Monday, 21 June 2021
Questions without Notice
The Leader of the Opposition can rephrase his question. I noticed that phrase last time. People have a position. There is no current; otherwise, it flows both ways. And I don't want that coming into debate. The Leader of the Opposition can rephrase his question.
Thanks, Mr Speaker. The Deputy Prime Minister, in his capacity as regional development minister, has commented continuously, including just in his last answer, on quarantine, on the vaccine and on the issue of the pandemic. He is the Deputy Prime Minister. You just declared correctly that that's the case, and he should have the capacity to answer the question.
The Leader of the Opposition has made his case. The Deputy Prime Minister is responsible still as Deputy Prime Minister and for his respective portfolios. The fact that, in his ministerial capacity, he has been referring to quarantine, even recently, means that I'll allow the question. But I obviously just caution that questions can only be asked of the Deputy Prime Minister in his capacity as a minister because he's no longer acting Prime Minister. The Prime Minister of course is with us remotely. The Deputy Prime Minister has the call.
Two million deaths worldwide from the coronavirus this year—two million deaths across the globe—is absolutely tragic. There have been none community transmitted in Australia. We mourn for those 910 Australians who have lost their lives. We will go on remembering them and we will go on mourning them, and their families are certainly heartbroken by their loss. But we should be very proud of what we have been able to do as a nation to keep coronavirus case rates very low and the death toll very, very low.
We have in place a quarantine system, using hotels and motels. That was established through the national cabinet process, and, last time I looked, there were more Labor premiers sitting around that meeting than there were Liberals. We've taken the advice of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee. We've taken the advice of Professor Paul Kelly, Australian Chief Medical Officer. We've taken advice from the previous CMO, Dr Brendan Murphy, who is now the secretary of the health department. We've taken advice of chief health officers throughout the states and territories and that has kept us safe. We've said to state premiers and chief ministers—both of them—that if they can come forward with proposals we will certainly look at it through the national cabinet process, through the Prime Minister, as you would expect, as Australians would expect.
There are criteria around that. The criteria include: proximity to a tertiary hospital, proximity to an airport with regular international flights, making sure that the communities in and around those quarantine facilities are in favour of a quarantine facility being built in their locality. We've taken that advice on board. We've done the right thing all the way through. We have a good submission from Victoria and that's being considered in the proper way, as Australians would expect. If other states come forward with proposals that stack up we'll certainly look at those too.
We've assisted with the enlargement and expansion of the Howard Springs facility in the Northern Territory by an additional $500 million. We will make sure that that facility continues to be fit for purpose to take returning Australians home. But the critical thing is keeping Australians safe. I know that Australians out there would be very pleased about how we've adopted this approach, taken the best possible medical advice and kept this nation safe.