment where we pick up the bill and around $2 billion has already been made available to 570,000 people in Victoria, including those who may have been affected by the construction industry interruption,” Mr Frydenberg said.

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