Thursday, 24 June 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister. Yesterday the government tabled a new vaccine rollout document that does not include a single target and instead refers to 'horizons'. The government has not met a single one of its vaccine targets and the rollout is months behind. Is that why the government has now given up on vaccine targets and is talking about horizons? Does the Prime Minister accept that horizons are something that you never reach?
[by video link] The rollout of the vaccination program is a very serious undertaking, and Lieutenant General Frewen is leading that undertaking. The mocking tone used by the Leader of the Opposition does him no credit. It betrays that all of this is just a political game to him. He comes here seeking to score points on issues of great seriousness for the Australian people. He may choose to take offence at that, but he might want to check his own—
I do absolutely, Mr Speaker. This is a serious question about a change in definition away from targets to horizons which the government has announced. He should address it and not just sledge.
The Australian people would have been able to hear very clearly the tone adopted by the Leader of the Opposition when he presented that question. It was there for all to see. Operation COVID Shield is being led by Lieutenant General Frewen, someone of great character and ability that we've put in charge of this task, and he will set out what the goals are, indeed, as well as the release of doses of the vaccine over the course of the three periods between now and the end of the year. This is important information to inform the activities of the states as well as to inform the partners in the vaccination program, in particular our general practitioners. As we continue to build up the number of general practitioners that are involved, they need that understanding of what the flow of vaccine is going to be, based on the supply that we understand to be the case, based on our contract arrangements and the information we're getting from our suppliers.
So he may wish to mock the language that has been used by Lieutenant General Frewen, but Lieutenant General Frewen is a person of great standing and integrity. I have confidence in him and—
The member for Isaacs! I am just going to make a quick comment and caution those interjecting. I've already cautioned the member for Isaacs a couple of times, and I haven't changed my attitude. I'm just going to say that, when a question has an element of irony in it, it can be ruled out of order. In the interests of free-flowing debate I have allowed that—and certainly the last part of that question did. If I'm going to allow that, really, you are going to get a response. If members really feel strongly about that, I would have to curtail the way that questions are being asked. I don't want to do that, because we have a very open question time.
The Prime Minister, I think, has been in order. He is certainly on the policy topic. I'm going to keep listening to him and, if I think he's straying away, of course I will pull him up. But a very short, sharp question really narrows the capacity of a minister—in this case, the Prime Minister—to answer it without adding lots of material. Something that has an element of irony to it does mean that it is a political statement that can be, I think, responded to within reason—and I stress 'within reason'. The Prime Minister has the call.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. The horizon protections that the Leader of the Opposition mockingly referred to were actually put together by Lieutenant General Frewen in command of the operation he is leading on vaccination, Operation COVID Shield. Those horizon projects were laid out to the national cabinet earlier this week, on Monday, when I convened that meeting. I can assure Australians and those in the chamber that, when Lieutenant General Frewen was outlining those horizon projections, it was not met with the mocking tone that we've just heard from the Leader of the Opposition. I would invite the Leader of the Opposition to support the operation being led by Lieutenant General Frewen and try and refrain from his usually snarky responses.