House debates

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Constituency Statements


4:12 pm

Photo of Brendan O'ConnorBrendan O'Connor (Gorton, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs (House)) Share this | | Hansard source

This government has been derelict in its No. 1 duty: keeping Australians safe. As Victorians today face their fourth day of their latest lockdown, it's clear the Prime Minister has provided little support and has washed his hands of his federal responsibilities. This is a Prime Minister who neglects Victorians and now has left them to deal with the spread of the virus emanating from quarantine—a federal responsibility pursuant to 51(ix) of the Constitution. We are a year into this pandemic and the Prime Minister still has no national plan for safe quarantine of incoming passengers. Instead, the Prime Minister has abrogated his responsibility for quarantine, relying upon the states to do his work. It's fair to say the Victorian government has done a remarkable job in keeping this virulent strain of the virus under control. The need for the current lockdown and the previous lockdown Victorians endured last year has been abundantly clear. One only needs to look at the death tolls in countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, France and many other European states, and South America. Wherever you look across the globe, there are tragedies as a result of the failure to respond to this very, very virulent pandemic. Beyond keeping Australians safe, we need a national border security quarantine plan so that 40,000 Australians who are still stranded overseas can return to their home. But this is a Prime Minister who takes no responsibility, shows no leadership and just leaves the states to do the hard work.

Throughout this pandemic, the areas under the federal government's control have delivered blunder after blunder. Just think of the aged-care system and what happened in Victoria in relation to that. If you look at the situation there, mistakes were made and there was a failure to respond to those. Even the minister responsible could not identify how many people had died in that sector. It's interesting to note that there were no deaths in the state-run aged-care centres of Victoria, and yet well over 600 tragic deaths were in the federally run aged-care centres of Victoria.

We only have to look at the COVID tracing app, which has been an abject failure. Millions of taxpayers' dollars were spent contracting a COVID app and it has been a failure. In fact, a supermarket loyalty card is more effective in tracing these people than the so-called COVID app.

Now, of course, we await the rollout of the vaccine. Let's hope that the federal government rollout this vaccine in a much better way than they've dealt with other health responses. The fact is there are more than 90 countries that are already well underway in vaccinating, yet Australia is left in their wake. We need to see better from Scott Morrison and this government.