Tuesday, 30 November 2021
Questions without Notice
I thank the member for Reid for her question and the leadership she has shown in ensuring the government's policies in response to the pandemic have been addressing the critical issue of mental health. We know that, as a result of this pandemic, the immediate impacts have certainly been there, both physical and economic. But there will be a tale of impacts on Australians' mental health as a result of this pandemic that Australia has stood out in addressing amongst the nations of the world. And I thank the member for her contribution to that in her professional capacity and as a member of this House.
Throughout the pandemic our government has always taken an evidence based and expert informed and led response to save lives and livelihoods. We've always understood that we need to get the balance between those, and that is what we have achieved. We have kept our heads. We've taken sensible, balanced, effective and cooperative action in our response to this pandemic, and the results, with the great support, endurance and strength of the Australian people, have been world leading. We have one of the lowest fatality rates in the world from COVID, saving more than 30,000 lives in this country as a result of our combined efforts. We have one of the strongest advanced economies in the world to push through this pandemic, retaining our AAA credit rating. In the last five weeks, the Treasurer advised, 350,000 jobs have come back after the lockdowns have ended, and we'll see that flow through into our economic figures in the months ahead.
We have one of the highest vaccination rates in the world now, at 87 per cent of people with a double dose. Western Australia and Queensland are fast approaching that all-important 80 per cent mark. We have confronted many challenges and overcome them. The national plan we brought together, and brought the states and territories together, is seeing Australia open safely so we can remain safely open. And the work that Australians have done has put us in the position now, as we confront these new variants—there have been 13, and we'll deal with this one. The work that has been done by Australians means that now is not the time for turning back in terms of moving forward in our response to this virus.
We have taken the sensible precaution for a two-week pause on the next steps that we had, and we will examine the evidence and the advice that comes through. We welcome that advice and we've acted on that advice. Our response to omicron is sensible and balanced and informed and calm. We seek to maintain the momentum into Christmas so we can continue to open up, as Australians have worked hard to have those freedoms. The government can, over time, continue to step back so Australians and the businesses they run can step forward. Premiers are meeting this afternoon. The flights have been suspended for this period of time, and we've reinforced the strength of the PCR testing regime, giving that enforcement capability. We're enabling Australians to continue to move forward. (Time expired)