Thursday, 26 August 2021
Matters of Public Importance
Oscar Wilde once noted, 'It's not whether you win or lose; it's how you place the blame.' He must have been anticipating Scott Morrison as Prime Minister, because that's what we see, time and time again. The first phase is complacency: you deny a problem exists. Then it goes to crisis management, once a problem becomes a major one, but then you respond with too little, too late. The third phase is that you blame someone else. He wants to be the Prime Minister, but without the responsibility.
For this Prime Minister, his heart isn't in the job—just his ego. For this Prime Minister, every job is too big and every response is too small. In particular, that's been the case over the two big jobs this year: quarantine and vaccines. But there's history. There were the bushfires and the 'I don't hold a hose, mate' moment, where he refused to take action and refused to even meet with the experts prior to that bushfire season. There was the reported sexual assault just metres from his office, and he says that, for two years, 'No-one told me,' and there was an inquiry by his former chief of staff into what his own staff knew, but we haven't seen that yet; it remains hidden, and it was initiated months ago. And, of course, on climate change we once again see no leadership, no energy policy, no response. Tragically, we saw it being played out in Afghanistan, where the Australian embassy closed in May and people were left behind. There are so many people—we don't know how many—who will be left behind and we won't be able to get them out, with tragic consequences—real consequences for real people. He is a Prime Minister who, in his own smug mind, is Superman, for whom scrutiny is kryptonite—a Prime Minister who is addicted to spin and is truth-hesitant. He began his media conference today by saying:
Today has been another day of hope.
It's a day of 1,000 cases in New South Wales and three more deaths! But we don't talk about that. We pretend that it's nothing to do with the failure of the vaccine rollout and the failure in building purpose-built quarantine. And there's the fact that the Prime Minister congratulated the New South Wales Premier on staying open.
People are tired and angry. More than a year ago, Labor argued daily that vaccinations were the key. We said that you have to do five or six deals, that we need more vaccines from more suppliers more quickly. We were dismissed and were told, 'No—Australia is at the front of the queue,' when it was obvious we were running last in the developed world. We were then told it was not a race. The delta strain emerged in India last October and was wreaking havoc by April. Australians were told that if they tried to return home they would be locked out and they would be locked up—sent to jail for trying to return to their own country. One Australian actually survived India without getting COVID but caught it in hotel quarantine in Adelaide, which then led to the Melbourne outbreak in early June. The current outbreak began in Sydney, but, in the Prime Minister's response on 24 June, he said:
I commend Premier Berejiklian for resisting going into a full lockdown.
This week, though, we've seen the Seinfeld reset, as Premier McGowan called it—a reset trying to look for difference where there is none; a reset by a Prime Minister who is the gaslight on the hill. The fact is that the national plan was signed off by every state premier and every territory leader, and the national plan has details in it that the Prime Minister thinks no-one can actually read, even though it's on an A4 bit of paper. He pretends that there is opposition to opening up when it's safe, but no-one wants the sorts of constraints that are around our economy—nobody. What people want is to be able to see their family and they want to return to life as normal, but when it is safe. He talks up Team Australia, but then he seeks to divide. Team Australia's coach seeks to blame the team. He calls Western Australians and Queenslanders 'cave dwellers'. He sent out Senator Bragg—what an appropriate name that is—to say that Western Australia has 'no plan to manage the pandemic'. Oh, yes? WA is likely to get the grand final. They're going about their way of life because their Premier has kept them safe, in spite of the fact that this government and the minister at the table spent taxpayers' money backing in Clive Palmer—
An opposition member: A million dollars.
A million dollars of taxpayers' funds, some of which went to Clive Palmer. Let me say this very clearly: I'm on Mark McGowan's side; Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister, was on Clive Palmer's side. When he was pulled up on this, the Prime Minister yesterday, on 6PR, said:
... the Premier made very good contributions to that—
that is, the national plan—
So, you know, I think sometimes people try to make a bit more of a disagreement than there actually is ...
He actually said that! He was talking about his imaginary friend, because he's talking to himself—like he does at this dispatch box all the time—the imaginary friend! He's standing out there, creating this division, seeking to divide Australians, telling Western Australians and Queenslanders they are 'cave-dwellers', but then saying, 'Oh, no; some people just try to make out there's a bit more of a disagreement than there actually is.' It was an extraordinary performance—of course, cheered on by some in the press gallery.
The reason we are in lockdown is the failure on vaccines and quarantine. Today we saw a real leader, Premier Palaszczuk in Queensland, going it alone to build the Wellcamp facility—a site that I visited two months ago. The fact is, the only hole he has dug is the metaphorical one we are in as a nation. Not one hole's been dug for one quarantine facility, for one bed, in this country. And the fact is that the consequences are devastating: over a thousand new cases today; lives lost; health damaged; lessons missed by our children; families separated; mental health impacted; small business devastated; our hospitals at breaking point in New South Wales. People do need hope, but they need hope based upon facts. They need foresight, not spin.
Throughout this pandemic, Labor has been constructive. We put forward constructive ideas for vaccines. We continue to put forward constructive ideas about quarantine facilities. We put forward constructive ideas about wage subsidies—including, of course, what led to JobKeeper. We put forward the $300 cash incentive, to provide both a reward and an incentive for people to be vaccinated—immediately dismissed by this Prime Minister, without giving it a second's thought. Well, Telstra are giving their employees $200; Qantas are providing frequent flyer points; the New South Wales government is teaming with sporting teams to provide incentives. But there's no vaccine for being unfit to provide leadership—no vaccine for that.
This Prime Minister of course, we know, stood in the Prime Minister's courtyard next to Malcolm Turnbull, and there he was asked if he had ambition for leadership, and he said, no, he didn't; he was ambitious for him—his mate. Well, that's the one commitment he's made that he's kept, because he does have no ambition for leadership. He waits until there's an absolute crisis before he acts. He never comes out of his own cave until there's an absolute crisis, and we've seen it over and over again. We saw it with bushfires. We saw it with the March4Justice, where all he had to do was walk a short few metres—but he couldn't do that. We see it with the rollout of the vaccine and with the failure to build purpose-built quarantine. We see it with the deception that he comes up with each and every day, never accepting responsibility. Everything is always someone else's fault. Well, if he doesn't want to lead, there are people on this side of the House prepared to do so, because Australia needs a government that's as good and strong as the Australian people themselves, not someone who presides over issues by not acting until there's an absolute crisis and then having a response that is always too little and always too late. (Time expired)