Thursday, 2 September 2021
Questions without Notice
COVID-19: Indigenous Australians
My question is to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister said, 'Ultimately, everything is a state matter.' Is it the states or is it the Prime Minister who have left First Nations people, including those living in western New South Wales, unvaccinated and unprotected against COVID?
I will ask the Minister Indigenous Australians to add further to my answer. I thank him for the tremendous work that he and the Minister for Health and Aged Care have been doing, working particularly closely with the New South Wales government. Two nights ago I had the opportunity to speak to the Chief Health Officer and the Premier of New South Wales when we were reviewing that program and what additional support was required, to work that issue through.
The question, as it was framed—like others which have been put here—once again just continues to seek to misrepresent matters in this place. But on the serious issue that was raised I will ask the Minister for Indigenous Australians to add further.
As of yesterday, we had 38 per cent of Indigenous Australians with their first dose and 21 per cent with their second. Let me say, right from the beginning, we provided vaccines to the ACCHOs in the last week of March this year so that they were prepared. We had a steering committee established to develop the vaccine program. When I look at the membership of that vaccine program I see some outstanding Indigenous leaders: Dawn Casey, Professor James Ward, John Patterson, Jill Gallagher, Dr Mark Wenitong and Olga Havnen. All of them have been involved in framing the action that is needed on the ground.
That plan has involved using the capacity of every avenue that can provide the levels of support—a massive coordinated effort through Commonwealth and state governments, Aboriginal health services, the ADF, the flying doctors, GPs, pharmacies and local community groups. I must admit that it's been challenging. I notice that the member for Barton and the member for Hindmarsh yesterday talked about hesitancy being an issue. Today they put out a new press release saying it's not that but lack of information. So it's a backflip.
It's a combination of things. We have to work to make sure that we put in place the programs that are needed. It doesn't matter what you on the other side say. This is about protecting Indigenous Australians in Aboriginal communities right across—
Mr Dick interjecting—
The member for Oxley: you're out of order in terms of saying something you know nothing about. Let me say that Amos from the Australian at least did the Fox Mulder—he knew the truth was out there, and he went out and found the truth. He talked to people on the ground. He listened and was well informed in the article he wrote, which is a reflection of the way in which we're working. Pat Turner is doing an outstanding job in making sure that the community is engaged. We will continue to achieve the levels we're striving for, but you're not helping with some of the comments you're making.