Thursday, 2 September 2021
Matters of Public Importance
COVID-19: Morrison Government
I really welcome this discussion because it's based on a presumption that is quite an innovation in this House—that everyone in this chamber, for the first time, actually wants the pandemic to end. You need only look at the sabotage that the opposition has engaged in at every point throughout this pandemic, whether it is on the economic response or the undermining of the vaccine rollout, the Australian made AstraZeneca vaccine and making sure we get it into people's arms. Of course, there is the behaviour of the Labor Premier of Queensland in the past 24 hours. The benchmark for getting Australia reopened now is to make sure that those who can't be vaccinated based on scientific evidence are able to do so, and are able to do so where safety and efficacy have not been proven.
It's actually welcome that federal Labor say they want the pandemic to end, because at every point all I see is sabotage and undermining of the efforts of collective and responsible governments that are working to end the pandemic so we can have a future. But, as I said, there's no-one who has been more clear on this than the Premier of Queensland and, of course, her Chief Health Officer, who have actively, deliberately and maliciously undermined the vaccine rollout and the use of the Australian made AstraZeneca vaccine that has been proven by the Therapeutics Goods Administration to be safe and effective for getting into Australian people's arms.
Normally, when I attack state Labor governments, there is a barrage of abuse from members on the other side of the chamber. I think they secretly agree with us on this. I actually think they agree that the reckless behaviour of the Queensland government, the Queensland Premier and her Chief Health Officer is as despicable as I am pointing out—so much so that, to his eternal credit, the opposition leader got up today in a press conference and condemned the Queensland Premier for introducing this new benchmark and saying that they wouldn't open up until those under the age of 12 had been vaccinated, even though the safety and efficacy of vaccines haven't been proved for them to do so. So I give them a point. At least they want the pandemic to end. I give them two points now because they're prepared to call out their Labor brethren for their gross misconduct in the way they conduct themselves.
The reality is that, since the beginning of this pandemic, there have always been stages. We've always known, as the Treasurer said in question time, that there was a stage where the nation was looking into the abyss, economically and on health grounds. Most of us in the public and in this chamber did not know where we were heading and, critically, were concerned about the future. Since then we have gone through a stage of lockdowns and various other public health responses. We've always looked beyond lockdowns and said, 'Where can we grow the country thereafter?' What we've done is put in the support mechanisms to get people through this time.
It's fine to talk about the plan afterwards, but if small businesses still aren't operating or people aren't there—alive—to be able to go on and live flourishing lives then there's no point in having a plan. That's why we introduced, right from the start of this pandemic, additional support for those Australians who need assistance with their mental health, particularly as a consequence of lockdowns. We introduced that last year because we saw the crisis in Victoria. Tragically, we've now seen similar crises go through all parts of the country. We introduced measures around telehealth, so that those who were vulnerable, who couldn't see their doctor in the flesh, because they were concerned about the physical risks of mobility, could do so on online platforms. After years of innovation, we took those steps in just days—something that we should be enormously proud of. And, of course, there is the financial support we provided through critical programs like JobKeeper, which Labor voted for and now they attack and want to undermine, and the early release of superannuation. Of course, when the nation was faced with a moment when the foot was on the throat of households, Labor had an ideological struggle between whether they wanted to take the foot off or not and allow Australians to access their own money.
At every point, we have had a plan to get people through the crisis. The challenge now before this chamber and state governments is whether the states, in working with the Commonwealth, show the maturity needed to get beyond the pandemic. We have consistently seen this from New South Wales, who have talked about the pathway out. South Australia, to their credit, have said today that they want a pathway out that sticks to the national plan. We've seen Victoria finally show maturity to acknowledge that COVID-zero is not sustainable with delta. The big laggards in this are, of course, Western Australia and Queensland, who don't want a future. (Time expired)