Tuesday, 27 October 2020
because it is important that Australians know that this parliament has come together on this issue today, and I would urge those opposite to cease the interjections, because we are at one on this. And this is the truth of Australia's success—that, well outside of this place, Australians have supported each other, each and every day, through this pandemic. Outside of this place, governments have worked together, each and every day—each and every day—and the national cabinet has been an important part of that process.
As we built up that national resilience as a country, as a people, as governments, all across the country, we looked forward to that time where we had agreed as a national cabinet that we would be open again in July. We looked forward to that day and we were moving well towards that day. In seven states and territories, that progress continued. But, sadly, in July we saw the case numbers begin to rise in Victoria, and we saw the failure of the quarantine, which is understood and well known and has been documented. We saw the issues of contact tracing and we saw Victoria descend into what was a cataclysmic second wave of this virus. And it was the right decision of the Victorian Premier and the Victorian government to impose the lockdown measures, which I welcomed at the time, and I urged all encouragement to Victorians to endure those measures, because they had become necessary. That lockdown had become necessary, as borders between New South Wales and Victoria had become necessary.
But I say this: borders and lockdowns are not demonstration or evidence of success. They are not evidence of success. They are evidence of outbreaks that have got out of control. They are evidence of things that have not gone as they should. So, now, with the opening of Victoria and the endurance and the sacrifice of Victorians and the way they were able to work through this issue, I welcome that; I think it's tremendous. And I think it's great that Tasmania is opening up again. I think it's fantastic that South Australia has opened up again. And I'm encouraged by the words of former Queensland Premier Peter Beattie, who believes things should open up again. I'm encouraged by that. People in this place know that I've always wanted Australia to work their way through this crisis and not get stuck in a rut, and that's what we must do. So I welcome the fact that Victoria is opening.
As Victorians went through this crisis, I can assure you of this: this government stood by them. This government stood by them: 28 Commonwealth GP-led respiratory clinics assessed over 175,200 people in Victoria; 1,400 interviews assigned to Commonwealth teams on contact tracing; 27.8 million masks from the National Medical Stockpile; some $1.3 billion in funding for specific COVID-safe health costs in Victoria; testing for aged-care workers, interstate truck drivers and train drivers; support through communications; tailored mental health programs; 15 mental health clinics; $200 million every day of support to see Victorians through this crisis. Our government has stood by Victorians every single day of the lockdown that became necessary as a result of the outbreak that got out of control.
As we look to the future and we look to the new three-step process that has been agreed by national cabinet—and I thank in particular the Premier of Victoria who was one of the first to sign up to open by Christmas when we agreed this in September—we cannot look to a future of lockdowns as a way of managing this virus. What we must do is ensure we have the testing, the tracing, the isolation, the quarantine options and all of these things which national cabinet and my cabinet are working to deliver for Australians. Because we are going to open safely, and we are going to safely remain open, under the policies of our government, working hand in glove with the state and territory premiers and chief ministers around this country.
I join with the Leader of the Opposition in commending Victorians. I thank the many public health workers in Victoria. I thank the tram drivers. I thank all of those who have worked, whether in aged care, child care, distribution centres, schools, hospitals—wherever they have been they have been champions of this country in their time of crisis. I thank them for every single sacrifice, because the cost of the lockdown has been significant. It has been a heavy blow. There are so many Victorians who will carry the scars of this lockdown for years to come. That is the advice we have received from Christine Morgan, my National Suicide Prevention Adviser, and the Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Mental Health, Ruth Vine. There will be scars that will be carried by Victorians. I assure those Victorians that just as we've stood by you throughout this terrible lockdown, we will stand by you through the recovery. We will continue to support you in the economic needs that you have and get you back into jobs, to open your businesses again and to rebuild your lives.
This Christmas I want Australians to come around their tables and talk about 2021 with positivity, with hope, with aspiration, looking forward to what they're going to do, the schools their kids are going the go to, the training courses they're going to do, the jobs they're going to get into, the health that they will be able to enjoy, because in this country we have one of the best records, if not the best, of managing the health and economic impacts of this pandemic of any country in the world. God bless Australia.