Monday, 22 February 2021
Private Members' Business
COVID-19: International Travel
Isn't this fantastic—a motion about quarantine and borders, and it's all about the states! Ten out of 10 for the creative nonsense and blame-shifting that this motion is. It continues the Morrison government's slippery slope to blame-shift everything onto the states.
In case anyone read the Australian Constitution and thought the Commonwealth was actually responsible for quarantine, borders and international arrivals, the motion tells us it's the states' fault that there are 41,000 stranded Australians. It's not the Commonwealth government's fault; it's the states' fault. It's the states' fault that tens of thousands of partners, husbands, wives and children of Australians are stuck overseas. It's the states' fault that international students aren't allowed to come to Australia and we're literally destroying—annihilating, to use your words, Member for Bowman—the international education industry. I was left wondering, wishing, 'If only we had a national government that was actually responsible for the stuff they're responsible for if you read the Constitution!' Seriously. This motion is no, no, no, no. The fact is that the Morrison government is responsible for quarantine and borders.
In the last three months, every one of Australia's biggest five cities has had outbreaks from quarantine, and—I agree with the member opposite—the social and the economic disruption that this has caused is profound. Australians are losing patience. But to keep blaming the states, playing the blame game, is not the answer. Let's be clear, the Commonwealth government are responsible for quarantine. It's in the Constitution. The Commonwealth has always had responsibility for quarantine and international borders. If you're an animal, a dog or a cat or a horse, you go from the airport to the Commonwealth quarantine facility. But, if you're a person, apparently it's the states' problem.
When it really matters, the Prime Minister runs away—not literally to Hawaii this time; he's running away from responsibility. You wouldn't find a politician in this parliament, not one, that has banged on more about how he's in control of the borders. He's going to keep us safe. He's going to manage the borders and keep all those nasties out. He turned away the boats, but he's turned his back on 41,000 Australians who are desperate to come home. They were going to be home by Christmas, weren't they? How did that go? That was an untruth if ever there was one. It was just a line in a press conference; just an announcement that we did not deliver. But it's not his fault of course. He's just an impotent, poor little man. He's not in charge of anything. He just wanders out with all the flags behind him and announces whatever the premiers agree to. That's not leadership.
The previous speaker went on about for the need for training and infection control and workforce. I agree. All of these things are in the report that has been on the Prime Minister's desk—the report from Jane Halton that he commissioned himself. It's called the National Review of Hotel Quarantine. It says that national standards, a workforce plan for quarantine, consistent standards for PPE and infection control training are needed. It's fun to bash the states and Dan in Victoria and all your favourite little enemies, but it is way past time to act. The report has not been responded to. It's sitting on the Prime Minister's desk, saying to do all this stuff. They haven't done anything. They just wander out and blame the states. The health of the Australians and the economy depend on the government acting on it.
I agree with the previous speaker that we are still going to need hotel quarantine in the coming months—maybe for a couple of years; we don't know—because no-one is safe from this virus until everyone in the world is safe. That's the truth of it. That's what we get told by the international development experts and by the health experts: that the whole world needs to be vaccinated so we don't have reservoirs of this virus mutating into more infectious strains. So we are going to need these facilities. But it's way past time that we look at dedicated national facilities outside capital cities and national standards for PPE.
The final thing I want to acknowledge and call out is that it's the height of hypocrisy for any government member to profess care and concern for international students, when they're led by a man who told students to literally go home—he made people feel so unwelcome in this country—and has done nothing for the international education sector, which is our fourth-biggest export sector. Tourism got $240 million of support in the budget. What did international education get? Zero dollars; literally nothing. It's all very funny for the government to say. 'Oh, we're not going to help universities. Ha, ha, ha; they'll lose jobs. Silly universities. We don't like universities,' but what about the reputable private businesses that are literally facing the cliff in July? They are literally going to go broke—and this government does nothing. It's not good enough to blame the states. You've got to take responsibility.