House debates

Thursday, 26 August 2021


Paterson Electorate: COVID-19

4:30 pm

Photo of Meryl SwansonMeryl Swanson (Paterson, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

[by video link] Today we've seen a new low for my home state of New South Wales, with more than 1,000 people being detected as positive with COVID-19. It is now time for the state government to admit they got it wrong. Premier Berejiklian has failed the people of New South Wales and she failed them when she ignored advice to lock down Sydney. The Premier continued to refuse to share the details of what public health experts suggested when the delta variant was first detected in New South Wales. She needs to come clean on the details of this advice. We know the Prime Minister didn't want her to lock down Sydney, as he lauded New South Wales as the gold standard when they didn't lock down and other states had. Now we're seeing the consequences of this selfish decision on the people of New South Wales and also on the people of regional New South Wales, such as in my seat of Paterson, where people are largely doing a fantastic job of following the rules, yet they keep being impacted by the people of Sydney coming to the Hunter and doing the wrong thing. Even the head of our local district health service said, 'This must stop.' Please, for the sake of us here in the Hunter, and for your own sake, stay at home. Stay in Sydney. Do not come. You are not welcome at this time. We will welcome you with open arms when the time is right, but, at the moment, please, stay at home. Stay away.'

The Premier has experimented with our state at a terrible time. The delta variant should never have been allowed to spread so vastly across New South Wales, but it did, and, day after day, we watched as the Premier tried to float soft lockdowns and alternative approaches. She wouldn't even say the word when she knew the solution was right in front of her. The New South Wales Liberal government won't share the advice from the experts because they know they ignored it. We've watched people's lives and livelihoods being gambled away with unnecessary delays. The people of New South Wales have been guinea pigs of the delta variant because of the coalition's complacency. Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who undoubtedly has worked so hard, has sadly let pride get in the way, and she's been aided and abetted by an incompetent Prime Minister. Let's face it, the government can trot out all the excuses that they like and say that everyone's wise in hindsight. We were saying to them 12 months ago, 'Please order enough vaccines. Make sure we've got enough deals on the table.' We were prompting them and they kept saying, 'We're at the head of the queue. We have the deals locked in.' I still remember the health minister standing at the dispatch box saying we were going to be okay and it was fine. Well, you know what? It wasn't fine and now the people of my electorate are feeling this very acutely.

Our nation's largest economy is hurting due to the Morrison and Berejiklian governments' continued failure on vaccine rollout, quarantine and economic support. You can forgive some teething issues, but this government is out of excuses as we have lived with COVID for the past 18 months. The buck-passing has to end. The failure to act has fostered an us-and-them mentality, when people in the regions feel so let down. This is at a time when we need to encourage people to come together and have that great Australian value of mateship, with all of us being in this together. We're now constantly being told: it's us versus them. Well, that's just not good enough. It shouldn't have been necessary to go through what we've gone through in these highly populated areas in New South Wales, but now they are requiring more resources.

I want to send a shout-out to the year 12 students, who have had two years of interruption to their HSC preparation. They're missing school; they're missing their friends; their mental health is in a terrible state. We need to do more, and this government is completely responsible for what happens to these emerging adults. It's so tough on them. And I would say to the government: come on—give these year 12 kids a break, give the people in the regions a break and do the right thing. Step up. Show some leadership, Prime Minister, and do the right thing by the people of the regions of New South Wales, right now. (Time expired)