Thursday, 14 May 2020
I rise to speak briefly about the COVID-19 crisis and how Australia's handled it. I'm so pleased to be back in parliament representing the good people of Lyne, who'd like to say a big thankyou and give a big shout-out to our Prime Minister, Minister Hunt, Minister Andrews and all the team, including Professor Brendan Murphy, and all the national cabinet contributions, because most people realise Australia's done a great job. But we shouldn't get complacent. This COVID-19 virus is new to all of us. We don't have any innate immunity. It is very infective. The little fomites, the bits that you leave behind on furniture and railings or in cars, trains or buses, are very infective for hours and sometimes days. That's why the personal infection control practices are so important. If you do have a cough or a sniffle, get tested. But, if you're going to cough in public, run into a corner to do it. Cough into your elbow. Wash your hands. All these personal things that you can control help prevent the spread of fomites, which could rub on or touch somebody else's hand.
The main thing you have to realise is that this is just the first round; it's like the first quarter of an AFL game. We have contained it and we are in control at the first break, but there are many more runs of this virus around the world. The nature of a new virus is that it will continue to spread around the world till 60 per cent of people are immune, and then it will naturally fade, because you lose half the people that it can jump to. That's the thing with viruses: they can't reproduce themselves; they need to be inside another cell. That's why what they need is the next person who is not immune to jump into, and then they will survive and grow and replicate and then jump to the next person. So all this isolation and containment is to stop the spread, and, until we become immune or get an effective treatment—or get a vaccine, which would be even better—this virus will continue to spread. We're at the first quarter break; we have many more to go. We shouldn't think it wasn't as bad as people said; you just have to look around the world.
We have done some amazing things and, again, I'd like to give great shout-outs to the whole health team. With increasing our capacity in personal protective equipment, Minister Andrews has done a great job sourcing it from around the world. There was competition, and there still is competition. A great job has been done increasing our ventilator capacity, increasing our ICU capacity, setting up 436 respiratory clinics in case there are bigger waves, and developing our own app. I was so proud this morning to stand with some of my other medical colleagues. We put out a press release and had a conference supporting the app. It was multi-partisan support. It is a unique, Australian developed app and 5.6 million people have downloaded it so far. Can I encourage anyone who is listening to get more downloads, because it is a numbers game—the more people who have it the better. It does exactly what the government says, and no-one else can use it except the health authorities. The tech heads have looked at it surreptitiously. The Australian Cyber Security Centre has looked at it. It does exactly what it does. It just records close contacts of more than 15 minutes, if you've got your app enabled on bluetooth. There are some furphies out there. We've designed it specifically for Australia. It's different from the Apple thing. As long as you've installed it and enabled it, it will go. It's better than what Apple designed; it's better than what anyone has designed, and it will help use 2020 technology to turbocharge tracing of any contacts. It's voluntary. You control it. You enable it. If they ring you and say, 'Your phone's been in contact with someone we've just diagnosed, and your number came up; can we get your contacts?' it's still up to you, because all the data stays on your phone. It only goes up into the servers later on, when you press 'send'. But, if your phone has been next to another phone, within 1½ metres, for more than 15 minutes, this little digital handshake will happen. So it's really important. Again, it's great Australian ingenuity that has done it.
I mentioned a cure or a vaccine. Australia is at the forefront of this. We have many universities involved, but I suspect that a treatment might arrive more quickly than a vaccine, and it will be a combination therapy, like it has been for other viruses like hepatitis C and HIV and similar things like TB. (Time expired.)