Thursday, 14 May 2020
Questions without Notice
National COVID-19 Coordination Commission
To the Prime Minister: the terms of reference of the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission indicate that the commission will 'ensure the government receives the most comprehensive advice available to meet the challenges ahead', yet its membership was not subject to public consultation or submission, there's no transparency about its governance and processes, questions were raised yesterday at the Senate inquiry that manufacturing and industrial advice is being received from individuals with apparent conflicts of interest and there is no requirement to focus on lowest-cost and lowest-emission technologies and opportunities. In the circumstances, how can the Australian people trust that the government will address all the challenges ahead?
First of all, I thank the member for her question. All the arrangements that have been put in place for members of the COVID commission have been arranged by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet consistent with their rules and procedures that apply to all similar types of appointments. They are subject to the normal scrutiny, as you would expect, and that process has actually been pursued through the Senate committee process, which is entirely appropriate. So that transparency is available and present through those channels and, indeed, through the ability for the member to raise matters as she has done here.
The COVID commission, which is led by Nev Power, a very distinguished and very accomplished Western Australian, is being tasked with the job of bridging the gap between the private sector and the government sector, principally to deal with and troubleshoot problems that have arisen in relation to supply chains that have been impacted as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. That has seen us able to connect supply chains to access critical medical supplies and to deal with supply chain issues to get much-needed food stores to remote Indigenous communities as well as to regional towns and even metropolitan centres all across the country, particularly in those early days where we saw the rush on those stores and stocks at various times.
That commission has been working on ensuring the continuity of freight transport around the country from one side to the other despite the fact that there have been borders now erected between states and territories. As a result of the work done by the commission, we've been able to see those trucking lanes remain open and the transport of valuable goods and supplies around the country. Those groups within the COVID Commission have been working to ensure, with people like Greg Combet, that we can deliver COVID-safe workplaces, and they have worked closely together with the Minister for Industrial Relations and the Attorney-General so Australians can go back to work in a safe way in a partnership between employers and employees. These are the important gaps that we have to close when it comes to ensuring the private sector and the public sector are working together to deal with the problems that have arisen as a result of the tremendous shocks to our economy and the distribution of services as a result of what has happened with COVID-19. Now, I applaud their work. I think they are doing absolutely amazing work. When I called them and asked them to do this, I said, 'I need you to serve your country.' And they are serving our country, and this House should be very proud of their service.