Tuesday, 16 February 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is for the Minister for Home Affairs. Will the minister update the House on how the Australian Border Force and the Department of Home Affairs are providing logistical support in the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines?
I thank the honourable member for his question, for his advocacy and for his great work in his home state of Tasmania. The Morrison government obviously has taken many decisions over the course of the last 12 months or so in dealing with COVID. The first decision that we took was to close the border, initially with China and then with the rest of the world, and that has stood us in good stead. In the United Kingdom, for example, people have been holidaying in Europe and then coming back to the United Kingdom, and that makes it very difficult to contain the virus. Here, we have worked day and night to keep Australians safe.
The Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the government have provided significant support, through a number of mechanisms, to Australian families, to workers and to Australian small businesses. The phase that we move into now is not just about protecting Australians from the virus coming into our country from offshore but also about making sure we can roll out the vaccine to protect, in particular, vulnerable Australians—older Australians, people in aged-care nursing homes, people in Indigenous communities, frontline health workers, police, Border Force staff et cetera.
The work of the Australian Border Force really deserves credit, and they deserve great recognition for the way in which they've been able to work with our airlines and, in particular, with our freight carriers. As we know, over the 12-month period up to 1 February this year, total air arrivals into Australia decreased by a staggering 97.4 per cent. The Department of Home Affairs, along with Border Force, have worked to make sure that the vaccine rollout can take place in our country. They have worked very closely with the federal Department of Health and with their state counterparts. I know that, since November of last year, the ABF have used their working relationship with the supply chain partners to make sure that they can facilitate the clearance of 240 vaccine reagent samples in support of the TGA certification process. The TGA is recognised around the world as being the most competent body to assess whether or not it is safe to have one of these vaccines. The work that it has done is quite remarkable and it should be relied upon by all Australians. Yesterday, the Australian Border Force worked very closely to pre-clear 23,790 phials of Pfizer approved COVID-19 vaccines that will provide the dose to 142,000 individuals in our country.
We should all be proud of the effort of our country. People have made sacrifices from one end of this country to the other, and we'll continue to do everything we can to keep Australians safe during the course of the vaccine rollout and to make sure that we can recover in the best possible way.