Tuesday, 25 August 2020
Questions without Notice
COVID-19: National Coordination Mechanism
My question is for the Minister for Home Affairs. Will the minister outline to the House how the National Coordination Mechanism has been helping to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic by working with states and territories to resolve logistical issues and keep Australians healthy and safe?
I thank the member for Groom very much for his question. As all Australians recall, when the federal government responded in March not only did we provide significant support to families and small businesses to help them through this terrible time but we also did a significant amount of work to help our supermarkets remain stocked and to make sure that produce and products, whether they were produced domestically or imported, were able to travel around the country. We stood up, on 5 March, the National Coordination Mechanism, which was a task force brought together within the Department of Home Affairs. I want to commend the work, in particular, of a deputy secretary of my department, Paul Grigson, and all those who work with him, who have really gone above and beyond to work with their state counterparts, to work on these issues where there needed to be coordination between the states, territories and the Commonwealth to make sure that we could deal with issues as they arose on a daily basis. In many of those meetings, where I was able to chair with the CEOs of the supermarkets, we were able to deal with issues, particularly where particular product lines were out of stock and there was panic within some parts of the Australian community. We were able to resolve those issues as quickly as possible.
Obviously, that work continued and there were referrals made by the national cabinet to the NCM to make sure that they could work through those issues. It is true that most of those issues were resolved. We were able to work with the states and territories. My assumption was that we were able to move beyond the necessity for the NCM to continue its work. But it's been obvious that, with the events in Victoria, we've had to make sure that the NCM works very closely to address the issues that have arisen in Victoria. Obviously, we don't have those concerns in New South Wales or WA or the Northern Territory or Queensland et cetera, but we have had significant problems to address and assistance that has been required by Victoria to help coordinate again the movement of freight, in particular between Victoria and New South Wales, across that border, in a COVID-safe way.
I want to make sure that we send a very clear message to all Australians, which is that we will continue to do whatever we can, particularly from the Home Affairs portfolio, to keep Australians safe. Obviously, the Home Affairs portfolio and the department play a very key part in facilitating trade into and out of Australia and in supporting the states and territories through the pandemic, particularly at the moment with what has happened in Victoria, with the problems around hotel quarantining and the failings or otherwise in Victoria. We have been able to step up with the NCM. I commend all of the officers who have been involved in helping to bring the taskforce together to resolve issues as they arise.