Tuesday, 31 August 2021
Questions without Notice
COVID-19: Health Care
My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer to reports the secretary of the Department of Health wrote to intensive care doctors on Friday asking them whether they think the health system can deal with an influx of COVID patients. Eighteen months into the pandemic, why has the Morrison-Joyce government waited until now to check whether the hospital system is coping?
The assertion put forward by the questioner is completely false. It is just completely false. If the Labor Party cared to pay any attention to what was going on, they would know that for months and months and months the secretary of the Department of Health has been providing regular updates to the premiers, the chief ministers and me, upgrading views about the status of the public hospital system and the public health system and their response capacity to the COVID-19 pandemic. That has been happening since the outbreak of the pandemic, and to suggest otherwise is just a deliberate attempt by the Labor Party to undermine public confidence in the COVID response.
It is becoming a very regular theme from the Labor Party to undermine the response. They're for and against JobKeeper. They undermine the economic measures. They undermine the serious investment made by the Commonwealth—some $6 billion—to support public hospitals.
Since the beginning of this pandemic, we've been working with the states and territories to bolster the ICU capacity, the flexibility within our hospital system, the ability to move staff and resources around the country to respond to the needs that may present and, indeed, may well present in the future, because what we know about COVID is that it is very uncertain. There are new strains and we need to be prepared to respond, and that is exactly what's occurring. Again, the secretary of the Department of Health has been tasked to do even further work on that, because that is part of the national plan.
The national plan seeks to put in place vaccinations at 70 and 80 per cent to move to the next steps, and that is supported by a number of other important measures. There's the testing, the tracing, the isolation and the quarantine. And, as we move into phase B and phase C, home quarantine will be very important, because home quarantine is what will allow Australians to travel again and to return—to get more Australians home—and the way TTIQ works, in phase B and phase C, is what is being worked on, together. In addition, there are the public health social measures that need to be kept in place at low levels to support the high levels of vaccination to ensure that Australians can live with this virus.
There is also the essential support that is necessary to bolster our public health system. Under our government, we have continued to increase our investment in public hospitals—not just when we hit the pandemic but over our entire term of government. Indeed, in Western Australia, the rate of increase in our investment in public hospitals has been four times that which has occurred at a state level, and we will continue to do that under our hospitals agreement. But, in particular, during this pandemic, our fifty-fifty agreement with the states and territories has seen us already invest $6 billion to support the states and territories with their public health systems. I would encourage the Labor Party to stop being so negative. Support the national plan. (Time expired)