House debates

Monday, 26 October 2020

Questions without Notice

COVID-19: Health

2:24 pm

Photo of Greg HuntGreg Hunt (Flinders, Liberal Party, Minister for Health) Share this | Hansard source

I want to thank the member for Moncrieff, who's been a great advocate for Australia's COVID-19 response. In particular, this is a response which has been built on the twin pillars of containment and capacity. Capacity has been about building our primary care, our telehealth, our aged care, our hospitals—with 7½ thousand ventilators—and of course our vaccine capabilities. Containment has been about, as the Prime Minister said, taking the steps across the four fronts—borders, testing, tracing and distancing—to keep Australians safe.

When we look at how Australia has performed, we look at a world where there have been over 400,000 cases a day in each of the past five days. Leading into the weekend there were three successive days of record COVID-19 figures. This disease, this condition, which has now taken 1.15 million lives officially and no doubt countless more, continues to grow. The first of, therefore, the great defence mechanisms in Australia has been our international borders. All of this has contributed to Australia having one case in the community in the last 24 hours, at a time when the UK has had almost 20,000 and France has had 50,000 in one day.

Against that background, what we see is that our border protections have been fundamental. In international quarantine, we've identified over 2½ thousand positive cases, a rate of about two per cent of arrivals. Those arrivals and those defence mechanisms have helped protect Australia; in particular, the hotel quarantine system, which was instituted through the national cabinet. Jane Halton, a distinguished former secretary under both sides of politics, has identified success in seven out of eight jurisdictions. Obviously, there were clear challenges which occurred in Victoria, and we hope and believe that, going forward, they'll be able to reopen in a way which is safe.

The Halton review has identified the importance of this system both to protecting Australians and to bringing Australians home, and it has identified means by which we can expand that capacity. In particular, there are recommendations for improving the quality end to end, in every state and territory, by having monitoring, checkpoints and reviews, but also for a risk based system where, when we look at countries such as New Zealand, we can proceed without hotel quarantine; where, when we look at other countries, potentially in the future we could have home isolation such as we've seen in the ACT; and where we can have a system in particular which maintains the protection for those who come from abroad. This is saving lives and it's protecting lives. (Time expired)


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