House debates

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Matters of Public Importance

Australian Interests

4:06 pm

Photo of Mark ButlerMark Butler (Hindmarsh, Australian Labor Party, Deputy Manager of Opposition Business in the House of Representatives) Share this | Hansard source

For weeks we've seen a government paralysed by a scandal and by their incompetence. We've seen a Prime Minister completely incapable of listening to—let alone understanding, let alone responding to in a meaningful way—the loud and clear calls from the Australian community, particularly Australian women, for real and meaningful changes to the way in which women are treated in this country by men, most notably, because of the cases that have been published in the media, how women are treated by men in this building but, more broadly, how they're treated in Australian workplaces across the country and in the broader community. It's clear that the Prime Minister just doesn't get it. In and of itself, that is bad enough. But in the meantime this tired, eight-year-old government—whose frontbench, frankly, redefines the term 'mediocrity'—is completely incapable, is paralysed, in addressing some profound challenges that are facing this country. My colleagues have talked about emergency management. They've talked about jobs and the cliff facing a million people who are facing the end of JobKeeper this weekend.

But there is no challenge more important right now than the successful rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. We've supported the government's vaccine rollout strategy. We've supported the longer time that the TGA took to approve the COVID vaccines than was taken in some of the Northern Hemisphere countries that are facing emergencies that, thankfully, we are not. We've been united in that support for the role of the TGA—in contrast, frankly, to those opposite, who continue to have breakouts, including, most recently, a breakout from a member of the Senate leadership team in the coalition about whether or not the TGA is the final word on these issues. We support the strategy. But we will say, as so many are around the country, that this rollout is too slow, and the government is too complacent about this. The rollout, and its speed and effectiveness, is directly related to the strength of our economic recovery. That's why the Chamber of Commerce and Industry has said, in relation to the slowness of the rollout, that it's 'depressing'. AiG said, 'The risk for Australia is that we get left behind as our competitors steal a march on us because the rest of the world is going so much more quickly than Australia.'

Australians remember that the Prime Minister very boldly committed to four million vaccinations by the end of this month—by the end of March. He then said, 'Oh, it might be early April.' Then he said, 'Oh, it might be late April.' Then he completely dropped the four million commitment altogether; he doesn't talk about that anymore. He put in place another commitment, of six million vaccinations by 10 May and 11 million vaccinations by the end of May. I think we all pray that at least he does better on that than he's done on his March commitment. In the past few weeks he again said, 'We will get this done by October; the country will be fully vaccinated by October.'

So, where are we today? Well, around the world we've seen almost half a billion vaccinations, as of today—486 million vaccinations. The US is up to 130 million vaccinations, going at three million per day. The UK is up at over 31 million vaccinations, going at 750,000 per day. Twice what we have managed in five weeks, they are doing every single day. Tomorrow, at the end of week five of the vaccine rollout strategy, we will be at about 400,000 vaccinations, 10 per cent of the commitment the Prime Minister made. The Prime Minister has blamed Italy. They shut down 250,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that were supposed to come to Australia. He said it's Italy's fault and Europe's fault we haven't done better on the commitment of four million vaccinations. Everyone knows we've had 1.3 million doses in this country for days, and still we've only managed to roll out less than one third of the doses that have been in this country for days.

The rollout of the booking system was utter chaos. The GPs listed on that were not told beforehand that they were going to be listed. Receptionists were completely inundated by patients who were desperate to get into a booking system. But GPs knew they were getting only 50 doses per week. They had no idea what they were getting in the out weeks. How are you supposed to have a booking schedule when you don't know how many doses you are going to get? The scale of this challenge is huge. The government is way behind schedule. The strength of our economic recovery depends upon the rollout. Instead of all hands to the wheel in making sure that this works, we've got a government distracted and paralysed by scandal and their incompetence.


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