House debates

Monday, 22 February 2021

Private Members' Business

COVID-19: International Travel

5:37 pm

Photo of Josh BurnsJosh Burns (Macnamara, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

There are moments in this place when hypocrisy knows no bounds, and this motion is one of those moments. Let me take you back to when we were in the middle of stage 4 lockdown in Victoria. Things were pretty rough. Families were distressed and there were a lot of COVID cases. The contact tracers were struggling to keep up with demand, and eventually we saw the Victorian case numbers come down. What did we get from the federal government? We got a press release from the Treasurer, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Health saying that Victoria should be acting more like New South Wales and that they don't support the measures of the Victorian government—essentially, that Victorians were on their own and that Victorian tracing wasn't up to their standards. The most astounding thing, other than the diminishing role of the federal government, was that their answer, their excuse and their attempt at contact tracing was the $70 million contact tracing app. We all remember that app, don't we? That was a massive help during this pandemic! That was sold by the Prime Minister as our ticket out of lockdown, our ticket to freedom—by the marketing Prime Minister. We remember that. Of course, that turned out to be a complete dud, and it reflects the contribution of the federal government.

We want to talk about Australians being stuck overseas. We came to the table with a constructive suggestion, as we have throughout the entire pandemic. What was the suggestion by the federal Labor Party? It was: 'You have a fleet of government jets, the RAAF jets. Remember those jets that you've got that you sometimes fly around the country on? Why don't we send those jets overseas and bring Australians back?' Of course, they didn't send a single jet—not one single jet—to go and get Australians back.

But they did use the jets. The jets were occupied. They obviously thought there was a better reason to use those jets. What were those RAAF jets doing over the coronavirus lockdown, member for Bowman? The first thing one was doing was flying the Minister for Home Affairs to launch his grants that hadn't actually been approved by the guidelines for the Safer Communities Fund. He was taking an RAAF jet to announce grants for things that weren't even approved in guidelines. The other thing that they happened to use an RAAF jet for was Mathias Cormann's job interview in the OECD. The hypocrisy is ridiculous. They'll use government planes to get Mathias Cormann a job but now they're complaining that they didn't bring Australians back from overseas. What nonsense! What rubbish! You literally have more government resources at your disposal than all of the other forms and layers of government combined—and what do you do with it? You send your mates to Europe to try get them a job.

Let's just hope that the incompetency and unwillingness to take responsibility doesn't extend to the vaccine. Hopefully, with the help of our health authorities and our incredible health workers across the country, we actually get that right. But, if you look at the other ways in which they've contributed to this pandemic, it has been shambolic. It has been void of responsibility. They had JobKeeper, which they are now pulling from businesses when businesses are still relying on it—not to mention the $70 billion that they happened to lose on a spreadsheet; let's park that ridiculous accounting error to the side.

When it comes to quarantining, this is clearly a federal government responsibly. Of course the federal government could set up their own quarantining arrangements. Of course the federal government could do as the states have done and set up quarantining arrangements outside our capital cities. Of course the federal government could spend money on quarantining. They do it all the time. They do it in so many different circumstances. The fact that the Prime Minister organised a review into quarantine and got handed a report—this isn't our review; this isn't the state governments' review; this is the Prime Minister's review. The report said that there should be national standards and that there should be national quarantining. What's the response? They walk away from responsibility, they walk away from actually doing anything and they blame the Labor states. Victorians and all of the other people around the country are absolutely sick of it.


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