Tuesday, 30 November 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Health and Aged Care. Can the minister please inform the House how the Morrison government is dealing with new COVID variants such as omicron and how our vaccine rollout has helped protect Australians?
I want to thank the member for Mackellar and acknowledge that his electorate has achieved a 95 per cent double dosed vaccination rate, and that's helping to save lives and protect lives as the vaccination program is around Australia. Indeed, just in the last 24 hours there were another 650,000 cases worldwide and over 7,300 lives lost officially. So the pandemic, which some would almost pretend is not a pandemic but uniquely an Australian event, is in fact a global pandemic which has wreaked profound impact around the world. Thankfully, Australia has had one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, one of the lowest losses of life in the world—with over 30,000 lives saved by comparison with the OECD average, and 45,000 lives saved by comparison with those agonies we've seen in the great nations of the United States and the United Kingdom—and one of the strongest economic recoveries. All these things have come together.
The programs we put in place to protect Australians—borders, testing, tracing, distancing and the vaccination program—have worked together through these rings of containment to give Australians some of the strongest outcomes of any nation in the world. Let us never forget, as a parliament, that of all the nations in the world Australia is one of the few with a loss of life that is so limited. Each life lost is to be deeply regretted but no nation is immune. But few nations have done better than Australia. That's what is fundamentally important.
As we face the latest news about the omicron variant, we know that the very systems that were established on our watch, in our time, have been put in place immediately. On Saturday, off the back of the briefing with the Chief Medical Officer and the health secretary, the Prime Minister instructed: that we take steps to cease flights from the southern African nations; that we, sadly, put in place a pause on non-Australian arrivals from the southern African nations; that we ensure there is quarantine for those who have been in the southern African nations; and that we ensure that all those who had already arrived in Australia were put in quarantine. These elements have come together. They are saving lives and protecting lives now. Additional measures have been taken by the National Security Committee overnight with regard to new arrivals and pausing those for 14 days. Together these actions are protecting Australia and continuing to protect Australia.