Wednesday, 2 June 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister, who has had the Halton report since October last year. That's eight long months in the life of this eight-year-old government. Today Jane Halton said the government should—to quote her—'be getting on with expanded national quarantine centres as a priority'. With 21 breaches of the hotel quarantine system, why does the Prime Minister still say that building a safe national quarantine system is not a race?
Honourable members interjecting—
The Leader of the Opposition comes to the dispatch box and basically tells complete untruths and misrepresents what I have said. I have never referred to quarantine facilities in that context at all. I haven't said that at all. That goes to the character of the Leader of the Opposition and it goes to the way he comes to this dispatch box and puts these issues in the public domain.
Yes, Mr Speaker, on relevance. It's a very clear question about why this Prime Minister has not responded to the Halton report in eight long months, which recommended advancing a—
The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. It is not an opportunity to restate the question. The Prime Minister is entitled to respond to the subject matter in the question, as he has done, and I think he is doing that with the last part of the question. Obviously, he is entitled to do that. It was a long question, taking the full 30 seconds. So he is certainly in order at this point.
The recommendations of the Halton report said the following:
The Australian Government should consider a national facility—
'a' national facility—
for quarantine to be used for emergency situations, emergency evacuations or urgent scalability.
The government has adopted this recommendation and implemented it—at Howard Springs with a 2,000 bed facility at a cost of a half a billion dollars. That 2,000 capability is available now in the Northern Territory. It is available now, despite the assertions made by the Leader of the Opposition to misrepresent the facts when it comes to these issues. The recommendations of the Halton report have been fully adopted by the government and implemented. And now we are going further. In receipt of the proposal by the Victorian government—
Mr Hill interjecting—
we are very close to coming to a position which will enable us to go forward with that facility. I'll be speaking further to the Victorian Acting Premier this evening, as is part of a regular dialogue we have dealing with the many issues that are being addressed in Victoria at the moment—and we're moving forward on that issue as well.
The Labor Party and the Leader of the Opposition are engaged in a daily exercise of undermining the pandemic response of this government. This has been their approach all the way through this pandemic. This is a Labor Party and a Leader of the Opposition that Australia can't rely on.
An opposition member interjecting—
I can't take another point of order on relevance, but I was about to say to the Prime Minister that, while he was entitled at the start to respond to what was a direct accusation in the question, and I allowed him to do that, he now needs to remain relevant to the question. If he wishes to give a character assessment of those opposite there are many ways he can do that but not in answer to this question. The Prime Minister has concluded. I call the member for Boothby.