Monday, 23 March 2020
Questions without Notice
I thank the member for Lindsay for her question. In relation to her last statement, Australia has gone into this crisis—both a health crisis and an economic crisis—with a very strong health system and with state and territory governments and a Commonwealth government that have balance sheets that are in a strong position to be able to deal with the economic challenges that we face in providing important support to people right across the country—including those who have lined up at Centrelink offices today and those who have communicated their intention to make claims in relation to the payments and various other supports and assistance that are there. We have entered this crisis in one of the strongest positions in the world, both at a state level and at a Commonwealth level.
As I just noted in response to the Leader of the Opposition's question, over 1,600 people have now contracted that virus and the rate of increase has been escalating now for several weeks, particularly over the past week since COAG met in Sydney just over a week ago.
I remember very well when the National Incident Response Room was set up on 20 January this year. The Deputy Prime Minister and I visited that centre just two days later. That was the first of the many statements and initiatives that were put in place by the government to ensure that we were working to combat this virus, as it would seek to take hold of our community.
From that time, there have been numerous decisions. Those actions have encompassed our economic response but also, most importantly and first and foremost, the health response. The health response has been about ensuring that we're resourcing the needs that are there both in our aged-care system and in our health system. Some $3 billion of additional support has gone into our health system, to support our hospitals, to support primary care, to support our aged-care facilities, and to support our aged-care workforce and our health workforce right across the country, to ensure that they can meet the growing demands that will continue to present.
We have also established the national cabinet—a national cabinet of all Australian governments—to ensure wherever possible we can coordinate the actions of the national response between the actions of all Australian governments as they seek to put in place the measures that best address the issues in their states. Travel bans have been put in place. Strict social distancing measures have been put in place for large outdoor gatherings as well as enclosed gatherings, including those arrangements that I set out last night. The health system has received additional support and will receive more. The messaging regarding personal hygiene and social distancing has been conveyed to the public and will continue to be conveyed to the public.
The economic stimulus package and the safety net package that we announced yesterday are there to ensure that we can assist Australians get through this crisis. Of course we will be tested, and the Australian government will continue to take the actions that protect the lives and livelihoods of Australians.