House debates

Thursday, 12 November 2020


COVID-19: Victoria

4:30 pm

Photo of Lisa ChestersLisa Chesters (Bendigo, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

For many of us in Victoria, this last fortnight has been a milestone. When we made our way to Melbourne Airport on Sunday to fly here to Canberra, our Comcar took us on the highway past Gisborne, where the ring of steel has been. It has been the border between Melbourne and my electorate in regional Victoria. There was tear in my eye to know that at midnight that border would come down. It has been a challenge for many in our state. I believe that some of those on the government's side have really misunderstood that Victorians sacrificed willingly because they knew it was the right thing to do. The feedback in my electorate when I was home last week was one of joy and relief—relief that they had done it, relief that life was going to start to get back to normal, at least COVID normal, and that they had done so without there being a loss of life in my electorate and without there being many people getting sick in my electorate.

I really feel that we need to acknowledge that, whilst there is the politics, whilst there is the banter, whilst there are a lot of people presuming to say what Victorians are saying, the vast majority are pretty excited to be where we are at—13 days straight with zero reported new cases and deaths. Far too many people have lost their lives in Victoria and in our country due to COVID-19. It is a virus that is very easy to catch. It spreads very quickly. It is one that is hard to combat. Whilst we have had success which other countries have not had, it is because of leadership. It could have been a very different situation if the Victorian government had followed the calls, the pleas, the banter, the bullying of government ministers but, instead, the leaders stuck it out, even if it was unpopular; that is the definition of leadership. It is doing what is right, not always doing what is popular. We are now seeing the results of that in Victoria and we hope that continues.

As the borders start to reopen and as businesses start to get back to normal, now is the time we need investment from all of our governments. There have been casualties, not just casualties of interstate borders being closed. I would like to mention that the Victorian borders have never closed. You might think from some of the rhetoric of government ministers that the Victorian borders have been closed because they have been so critical of Daniel Andrews, but it was the other states that closed their borders to Victoria and not the other way around.

There has also been the closure of our international borders, and I support the closure of international borders. It is one of the reasons why we are keeping Australians safe and why we are keeping the virus out. We know that the new infections in our country are largely through hotel quarantine. But because we had to close the borders, because we are in a global pandemic and for health reasons, there have been knock-on economic effects that have hit some of our industries very hard. Our travel industry will not recover any time soon, yet we have seen no package to help travel agents and the travel industry, which are so reliant on overseas travel. These industries and these workers can't get back to work like the government is telling them to.

We have seen a huge impact on our arts sector. Whilst hospitality businesses are reopening, whilst retail businesses have reopened and are slowly getting back to work, our arts industry is largely still closed, particularly when it comes to major events. It is not just the artists who are going without—the performers and the creatives; it is also all of the other associated industries, like catering, AV equipment and so on and so forth. We don't know when it will be safe for these events to come back. They need more than just JobKeeper.

The big challenge for this government is, rather than a one-size-fits-all model, which we got with JobKeeper, to now look at industry-specific targeted programs, which they have failed to deliver so far. It is disappointing because, as travel agents said to me on many occasions, this government is very good at delivering industry-specific funding for drought, for our farmers, but not for other industries. I challenge the government to start thinking about support packages from the industries that won't bounce back quickly. This is a time for economic leadership. This is a time when we need a government to step up to support all industries so they make it through to the other side of this pandemic.