Thursday, 2 September 2021
Matters of Public Importance
COVID-19: Morrison Government
Australia is in the mess it's in today because of the Morrison government's failure to plan. Half of the country is in lockdown, with 1.7 million Australians unemployed or underemployed. Our borders are closed. Our health system is at a crisis point, with COVID cases rising and with a mental health calamity hanging over us. Tens of thousands of Australians are stranded overseas, desperately wanting and needing to come home. There are so many businesses facing closure. And, there has been a breakdown of the national cabinet process. This government has failed to plan an effective rollout, failed to secure sufficient vaccine supplies and failed to set up purpose-built quarantine facilities.
Eighteen months ago, when COVID hit, there was considerable goodwill and tolerance throughout the country, but today that goodwill and tolerance has disappeared. For 18 months, the Morrison government has bungled its way through its responsibilities. Only now, 18 months later, are plans for purpose-built quarantine facilities being considered and being rushed through parliament, exempt from scrutiny by the Public Works Committee. Even worse, those facilities are at loggerheads with state government proposals for similar facilities. Labor has been raising these matters from day one, alerting the government to what is needed and planning a way forward. Unfortunately, the Morrison government just simply refused to listen.
It was a failure to plan Australia's withdrawal from Afghanistan—a failure that placed added risk on defence personnel, on embassy staff, on AFP officers and on aid workers and, more importantly and particularly, on desperate Afghan people, who are now at the mercy of hostile forces. These risks should have been foreseen, but the Morrison government's failure to plan this withdrawal meant it was a catastrophic failure. This government refused to process visa applications here in Australia in a timely way. The member for Bruce earlier today alluded to those failures in a very touching speech that he made.
This government has failed to plan for the now-with-us climate change threats, with fires, floods and hurricanes right now, around the world, destroying lives and properties. Unlike Labor, the Morrison government refuses to embrace and commit to a renewable energy future, which would create jobs and secure the future. The Morrison government's failure to plan will cost future generations dearly, for they will have to wear the cost of inaction. But, even worse, these are all matters of life and death. Lives are actually being lost right now.
Governments are elected to lead—to plan for emerging threats, changes and risks. But not the Morrison government. For this Prime Minister, it's always someone else's problem, someone else's responsibility. Even today in question time we consistently listened to him hiding behind the South Australian Premier. If the Prime Minister doesn't want to lead, he should get out of the way and call an election. Australia could do much better and Labor has a plan to do just that, a plan outlined by the Leader of the Opposition in this debate today—a plan that backs secure jobs; a plan that backs renewable energy; a plan that rebuilds Australian manufacturing capability, which we need so dearly; a plan that will cut childcare costs; a plan that invests in skills and trades, where we now have 115,000 fewer apprenticeships than when this government came to office; a plan that will establish a $15 billion national reconstruction fund; a plan that will invest in social housing, which is so badly needed; and a plan that will restore federal-state collaboration, which is disintegrating before our eyes.
I want to finish on this point. If members opposite think the economy is doing so well, why are so many people stressed out to the point where we have a major mental health crisis looming over us? If the economy is so strong, why would half of the Australian people be in lockdown right now? How can they be employed if they're in lockdown?