Thursday, 2 September 2021
Matters of Public Importance
COVID-19: Morrison Government
Well, the topic of this MPI, 'the failure of the government to plan through and beyond the pandemic', just shows how really devoid of ideas the opposition is. I know it's been a tough and long five weeks, but, really, I think you could have tried a bit better. I really don't understand why you haven't been listening to the fact that there is a plan. There's a plan that's called the national plan, and it was a plan that was agreed to at national cabinet by the elected leaders of federal, state and territory governments, using world-leading experts from the Doherty institute, who've provided a safe way to open up. These states and territories need to honour their agreement and stick to this plan, and it would be helpful if those opposite got behind the plan.
We all know that elimination of the delta variant is a fallacy and vaccines are the only way forward. But the opposition hasn't actually acknowledged this. The Prime Minister, on the other hand, has shown leadership. As the Prime Minister said:
The national plan we have developed and agreed is our pathway to living with this virus. That is our goal, to live with this virus, not to live in fear of it.
The Leader of the Opposition, however, insists on political pointscoring ahead of the national interest, and nowhere has this been more obvious than when it has come to the response to the COVID pandemic.
Let's go back to March of last year. The Prime Minister said from the get-go, 'We're going to have to learn to live with this virus.' I really think every global leader probably wishes they had the prescience exhibited by these wise words: 'We're going to have to live with the virus.' He said that because, every step of the way, this government has relied on experts and evidence to inform its plans to respond to a global pandemic. Those plans have had to pivot, because the global pandemic has had more twists and turns than a Hollywood blockbuster. All through those twists and turns, this government has kept in its sights the main goal of saving lives and saving livelihoods, and all the time relying on the evidence and the experts.
Humanity has always had to learn to live with viruses. In fact, the only virus modern medicine has been able to eradicate in the last 200 years is smallpox. That is why the Prime Minister led the plan for the national vaccine rollout, the largest public health initiative in the history of this country. He has known that it is the way out of this pandemic and its rolling lockdowns. Sure, it has had its hiccups, but the government has had a plan to deal with all of these. Global supply has been an issue, something the government anticipated, so we built sovereign capability. And we've dealt with vaccine side effects with honesty and transparency with the Australian public. We have treated Australians with openness and respect about what the vaccine means for them and for their loved ones.
But the Leader of the Opposition has failed to support the central role of AstraZeneca in the COVID vaccine rollout. He prefers to see a political opportunity rather than understand the importance of leadership on this issue. In stark contrast, the member for Maribyrnong has publicly backed the AstraZeneca vaccine, declaring it is the cure to get out of lockdown. And this was just a day after the opposition leader declined to clarify his own stance on the jab. The member for Maribyrnong met with workers at the manufacturing site, CSL, in Melbourne:
I'm here today to see the magic bullet to get out of lockdown, the AstraZeneca vaccine. I'm here to see how Australian made is going to break the lockdown and help stop the spread of COVID.
That was leadership from the member for Maribyrnong.
But what was the Leader of the Opposition's response to that? Zero: doughnuts! He just avoided the subject. Quite frankly, his silence in supporting AstraZeneca is a disgrace. More than that, while the Leader of the Opposition supports a debate such as the one we're having here today—after all, it is his MPI, 'the failure of the government to plan'—he refuses even to acknowledge that there is a national plan. Meanwhile, the member for Maribyrnong has publicly backed in the national plan because he knows that the evidence is there, the experts are there and that we need to work together for this.
Quite frankly, the hypocrisy of this MPI is breathtaking. When is the opposition going to get with the national plan? I have implored those opposite in a previous MPI: in this House we are all leaders in our communities. Our supporters look to us to lead, whichever side of the chamber we sit on. Please, I beg you: use your voices for the good of your communities. Support the national plan and support the national rollout. Do it for your loved ones, do it for your communities and do it for your country so we can all get on with our lives. AstraZeneca is part of that response and I implore them to get behind both Pfizer and AstraZeneca.