Monday, 22 February 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government. Will the minister update the House on how the Morrison-McCormack government plans to protect regional, rural and remote communities from COVID-19 with a safe and effective vaccine rollout and how this approach will help chart an Australian way out of the pandemic?
I would like to thank the member for Cowper for his question. He would be aware that today, in Port Macquarie, in the electorate of Cowper, the rollout of the vaccine into the aged-care sector has commenced. It is one of many centres right across Australia in the first week of phase 1a. This will go for six weeks. I want to reassure the people of regional Australia that if their town is not listed in the first week it will be covered over the next six weeks. People will not be bussed to different areas to get the vaccine; the vaccine will come to them, particularly in aged-care facilities.
Also this week, frontline health workers are being vaccinated. In the member for Cowper's electorate, one of those hubs that the New South Wales government has set up is at Coffs Harbour. It also does not mean that everyone on the North Coast goes to Coffs Harbour; it is a hub from which that vaccine will be distributed. As we roll past 1a and go to other phases where different sections of the community will be done, there will be GP clinics, pharmacies, respiratory clinics and Aboriginal community controlled health workers, but in some areas there will be a surge workforce that will probably go into some of those smaller, more remote communities.
The member for Cowper asked how this will see regional Australia's way out into the future. One of the things that has happened over the last 12 months is that a lot of Australians have discovered regional Australia as a place to visit. What's also happened is that regional Australia has been one of the safest places on the planet to be. There is a bit of a feeling that COVID is not really affecting them, but those communities largely have high levels of chronic health issues, so it is important that those people who have lived in areas that up until now have been COVID-free still get the vaccination. They are still vulnerable and they still have those high levels of chronic health issues.
So the message is that the vaccine is safe, it's free, and it is coming to a community where you live, regardless of where you are around Australia. If I could call out to all the members in this place, this is a large logistical exercise, and all of us in this place and our electorate offices have a role to play to inform our communities when the rollout comes to them.