House debates

Thursday, 25 February 2021


COVID-19: Vaccination

11:10 am

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Oxley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Every Australian needs to have full confidence that the coronavirus vaccine rollout is being done safely. It is really that simple. It is completely unacceptable that less than a week into the vaccine rollout there has been a major error by one of the private providers contracted by the federal government I was disturbed to hear that, in my home city of Brisbane, in Queensland, two elderly residents of an aged-care facility were given four times the safe dosage of the vaccine. These are extremely vulnerable members of our community and they are trusting the federal government to protect them. Those two people have been taken to hospital and, thankfully, they seem to be doing okay. But the damage is done when it comes to people's confidence in the vaccine rollout.

Yesterday, the health minister couldn't even provide clarity when we were trying to get to the bottom of how this happened and he had to clarify and correct his mistakes in the parliament. He first said the doctor who made this mistake had completed the required training to do this work. He then had to come back to the House to correct that record. That raises some concerns for me. The first is that the health minister provided incorrect information through the media to the public and then also to the parliament. My second concern, which is more serious, is whether the government is doing its due diligence when it comes to the outsourced providers that are administering these vaccines, because the events of yesterday suggest that the health minister is happy to take the word of contractors without doing his own checks. The government have very publicly created this program for administering vaccines to aged-care facilities. That means the care of this vulnerable group of people is the federal government's responsibility, not the responsibility of the contractors they have outsourced. The buck stops with the federal government when it comes to mistakes.

At the height of a pandemic when 685 aged-care residents tragically lost their lives, we were told by the Prime Minister that every aged-care worker had been trained in the use of personal protective equipment. The truth was that only one in five people had been trained. That was a mistake we couldn't afford. In other developed nations, like the UK and Canada, vaccines were going into people's arms less than a week after approval. Meanwhile the Pfizer vaccine was approved in Australia in January and was only rolled out at the start of this week, almost a full month later. That was a mistake we couldn't afford.

We heard stories just yesterday of aged-care facilities that were told by private contractors that someone would arrive to administer the vaccines and then no-one showed up—another mistake we cannot afford. We are already lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to vaccinating people. This puts us at risk. We are at risk of public confidence in the vaccine dropping; we're at risk of unnecessary economic setbacks because we can't open up quickly enough; and we are at risk of more Australians getting sick. The government has made too many mistakes that we can't afford. I call on the government today: no more mistakes. The Morrison government has put more focus on the announcement than the delivery—and I have said this before publicly. But right now it is imperative that what was promised is actually delivered. People's lives depend on it.

I do support the Premier of Queensland, Annastacia Palaszczuk, in calling for the Prime Minister to hold an emergency meeting of the national cabinet. He needs to front up and we need the answers right now. While he's there, I would also ask him to explain to my fellow Queenslanders why the locations were first chosen for the vaccine rollout. I find it curious a bit concerning that the majority of the 41 Queensland locations located in phase 1(a) of the rollout are in federal LNP held seats. We know that the government has played politics with the pandemic before, when it slapped Liberal Party logos on the Commonwealth vaccine announcements. I hope we are not seeing anything like that again, at a time when the health and the safety of vulnerable communities is more important than anything else. I want to applaud the government for ensuring that the first round of vaccine goes to residential aged-care and disability facilities.

A quarter of the Oxley electorate, which I proudly represent, is aged over 65. Many of those people live in residential aged care. Aged care is the biggest employer of the people if the Oxley electorate. I know these people and their families are wondering right now why they haven't been included in this initial vaccine rollout. I'll be meeting with aged-care providers in my community in the next few woks to hear their concerns and bring them directly to the minister and to the Prime Minister.

I hope that the Prime Minister can address these issues and say that, honestly, these decisions were influenced only by the health professionals. We all want that. We all want this vaccine rolled out effectively, safely and as soon as possible. No excuses and no more mistakes—we need to get this right so our lives can return back to normal and for the health of all Australians.