House debates

Monday, 22 February 2021

Private Members' Business

COVID-19: International Travel

5:22 pm

Photo of Damian DrumDamian Drum (Nicholls, National Party) Share this | Hansard source

Well, this is the second time I've stood in this place to hear the opposition effectively say that quarantine is the responsibility of the federal government, when we know that, when Ruby Princess had the enormous implications it had, which was a disaster for New South Wales, it was then identified very, very clearly that the states were taking over the control of the health orders and that, once the health orders were in place, they took over controls around those health orders, which entailed taking over responsibility of quarantine. This has been proven beyond any doubt.

It's quite comical and childlike that we have politicians from the Labor Party come into this place and try to say that, because it's in the Constitution, it is so. But the states have all taken full responsibility over the health orders that are applied to quarantining arrangements. They have taken over full control. That has been proven again by the fact that, when Queensland needed fruit pickers, the Queensland government were able to put in place a fruit-picking regime. They went and sourced the people from the Pacific Island nations to pick the fruit. They brought them out and they made them quarantine on farm. All these arrangements were put in place by the Queensland government. The federal government was there to stamp any visa, to agree with any part of the arrangement that needed to be put in place. The federal government was helpful. When the Northern Territory government needed mango pickers, again, they went and sourced the workers, to come in and pick the fruit. They had them quarantine at Howard Springs. Again, the federal government was there with them all the way to facilitate each and every action that was needed.

For the opposition to make the claim that the fact that we don't have another 15,000 or 20,000 fruit pickers in Victoria or New South Wales is somehow or other due to the inaction of the federal government is ridiculous. We have done everything we possibly can to assist these state governments, and these state governments are more or less saying, 'It's the fault of the federal government because you haven't been able to encourage the Australians to come and pick the fruit.' We've been telling these state governments for the last 10 months that the Australians wouldn't do it. You can put in place every incentive in the world—the Australians will not get off the couch and come and pick the fruit. If you want to save the hundreds of millions of dollars of fruit, of produce, that is going to be wasted, you, as the Victorian government, are going to have to get off your backside and go and source a labour force. And that labour force exists in the Pacific island nations, which are free of the virus.

We can go into countries where the virus is rife and bring in tennis players and those tennis players' entourage, knowing that that carries a real risk of bringing the virus back into Australia. But we can't possibly go and get fruit pickers from Pacific island nations that are free of the virus!

One of the most horrific failures of any government was what the Dan Andrews government didn't do in relation to this fruit season. We are still seeing the damage and the absolute disaster from the inaction of the Victorian government. This has cost literally hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars. Plus, there are now thousands of tonnes of fruit sitting in the orchards, and that is going to be a real disaster when it comes to trying to prevent Queensland fruit fly. Queensland fruit flies will make their nests and lay their eggs in that fruit and then they will get the biggest kickstart they've ever had, because we simply have so much rotting fruit lying on the ground.

So it is again quite comical that the member here has put this motion up simply to put it on the record that, when we had this second lockdown, when we had the most dramatic quarantine failure by the Dan Andrews government, we went for months not bring anybody back into Australia—we couldn't bring anybody back in, unless they flew in via Sydney—and yet we still had the worst record in the nation. Then we had the third lockdown because of more quarantine failures. Now we've gone to zero, so we're happy in Victoria.

Dan Andrews is happy for everybody else to do the heavy lifting when it comes to bringing Australians back, but he won't bring the fruit-pickers in and he won't bring in returning travellers, who are going through a horrible time in these other countries and are just desperate to try to get back to Australia. Thanks for nothing!


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