House debates

Thursday, 27 May 2021

Matters of Public Importance


3:17 pm

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

I have received a letter from the honourable member for Hindmarsh proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:

The Government's failures on the vaccine rollout and hotel quarantine.

I call upon those honourable members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.

More than the number of members required by the standing orders having risen in their places—

3:18 pm

Photo of Mark ButlerMark Butler (Hindmarsh, Australian Labor Party, Deputy Manager of Opposition Business in the House of Representatives) Share this | | Hansard source

As the Leader of the Opposition said, the Prime Minister had two principal jobs this year: a speedy, effective rollout of the vaccine and a safe national quarantine system to protect the Australian community in the meantime, and he has failed on both counts. These are the Prime Minister's failures.

I want to say this about the Minister for Health: I would rather that the member for McMahon was the minister for health during this period, but there is no-one on the government front bench that I would prefer to be the Minister for Health than the member for Flinders. He has worked hard. He is an intelligent man. He has the national interest at heart. He has been generous about briefings to both the member for McMahon and myself. We disagree on a number of occasions, but the failures that I point out today in the MPI are the failures of the Prime Minister, because, in a national emergency, the buck stops with the Prime Minister of the country. The nation is being held back by a Prime Minister who continues to duckshove his responsibility to others—to blame the media, to blame the opposition and, anything serious, to duckshove to the state governments, Labor and Liberal alike. We are being held back in the fight against this virus by a prime minister who has become dangerously complacent about the seriousness of this fight.

On vaccinations, last year the Prime Minister promised that Australians would be at the front of the queue to get a vaccine. Well, at the moment we are sitting at 113th in this nation—per doses per head of population. We are so far back, we cannot even begin to see the front of the queue. The Prime Minister promised 4 million doses by the end of March. He failed on that. He then promised there would be 6 million doses by 10 May. He has failed on that. The Prime Minister said that, over time, we would ramp up the daily and the weekly dose schedule. We have entered the fourth month of this vaccine rollout and, still, we are at about 510,000 doses per week. That is the seven-day average as of today. It was the seven-day average in the middle of last week as well. We are simply not ramping up fast enough—510,000 today, from the latest figures, and it was 511,000 on Thursday last week, when you peaked at 100,000 for the day. You went down to the 80,000s on Friday and you were at 79,000 doses on Monday. There is not an upward trajectory. And 500,000 a week, or anything close to it, is simply not quick enough to get where we need to go.

In the January strategy, also, the Prime Minister promised that those vulnerable groups, rightly identified by health experts as priority populations, would be vaccinated by Easter. But, as we heard in questions from my colleagues during question time, too many residents of aged-care facilities remain not fully vaccinated. Indeed, there remain residents of aged-care facilities across Australia, including in Victoria during this lockdown, who have not even received a single dose. We're glad that the government is moving quickly to remedy that situation—yesterday, today and tomorrow—but, still, those doses will not be effective for a number of days. They should have been done before now.

Scandalously, we heard from the disabilities royal commission last week that as many as 99 per cent of residents of those facilities have not been fully vaccinated either. This is a position that counsel assisting that royal commission described as nothing short of an 'abject failure'—an abject failure for some of the most vulnerable members of our community.

The Prime Minister said, way back in March, that this is not a race. There's no rush. Even last week, when he knew what had happened with the ATAGI advice on AstraZeneca and the supply constraints that happened earlier, he said that he was not overly troubled at the position Australia found ourselves in. This morning the aged-care minister said he was very comfortable with the position of the vaccine rollout. I think we all know, and those opposite know, that this is a race. It's a race to protect the population's health. It's a race to protect the strength of the economic recovery against these outbreaks that are happening in Victoria today. They happened two weeks or three weeks ago in Perth in the Peel region. It's a race against the variants—the mutations of this virus that are spreading all around the world. They are either more infectious or, in some cases, even resistant to natural and vaccine induced community. It is a race, and the Prime Minister's complacency around this has Australia falling too far behind.

The second job the Prime Minister had was to put in place a safe national quarantine system. This is unambiguously a Commonwealth job. I don't think any of us can remember a politician in recent memory who has made more of the role that the Commonwealth has in securing our borders than the former immigration minister who is now the Prime Minister. He was so bullish about borders for so many years of his career, but, now that the country faces a global pandemic, he washes his hands. It's a matter for the states. It's got nothing to do with him. He'll sit passively back in his chair and simply wait for people to bring proposals for a quarantine facility and decide whether or not they are worthy of his attention. The ridiculous rejection of the proposal from Toowoomba is just emblematic of this fellow's inability to grasp his responsibilities as the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth in the middle of a national emergency.

It was him, back in March 2020, who, quite rightly, imposed mandatory quarantine requirements on anyone returning to Australia—14 days of mandatory quarantine. The states stepped up to put in place hotel quarantine arrangements very, very quickly. But that is not a long-term solution. We've had 17 outbreaks of COVID from hotel quarantine in just the last six months, since the November outbreak from the Peppers Waymouth Hotel in my hometown of Adelaide, which was very clearly related to aerosol transmission in poorly ventilated hotels that, after all, were built for tourism. They were built for tourists, not for medical quarantine. Too often we have seen aerosol transmission from the room of an infected person into a corridor and then back into another room in the same corridor, which is exactly what happened a couple of weeks ago in Adelaide and that has led to this lockdown in Victoria today. The Prime Minister stands up and proudly says '99.99 per cent effective'. I have to say that I don't think that is of much comfort to five million Melburnians who are locked down for seven days. I don't think it's much comfort to the million or so members of the regional Victorian community who have been disrupted as well or to the two million people in the Perth and Peel region a few weeks ago, including veterans who were not able to gather on Anzac Day because of an aerosol related outbreak from hotel quarantine.

We've said, for a couple of months at the very least, this Prime Minister has got two jobs in quarantine: first, put in place a network of dedicated facilities. Yes, there is Howard Springs. It was supposed to be expanded to 2,000 places in April-May. April-May was the time line that the Prime Minister put in place only in March. He told us today that it's all done, the rooms are there. But are the staff there? Does it actually have the expanded capacity to take the pressure off our CBD hotels as Australian citizens come home in the middle of a global pandemic? Again, he won't tell us clearly what the answer is. But he's rejected Toowoomba. I hear that they're now negotiating furiously with the Victorian government—good, at least there's something on the table. But a network should be proactively sought out by the level of government that actually has responsibility for quarantine, not just sitting back passively expecting people to bring him proposals.

The second thing we've spoken about is there should be strong national standards while we continue to rely upon hotels. There should be particularly strong standards on ventilation, on PPE, on making sure that all staff working in these hotels have been fully vaccinated. That's still not the case around the country. Yes, there's a level of state involvement in that, obviously. But the national cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister, is the place to put these standards in place. So many experts have been calling for this for so long. But, again, he simply washes his hands of it and says, It's not my responsibility, it's the responsibility of state governments.' He was a little bit more even-tempered today in question time. But yesterday he was over the top. Whingeing, he called us, for deigning to question the government's performance in one of the most serious issues we have faced in our lifetime.

We were constructive last year. We supported the government's response last year, unlike the Victorian Liberals whose only position was to try to free up golfers who wanted to get out on the golf courses during the 111-day lockdown in that city. We were constructive, but we are not going to sit quietly by while this country languishes at 113th on the world table in vaccination and while we have had 17 outbreaks from hotel quarantine, many of them related to poor ventilation in buildings built for tourists and not for medical quarantine. We will be constructive, but just because the Prime Minister doesn't like it, because it makes him feel uncomfortable, because he's got a glass jaw, we're not going to sit quietly by while this performance does not improve.

3:28 pm

Photo of Greg HuntGreg Hunt (Flinders, Liberal Party, Minister for Health and Aged Care) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm pleased to respond on behalf of the government. Firstly, I acknowledge that for Victorians this is a difficult day. They have been through the challenges which followed the Victorian second wave. My family, other families, residents, constituents, friends—all Victorians—we all lived with and witnessed those challenges which followed that second wave. The sources are well-known and well-understood. Again, Victorians are having a difficult time and I express my deep and profound support for them. Our support as a government is strong and clear. We have provided an additional 130,000 vaccines on top of the 666,000 which have been provided to the state, of which 398,000 have been administered. We have ensured, as I mentioned in question time, that the hotspot definition has been triggered by the Chief Medical Officer, which then leads to payments in aged care and leads to asymptomatic testing being made available through the Commonwealth GP respiratory clinics. We have stood up the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre. We have offered contact tracing support through the national incident centre. We realise that these are deeply regrettable decisions that have been taken today in Victoria, but, given the particular circumstances in that state—in our state, in my state—they are nevertheless necessary.

Having said that, the context for all of this is a world in which the global pandemic has seen more cases this year already than last year. In the last 24 hours, there have been 557,000 cases and 12,000 lives lost. We're not immune in that circumstance, but we have been remarkably protected to date—94 days without community transmission in Australia. The thing which has prevented that, the thing which has exclusively prevented that occurring, has been the border protection. The other measures then stop the spread of community transmission once it occurs. But what has prevented it is the quarantine system in Australia, arguably the most effective quarantine system in the world. It's the first line of defence, not the last. It's the first of many rings of containment.

We have seen a new position adopted today, I would say, by the opposition—a presumption that a state can be immune from the virus. That is not an accurate position. Every country is at risk wherever it deals with other countries. Perhaps the most easily understood case in point is the New Zealand airport worker who was twice vaccinated, was wearing full PPE and acted with all the appropriate behaviours and protocols and nevertheless contracted the virus. What that shows is that the virus is by its nature an almost uniquely contagious virus, as we see in a pandemic. That is what has led to the global pandemic.

There's a global pandemic, but in Australia we've been in a vastly different position. Nevertheless, having said that, every day we fight to make sure that we are protecting Australians. In terms of quarantine, we put in place a system which I think almost any other country in the world would embrace, but every day we push for it to be stronger. That's why we had the Halton review. That's why we've endorsed the measures that have been put in place.

I would note in particular, in response to the shadow minister's comments, that the Prime Minister and I met with the president and the deputy president of the AMA. The deputy president of the AMA may well be known to the shadow minister—Dr Chris Moy, an esteemed Australian GP. He said, of the facility in South Australia, it's an outstanding facility, outstandingly run. There were no obvious breaches of protocols. Everything that could have been done, to his understanding, was done. But we recognise that, with a highly contagious disease, human interaction with those who come from overseas creates the possibility.

What the opposition has been talking about are some very odd proposals—proposals to put Australians in remote areas, which would mean flying a workforce in and out; proposals which would mean that we would have to be transporting patients who are positive precisely—

Mr Dreyfus interjecting

No, no—

Photo of Llew O'BrienLlew O'Brien (Wide Bay, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Isaacs!

Photo of Greg HuntGreg Hunt (Flinders, Liberal Party, Minister for Health and Aged Care) Share this | | Hansard source

The opposition has talked about remote facilities, which would mean transporting people who were diagnosed as positive, moving them right across the country, moving a workforce in and out—all things which both the Halton review and the Coates review spoke against. They recommended against the very things that the opposition are proposing.

The opposition also imply that, all of a sudden, one system would be closed down and another could magically be created. In reality, what we have done is create a facility in Howard Springs—which Professor Murphy and I visited at the start of February last year to work with the community, to win their confidence—which has operated with 100 per cent effectiveness. I believe it's the only one, of the systems in the country, which has been Commonwealth run. But I would say that we have full confidence in all states and territories—full confidence. Those opposite, by their words, imply that they do not have confidence in the states and territories—we do—because, if they did have confidence, they would not be advocating the change that they are proposing, a change away from a system that has kept Australia in a vastly different position from almost any other country in the world.

Having said that, let me turn to the rollout, because what we've seen now is Australians coming forward in record numbers—record numbers yesterday, record numbers again today. In recent weeks, we have had a record 402,000, then 436,000 and then 512,000 last week. And the indications, part-way through this week, are that we may be on track to well exceed that again. That's before the 12-week period for AstraZeneca leads to the second-dose program commencing, in line with medical advice. Those things will come together. Over the course of the year, as supply allows, then the rollout will continue. I would note in particular that, when we look to the states and territories, in Victoria we appreciate the 398,000 vaccines they've administered. Six hundred sixty-six thousand vaccines have been delivered to the Victorian government, and 398,000 have been administered. Interestingly and importantly, there will be another 71,000 Pfizer vaccines tomorrow, and there will be another 130,000 AstraZeneca vaccines over the coming weeks, including 20,000 extra today.

All of these elements have been fundamental. We have now achieved 582 residential aged-care facilities, with another seven today, and the final nine due tomorrow, on the advice we have. I think it is an important protection. It's a fundamental difference between this and the previous outbreak in Victoria. We know that those vaccinations are very important and we urge all Australians to continue to come forward at the earliest possible time. If you are in an eligible group and you catch COVID, you could die. That is why the Prime Minister, myself, the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, the President of the AMA and people right around Australia are urging everybody who is eligible to come forward. We think that, if that message is loud and clear and strong, and Australians see other Australians being vaccinated, then they will continue to come forward in record numbers. Now that the supply has allowed large volumes to be available, we want everybody to come forward, to feel the confidence, to feel that they can make a difference, that this is their moment, that they can have a fundamental impact in not only protecting themselves and their family but protecting every Australian. It is one of those rare occasions where one can help protect all. That's a very noble cause. It's a practical cause but, above all else, it is a fundamental part of being within the community, of the community and for the community.

Ultimately, I want to acknowledge that this pandemic, globally, has been agonising. We have seen death on an extraordinary human scale—12,900 people, officially, in one day alone. The World Health Organization is saying that the over 3.7 million people who have lost their lives represent between 50 per cent and one-third of the likely real total. To see that is to recognise a pandemic on a grand scale. Whilst we're not immune, Australia has pulled together and taken action in an extraordinary way. The steps that we've taken, we hope, have assisted, but I'm proud of— (Time expired)

3:38 pm

Photo of Rob MitchellRob Mitchell (McEwen, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I've listened to 10 minutes of just falsehoods, platitudes—nothing serious. Every single day, Victorians have been living under the pressure. If you were from Victoria and for Victoria, you would know that what we've been going through is very awkward and painful and hard. Now we're going into a lockdown for two reasons: a failure of quarantine and a failure of vaccine rollout. Both of those lie fairly and squarely with the federal government—no ifs, no buts. The person from South Australia who brought COVID into Victoria arrived in Australia without having COVID and caught it in the makeshift quarantine facilities. We have been asking the government to work together—and we supported the government on everything they did last year—but the government have done the usual thing and taken away support and service, to turn it into a political football.

We've seen the arrogance of this failure of a prime minister who decided to have a national cabinet but not involve the Leader of the Opposition, because it was about politics not about people. That is the big problem that we've faced throughout. Support for the government has been strong from this side all they way through, but we keep seeing failure after failure. Questions need to be asked about when we are going to get this right. When are you actually going to do your job and look after Australians? We just heard the Minister for Health—just to show how arrogant and out of touch he is—say that proposals put forward by the Victorian government are in the outback. It's in Mickleham. It's 20 kays from the airport! It's closer than the motels are in the city. So we've got to ask: why do you want to use motels and not a purpose built quarantine facility? It's clearly because you don't want to fix this properly. You don't want to sit down and work together. You just want to sit there, make your photo opportunities, do your press releases and do nothing. You came into this place two days ago and said that in the Whittlesea area there are 15 aged-care facilities and they've all been vaccinated. That is untrue. There are two in Whittlesea, not 15, and when we spoke to them staff hadn't been done and not all the residents had been done. So I want to know why the minister comes in here during question time, when the cameras are on, and spouts these things that are just not factual. Families—

Government Member:

A government member interjecting

Photo of Rob MitchellRob Mitchell (McEwen, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Table the list. There are two in Whittlesea, but you wouldn't know that because you're not for Victoria. You'd much rather spend your time up here than be down with the people who matter.

Photo of Llew O'BrienLlew O'Brien (Wide Bay, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for McEwen will direct his comments through the chair.

Photo of Rob MitchellRob Mitchell (McEwen, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I certainly am, and I know you want to be with your community, Deputy Speaker O'Brien, because that's what you're here for. But I wish that other members on that side of the chamber were in that same situation.

The vaccine rollout has been an absolute failure. There is no doubt about that. We have been out there day in, day out willing people on to get vaccines, but they can't, because the government can't keep its lines straight for two days. It was the Minister for Health who said, 'If you don't like the AstraZeneca one, don't worry. There'll be other vaccines in months,' and then sat down and said, 'Gee whiz, why aren't people getting a vaccine?' It's because this government is too busy focusing on itself, focusing on trying to keep away the political heat. We saw it yesterday with the rants and the raves from the ministers and the Prime Minister when questions were being asked about vaccines and quarantine. These lie fairly and squarely at the feet of those sitting opposite.

People in Victoria are now going to go through another lockdown because of the failure of the Morrison government to deliver two basic things: quarantine and vaccines. We're going to keep repeating it and repeating it and pray and hope that one day it will sink in and they'll get to understand it. In the meantime, all Victorians are going to be going through a very tough week. I'm proud to be going home to be with my community. I ask the Victorians over there: are you going to go home and be with your community? No, you're not. We know you'd rather spend a weekend up here than go and stand out there with the people who actually matter, the people who put us here. That's what I'll be doing, because that's the right thing to do. Rather than sit up here and pontificate like you do, get out there and actually be with the people who matter.

This MPI was brought on by the member for Hindmarsh because we actually care about people. We're on the side of Australians in this situation. The government is on the side of its photo ops and its press releases. If they rolled out vaccines as fast as they rolled out press releases, we would not be in this situation now. But when 1.4 million vaccines come in and the government is only distributing 450,000, you've got to sit there and say, 'Why are people missing out? Why are people not getting it?' It's all because of them.

3:43 pm

Photo of Mark CoultonMark Coulton (Parkes, Deputy-Speaker, Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government) Share this | | Hansard source

It's the definition of irony that the member for McEwen's speech was about bringing politics into the debate about COVID-19 and the vaccine rollout, and it was probably one of the most political speeches I've heard in this place in my 14 years here. The truth of the matter is that we have the luxury to be having these debates in this country, because if we were in nearly any other country in the world we would have loved ones, people we know and people from our communities who would have died by now.

This country is in a very, very safe position because of the leadership from not only this government but the health sector, the state governments and people all over this nation. I believe we should be actually showing some relief and respect for the fact that we are there, because we are probably one of the safest countries on this planet and the focus on the negativity is not helping the confidence of the Australian people when it comes to be stepping up and taking the opportunity with the vaccine.

I want to pay some tribute to the health professionals around, as the minister for regional Australia. Over the last 18 months their contribution through round tables, largely through zooms and telecommunications, were feeding information back in from Aboriginal communities, from all the states, from the GPs, from the surgeons, from the pharmacists, from the allied health workers.

I don't want people to forget the issue that we were facing right from the start. We were facing a pandemic that was killing people on a scale right across the globe, and the Australian people have stepped up admirably and followed and taken advantage of the processes that have been put in place.

To say that the people in Australia aren't being vaccinated is just not true. So far we've seen three million doses completed across the country. Across the globe, we've seen 3.7 million cases in the last week alone and 80,000 deaths in the last week. So, while we have the luxury of being able to have these debates in the safety of this country in which we live, we should remember that we are in the middle of a global pandemic. I have great sympathy for the people of Victoria, and I understand the emotion that the Victorian members bring to this place because they're in for a very, very tough time, but the actions that are being taken are stopping people from dying, they are keeping them safe. We do need to make sure that we keep that vaccine rollout continuing on. Across regional Australia in the places I visit, whether they're GPs or Aboriginal medical services or respiratory clinics that are being funded by the Commonwealth, what I've been told is that people in regional Australia are taking the opportunity, they are stepping up, they are having the vaccine when the opportunity arrives.

I've booked in to a clinic at four o'clock on a Saturday afternoon in the member for New England's electorate. Medical staff right across the country are stepping up and putting in that extra effort to make sure that they can cover people and protect them in a timely manner. My encouragement is that everyone, when they have the opportunity, step up and take that chance, because, until we have this country vaccinated and people protected, then we'll not get back to the normality that we had. But we must not forget that in this country we have people in employment and we have people who are being kept safe from the virus, and that hasn't happened by accident; it's happened because of the work of a lot of people right across the country, led by this government, who has shown leadership right throughout this pandemic in conjunction with the states to make sure that the Australian people are protected.

3:48 pm

Photo of Kate ThwaitesKate Thwaites (Jagajaga, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

This week in this place it's felt like living in an alternative universe as we come in and hear government member after government member pat themselves on the back for the wonderful job they've done managing this crisis, yet what's really going on is we're heading into a lockdown. Today in question time we had the Prime Minister say these brief lockdowns don't really matter, they don't really affect anyone's lives. The Treasurer, a Victorian, instead of talking about what's going on in his home state took a dorothy dixer to talk about how wonderful his budget was and how he's really helping everyone. In fact, we've just heard from the member for Parkes who's implied that actually we've never had it so good in this country and he doesn't know what we're complaining about. It's a luxury, he says, that we're having this debate, and, while he has sympathy for people in Victoria, it's sympathy only. We don't want your sympathy. We want you to do your jobs.

There are two clear responsibilities that the government has failed on—quarantine and vaccines. Quarantine is a federal responsibility. This outbreak came from quarantine. It is clear the government has failed, and people in Melbourne, people in Victoria, are going to bear the consequences of those failures. So when those opposite talk about these brief lockdowns, when they say they have sympathy, let me tell you about what that means for people's lives. There are people in Melbourne now deciding who can come to the funeral of their loved one. They are making heartbreaking decisions about who they have to say, 'I'm so sorry, this is the toughest point in my life but you cannot come to that.' There are people in Melbourne right now, parents, who got stretched the very edge last year, who are, once again, looking at what it looks like to home-school and to try and work. There are kids who are only just getting back to the routine of school who will be back home again. I have been to school after school in my electorate. They have worked so hard to try to get those kids back into a state where they can be supported at school, where they can socialise again, where they are back on track. This is a setback, a major setback for them.

There are businesses in all of our electorates, in my electorate, who are facing another lockdown. They were not prepared for this. They have done their absolute best to get to this point through this lockdown. But every time they have to do this again, every time, they are left without support. They are left in a precarious position and they are left wondering: can they continue to keep going? Can they continue to employ people in our community? Can they continue to support our community? It should not be like this. There should be quarantine facilities that are fit for purpose. We know that hotel quarantine is not the solution here. Quarantine that is fit for purpose, that is safe, is what we need.

But of course, it is not just quarantine; it is vaccines. Last year, during the height of Melbourne's lockdowns, I had to make a number of very difficult calls to people in my electorate who had lost loved ones in aged care. Those were some of the hardest conversations I have had as a member and I don't ever want to do that sort of work again. But I am very, very afraid that I may have to, because elderly people in aged-care homes in my electorate are not yet fully vaccinated. They are still at risk. The aged-care workers in these homes are not fully vaccinated. In fact, many of them have been told that they need to arrange privately to get their vaccination. There is no scheme for them to be a priority and to get their vaccination.

Again, if we think about all of the experience of last year, about what we learned about how this virus spreads amongst vulnerable populations, amongst vulnerable people in our aged-care homes, what did we learn? Most of that spread happened because aged-care workers worked across a number of facilities and they took the virus across with them. Nothing has been done to prevent that happening again. The government have had over a year. They have failed to do your job, so we don't want their sympathy. We don't want to hear platitudes from the Prime Minister about how we will get through these brief lockdowns together. We don't want to hear the Treasurer pat himself on the back for the wonderful job he's done with the economy. We want the government to do its job, two jobs—quarantine, vaccine. Look after the vulnerable; get on with it.

3:53 pm

Photo of Tim WilsonTim Wilson (Goldstein, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

As a Victorian, I am proud to contribute to this debate because it goes to the heart of the confidence the Australian people and, critically, at this time, the people of Victoria need to have in their vaccine system and the tragedy is the cheap politics of the opposition—

Opposition Members:

Opposition members interjecting

Photo of Tim WilsonTim Wilson (Goldstein, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Sorry, it is not cheap; that is unkind. I withdraw. It is well beyond cheap; it is bargain basement derisory politics which does nothing to advance the sense of confidence that Victorians need right now. Because when they look at this chamber, what they should actually see is their parliament backing the people of Victoria and supporting them, and that is what the Morrison government is doing. If the Labor Party found a way to rise above it, they would come and continue to support the efforts that have been made by this government, by state governments, to make sure we can address the risks of this virus.

On 30 March, in the Goldstein electorate, I visited the Bluff Road medical clinic with the health minister, during one of the earliest stages of the vaccine rollout. There we saw local residents who were taking the opportunity to get a vaccine. That was in the early days, when there were only about a thousand clinics that were part of the build-up of the vaccination rollout. It was at the start of the curve, or at the precipice or the tipping point, where it went up to 4,000 by the end of that week. But there we saw Australians who wanted to get vaccinated, GPs who wanted to deliver the vaccine, and local health services, working with state and federal governments, to deliver the vaccine rollout, and they did so because they understood how critical it is to getting Australia back on its feet.

Thankfully, following that, the state governments rolled out major super-sites, so people could also get vaccinated there, not just through local GP centres. But it's very disappointing, because, for instance, just yesterday, as we knew we were on the precipice of a very serious potential outbreak in Victoria, people went to the Royal Exhibition Building centre in Melbourne—which is a site managed by the Victorian state government—and, at 4.30 in the afternoon, they were turned away. So there is definitely room for some improvement in some parts of the vaccine rollout, I agree. No-one should kid themselves. When city office-workers are leaving their offices at the end of the working day and going to state government vaccine sites and they're not getting admitted and nobody is there to support them, it kind of suggests there's room for improvement. We'll work with those governments to seek improvement—as we've continued to work on improving the hotel quarantine system and as we've doubled the size of the Howard Springs facility to enable more Australians to return to our country. In the same way, we are looking very confidently at the proposal put forward by the Victorian government.

But of course this requires an understanding of the nature of the virus. There's a reason our hotel quarantine system has almost perfect efficacy. That is because it's a system designed—

Ms Murphy interjecting

Photo of Llew O'BrienLlew O'Brien (Wide Bay, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Member for Dunkley, I suspect you don't want to be kicked out under 94(a).

Photo of Tim WilsonTim Wilson (Goldstein, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

to work collaboratively with the states, with the Commonwealth, across facilities, to bring many Australians home. Of course, there will still be problems, as have been experienced elsewhere, and now it's up to us and our sense of responsibility to make sure we get it right, vaccinate, manage quarantine and, hopefully, get Australia back to a position where we can avoid the spread, the transmission, of the virus.

But let's not forget that, amongst the tin politics of the opposition at the moment, there are Victorians facing really difficult challenges and choices. Seven days is not a short period of time. Many people have the scars from last year, from being locked down for up to three months under the long Victorian lockdown.

I want to give a big shout out to all those people who are going to support Victorians at this critical time: the nurses and the doctors who will provide the vaccines, if people go and get vaccinated—and we should encourage them to do so. To the parents and the teachers, critically, who will be assisting children being educated from home—and many of them faced very difficult circumstances, juggling work and other personal arrangements, last year, and now are being called upon to do it again—we say thank you. And to everybody else who is providing critical services at this time, we say thank you. But the people whom we thank the most are those who take the responsibility to protect themselves and their community by getting vaccinated. Thank you.

3:58 pm

Photo of Peta MurphyPeta Murphy (Dunkley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Well, it's a rare day indeed that the member for Goldstein can't even work himself up into some sort of outrage at the Labor Party or talk about how magnificent his government is, because even he knows that this government is to blame for its failure to roll out the vaccine and to set up proper quarantine facilities. That five-minute contribution, ladies and gentlemen, was the admission of defeat on behalf of this government.

Our communities in Victoria are going back into a lockdown that they would not have had to go into if there had been a better vaccination rollout and a proper national quarantine facility. And can I just say: calling something 'the national resilience centre' doesn't actually solve quarantine; all it does is to give a facility that already existed a Utopia sort of name to roll out and repeat: 'national centre for resilience' or 'national resilience centre'!

What does that even mean? It doesn't mean a national quarantine strategy and facilities that this government, this Prime Minister, should have been putting in place last year.

Mr Simmonds interjecting

Who cares what it's called, Member for Ryan? Do it. Set it up properly.

Mr Simmonds interjecting

I take the member for Ryan's interjection.

Photo of Llew O'BrienLlew O'Brien (Wide Bay, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

All members will pause. The member for Ryan will cease interjecting. The member for Dunkley will direct her comments through the chair.

Photo of Peta MurphyPeta Murphy (Dunkley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Deputy Speaker; I appreciate that. Having calmed down after the ridiculous interjections that were being directed towards me, I would like to read an email that I received at 2.07 pm today from one of my constituents—Linda Forster, who runs a travel agency. Linda is someone I have had a lot of contact with over COVID. I didn't know her before I became the member for Dunkley, but I've had a lot of contact with her because of how badly this federal government's bungling has affected her. So let me just read her email. She writes:

Hi Peta …

Just wanted to express my sheer anger at the Federal Governments complete incompetence resulting in Victoria's latest lock-down announced this morning and to provide this, a clear and concise example of how the federal government's refusal to accept responsibility for quarantine on a national level (section 51 and point 9 of the constitution) has affected me both personally and professionally.

What does the 7 day lock-down mean for me?

First up, 7 days is likely to be 'at least' 14 days when talking about the world of travel. As a result of this lock-down, I have many a booking affected. Affected in terms of my time (currently working for nothing due to NIL job-keeper) and affected in terms of my finances (point in same).

It is unacceptable that this government does not offer support for the blatantly obvious industry struggle that continues to follow us since and relentlessly since the onset of this crisis in March 2020. The federal government's rhetoric means nothing, their words mean nothing. They need to STAND UP and act and ACT now both in terms of a national quarantine center and more importantly in financial support whilst both International and now domestic borders are continually impacted in this way!

Enough is enough! Pass this example over to whomever can get through to this useless government!

I would very much like to tell my constituent that, perhaps by raising it in this parliament, it could get through to this useless government. But, based on the responses from the people in this chamber on the government's side, it doesn't look like they are going to pass it onto the Prime Minister.

I'd like to tell the 10 people who rang a GP in Frankston South today to ask for a COVID injection and were told that they cannot get one for two weeks because the federal government supply hasn't turned up that they can get vaccinated, and I would like to be tell the aged-care workers at Baxter Village who are waiting until 30 June for their vaccination that they will get one—but I can't, because of this Prime Minister. (Time expired)

4:03 pm

Photo of Julian SimmondsJulian Simmonds (Ryan, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

You would think in a time of global crisis, in the time of a global pandemic which is unprecedented, that perhaps in this one moment we might see a little bit of bipartisanship from the Labor MPs, but it's not to be. Disappointingly, for older Australians, it is not to be. Australians have shown incredible fortitude throughout this. They have shown the true embodiment of the Aussie spirit to so far get us through the COVID pandemic in a way that we are the envy of the rest of the world. They have supported each other and they have supported their families—and Victorians will be doing it again over the next seven days.

But does the Leader of the Opposition truly think that Australians, who have duly done the hard yards, who have helped the country to get where we are, want to see the ridiculous politics and politicising and political game-playing that we saw from Labor MPs just now? The member for Dunkley spent a whole two minutes of her five-minute speech talking about the name of the quarantine centre. Could there be cheaper politics in her speech than that or in the Labor position than that? No, and they just don't—

Ms Murphy interjecting

Photo of Llew O'BrienLlew O'Brien (Wide Bay, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Dunkley is warned under standing order 94(a).

Photo of Julian SimmondsJulian Simmonds (Ryan, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Again and again, they ignore the facts. Cheap politics, alright; if Labor want to play those games then so be it. We don't want to see that happen, but we can't control their actions. Their actions, in this instance, have real consequences. Don't they understand that, when the member for Dunkley stands up and for cheap political gains tries to bash the vaccine rollout and claims it isn't working, that stops Australians who are watching her on TV from picking up the phone and making the booking they need with their GP or vaccine clinic? They think, 'Labor says it's not working, it's not worth it.' We have to be bipartisan in showing the Australian people that it is important to pick up the phone, make that booking with your GP. If you're listening right now, don't listen to the cheap politics of Labor talking down the vaccine. It is vital to get the vaccine. If you are in an age group that makes you eligible to get the vaccine, go and make that booking.

We had shadow ministers go even further in question time today, when they stood up and somehow insinuated, again, for cheap political points, that it isn't worth getting your first dose of the vaccine. That has a real impact. Labor MPs are playing cheap political games, but they have a real impact. No Australian should be under the misapprehension that it isn't important to get the first dose of the vaccine. Go and get it. It is so important, it is part of our path out of the COVID pandemic. Do not listen to the game-playing and cheap politics of Labor MPs. What we want to see, and what Australians really want to see, is the whole parliament behind them in this effort, rolling out everything that we can, as this government has shown over the last year and a bit, to support them in their efforts to defeat the COVID virus. They want to see Labor MPs supporting that. They're disappointed that they don't. But that's okay, we will continue to have the backs of all Australians. In the words of the Leader of the Opposition, he's more interested in fighting Tories than he is in fighting the virus. We have no interest in those kinds of ridiculous games in the middle of a global pandemic that's killing thousands of people across the globe every day.

Our interest is in everyday Australians, helping support them and their families to get through times like we'll see in Victoria over the next seven days, ensuring that they have the confidence to get out there and be vaccinated. They should have that confidence because this government is rolling out vaccines at a record rate. Over 12,000 people in Victoria alone got vaccinated yesterday. We delivered over 3.9 million doses, including over 111,000 in the last 24 hours. We have the backs of all Australians and, in particular, the backs of all Victorians. We announced today that we're releasing an additional 130,000 vaccines to support Victorians to accelerate vaccination in that state. That is real action, as opposed to the cheap politicking that we saw from Labor during question time today. They also undermine the confidence of Australians in the national quarantine program, a quarantine program that is over 99 per cent effective, arguably the best in the world in terms of its effectiveness. It is keeping Australians safe, the vaccines are keeping Australians safe. Both are being delivered by this government. It is this government that has got the backs of everyday Australians to get them through the COVID pandemic, rather than the cheap politics of Labor. (Time expired)

4:08 pm

Photo of Julian HillJulian Hill (Bruce, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

We're again facing an incredibly serious situation in my hometown of Melbourne, a city that I love and a city that I've lived in my entire life. Once again, COVID is spreading across Melbourne: 26 cases, 10,000 contacts identified this morning, one person in ICU fighting for their life already. The Victorian government are taking the only responsible action they can take, with a seven-day lockdown. I think it's hard for people who are not from Victoria or Melbourne to actually understand, as we've heard from these almost sociopathic contributions, just how traumatising—

Photo of Jason FalinskiJason Falinski (Mackellar, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker—

Photo of Llew O'BrienLlew O'Brien (Wide Bay, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The member will withdraw.

Photo of Julian HillJulian Hill (Bruce, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I withdraw. It was for the city—

Photo of Llew O'BrienLlew O'Brien (Wide Bay, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Bruce will pause for a moment. The member's point of order is?

Photo of Jason FalinskiJason Falinski (Mackellar, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The point of order is unparliamentary language, and it is a consistent—

Photo of Llew O'BrienLlew O'Brien (Wide Bay, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I've dealt with it, and it's been withdrawn. The member will sit down.

Photo of Julian HillJulian Hill (Bruce, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It's hard to understand just how traumatising it was for the city to be locked down for 111 days last year. It was particularly traumatising for older people living alone and for families, not from rich electorates, holed up in flats with three or four kids they were trying to homeschool. Family violence rates were out of control. Small businesses now have no JobKeeper.

We beat it before, and we'll beat it again, with or without this Prime Minister. But we shouldn't be in this mess, and we need to be very, very clear here: this outbreak is a direct result of the Prime Minister's failure on vaccinations. No amount of spin and marketing and interference and screaming and shouting and blame-shifting in question time or elsewhere can cover that up. It's his responsibility. He had two jobs: vaccinations and quarantine. Vaccinations? About one per cent of the country is fully vaccinated. We've had the 17th outbreak from hotel quarantine in Australia, this one from South Australia. Because of the Prime Minister's failure, Victoria is exposed. Forty per cent of aged care facilities in Melbourne are not fully vaccinated. When this outbreak started, 29 didn't have even a single first dose. He's dangerously complacent. He says it's not a race.

It is a race. It's a race against the virus, it's a race against mutations and it's a race to save lives and livelihoods. Last week, the Commonwealth got 1.4 million doses and they handed out 500,000. There's no public health campaign. In eight years, the Liberals have spent $1 billion in taxpayer funds on advertising themselves. But there's nothing for public health or the vaccine, when it really matters. They are advertising roads they haven't even built, but nothing for the vaccine. This has been one of the biggest policy failures in Australia's recent history, but the Prime Minister takes no responsibility. He just yells and screams and blames everyone else.

Every time there's an outbreak from hotel quarantine, it is a direct result of the Prime Minister's failure to set up safe, purpose-built quarantine. They look after dogs, cats and horses coming into the country—that's a Commonwealth thing—but not human beings. It's so he can blame the states when it suits him. He says quarantine is 99.9 per cent effective. Well, the 0.1 per cent is devastating. The Northern Territory facility, purpose-built, is 100 per cent effective. He's had a report on his desk for seven months and done nothing with it. There have been more lockdowns, more deaths and billions of dollars lost. The best time to start building purpose-built quarantine facilities was last year, and the second best time is today. It's not necessarily a short-term thing, either. It's way too early to know whether we can allow quarantine-free travel to this country next year, even when the vaccine's rolled out. Tell us what the mutations look like.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister needs to fix hotel quarantine, get national standards, accept it's airborne, put in place ventilation that works and get N95 masks. Get the staff vaccinated; they're not even fully vaccinated. As the member for Dunkley said, the anger at the Prime Minister in my home state of Victoria is visceral. People know that this is his fault and they know it's his failure. They will rightly blame him for illness, future deaths and other outbreaks.

I've been a harsh critic of the Prime Minister. You've heard me call him fake before. I don't like him, I don't trust him and I do not think he is up to his job. But this is serious. Lives and the economy are at stake. So I beg, I plead: for once, step up to the mark, Prime Minister, and do your job. Apologise, take responsibility, set targets, speed up the vaccine program and get cracking on purpose-built quarantine. He doesn't hold a hammer? He doesn't even hold a nail.

Make sure there are no more outbreaks.

4:14 pm

Photo of David GillespieDavid Gillespie (Lyne, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

This vaccine issue is being ramped up purely for political purposes. The system is working. The last time we had a mass vaccination for the whole country was: never. It's never been like this before. It does take time to rollout a massive campaign like this. But you've just got to look at the figures. There are 3.9 million doses delivered. They make a big deal about 'not fully vaccinated'. That's because most people in nursing homes are getting the AstraZeneca vaccine, and there's a 12-week interval between them. That is why they can throw that statistic around. But, some of the statistics are: 2.5 million of these have been through Commonwealth outlets and the remainder through state systems. Both systems have had hiccups. Like I said, when you've got a system rolling out to 25 million people you expect a few logistical problems, but it is ramping up. Last week there were a couple of days when over 100,000 doses were administered in a day.

With the outbreak in Victoria, the system there will smother it. It will contact trace—they've got systems in place. Look what happened on the northern beaches. The numbers that they had in the northern beaches were controlled. I think there were 40 or 50 immediate cases that were identified, and they tracked them all down and they controlled it. It's not like we're starting from point zero. We have systems in place.

About the quarantine stations, it would be good if we did have quarantine stations. Everyone knows that. But we have empty hotels that have individual bathrooms that are isolated and that do have the logistics to keep people in quarantine as long as the paradigms and the policies are strictly followed, but every system has occasional breakthroughs. That's the nature of such an infectious disease. What's happened in South Australia is apparently through a door that was opened for less than a minute or two during a meal changeover. The quarantine and the tracing teams have identified that. How can you prevent some leakage? So, look, we have a system in place. People should just stop panicking, and the other side should stop ramping people's anxieties up.

If our immigration centres—which the opposition keeps saying we should have used—didn't have shared bathrooms and shared dormitories, yes, it would have been useful to convert them, but they aren't suitable. You need something like Howard Springs if you are going to set it up, and, if you hadn't noticed, we're in the middle of the biggest building boom with a shortage of materials. And most of the centres are in difficult to get to locations, so, again, there's another logistical challenge.

We have provided vaccines for the nation. We've got Indigenous supply happening through CSL. We have got the Pfizer, Moderna and Novavax, which is another sort of vaccine—not a messenger RNA one but a protein based vaccine—which is possibly going to come on. We've invested in the COVAX facility. We have spent billions of dollars ensuring the doses for our population are here. If we were in some of these European countries or South American or Indian subcontinent situations where it was going rampant, sure, we could get the army in and just go round and jab them like they did in America, but we're not in that situation. We have 5,300 practices that are registered to give it. It will be run out in the later stages through pharmacies. We have 142 GP practitioner-led respiratory clinics—they're now called Commonwealth vaccination centres. We have 107 Aboriginal community controlled health centres lined up. We've got the Flying Doctor Service lined up to help distribute and administer the vaccines in really remote parts of Australia. We have a system in place. It is working. People just need to follow infection control guidelines and roll their sleeve up and get their vaccine.

Photo of Llew O'BrienLlew O'Brien (Wide Bay, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The discussion is now concluded.