House debates

Monday, 22 November 2021


COVID-19: South Australia

7:35 pm

Photo of James StevensJames Stevens (Sturt, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Mr Speaker, for never using 94(a) against me! Can I give you my very best wishes and also thank you very much. As a new member, it's been a pleasure to be in this chamber and to learn so much from you and the leadership you provide to this chamber. I look forward to maybe even sitting with you from tomorrow up in this long, long corner of the chamber and continuing to benefit from your wisdom. Thank you very much.

Tomorrow is a very significant day for my home state of South Australia because, on some measures, we will be the first government in the world to actively open our borders and bring the COVID-19 virus into a jurisdiction that has kept it out. We are doing this at a point where we have made all best efforts and endeavours to provide vaccination to every eligible South Australian that wants to be vaccinated. We are almost at the 80 per cent double vaccination rate—I think it was 77.6 per cent as at today's update—and the single vaccination rate is towards 90 per cent, at about 86 per cent. So the time is right to make this very significant decision. We don't know how long it will take but, at some point, inevitably, we will have community transmission of the COVID-19 virus within South Australia, having decided that it is important to open our borders and to move to the next phase of managing the threat of COVID in South Australia with very high levels of vaccination. There will be uncertainty and apprehension. I understand that, and I expect that many of my constituents will be wary in the coming days and weeks of what we have in store because, as we have community transmission, it is regretfully the case that in some cases—hopefully, a very small number of cases—that will lead to hospitalisation, and, unfortunately, there probably will be deaths from COVID as well in South Australia. We hope they will be in the fewest number possible. Nonetheless, that is the consequence of this decision.

Equally, it's very important to turn this corner. In my humble opinion as a South Australian member of parliament, 'Team South Australia' has done so well up until now, and I think we'll continue to do well into the future. We have kept COVID out of South Australia. We have only had four deaths in South Australia since the COVID pandemic began. On any metric across the planet, this is close to the best result we could have asked for.

Health professionals and our emergency services professionals, particularly those on the front line, have been exceptional in their dedication and selfless commitment to the arduous task of protecting all South Australians. We've had some scary moments when we have had outbreaks that we could have lost control of. Difficult decisions were taken, including lockdowns, to stamp that out so that we would be in charge of our own destiny and open up the South Australian community to COVID when it was at the safest point we could get it to, which was when a vaccine was available and, equally, when all South Australians who wanted the vaccine and could safely receive the vaccine had the opportunity to get the vaccine.

What will this mean in the weeks and months to come? There will be apprehension and risk from a health point of view once we have community transmission, and I'm confident that we have the measures in place to manage that and to protect the people of South Australia. But it also allows many good things to occur, such as for those of us that have family and loved ones interstate to be able to be together again without restriction. It means that businesses that rely on engaging across the states and even internationally are now in a much stronger position to re-engage with their suppliers, their customers and their markets around the world.

It is important that we keep the faith that we have always had with the people of South Australia, like this Commonwealth government has had with the people of Australia, that we would do what we needed to do to manage and protect Australians, but there was also a light at the end of the tunnel and that restrictions and measures that we put in place would come to an end. It is an enormous milestone in my home state of South Australia. My thoughts and prayers are with us all as we confront this new challenge and meet it together.