Senate debates

Monday, 23 March 2020

Statement by the President

Coronavirus

10:16 am

Photo of Nick McKimNick McKim (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

by leave—To state the obvious, we are all in this together. Whether it be those of us in this chamber, those of us in this parliament or those of us right around the country or, for that matter, the world, we are all in this together and we need to remember that that is the case. The Greens will approach this debate constructively, whether it be in this chamber or in the broader community, but we will speak up for those who have been left behind or will be left behind if the government's response is not changed and improved. The government's response is not big enough, it's not fast enough and it's not fair enough. Of course we need to focus, as a priority, on things in our health system that can save lives, ICU beds and ventilators being the classic example. But, more broadly in our response to coronavirus, we need to not be scared to make difficult decisions and to make them early. We need to go hard and we need to go early. It is far better for us to make the tough calls and then later on say, 'Well, perhaps we didn't need to go that far,' than it is to be afraid to make the tough calls and end up counting the cost in human lives. Support for business needs to be linked to job and wages guarantees. We should be looking at taking an equity stake if we're bailing out big corporations. We need to make sure that no-one is left behind—no students, no carers, no people with disability and no creative economy workers, none of whom are receiving the supports that they need in the government's current proposal.

When this crisis is over here in Australia and around the world, the world is never going to be the same again. There will be no return to normal, as the Prime Minister claimed yesterday. We need to use this crisis to make permanent changes to the way we do business, to make sure that governments take a more active, hands-on role supporting people in our community, increasing taxes on those who can best afford it, so that we can fund proper public services in this country: our health services, our education services, our public transport services and the supports that we provide to people who really need it.

We in the Greens hope that this crisis becomes an opportunity—an opportunity for us all to understand that governments should be playing a far more significant role in our economy and that governments should be playing a far more significant role in looking after people who desperately need it. Colleagues, those are the challenges, and the opportunities, before us here today, and the Greens are ready to work constructively with you all to respond to them. Finally, can I say: please, stay safe, do all the sensible things, look after yourselves, look after your families, look after your communities, and we look forward to working with you to respond to this crisis.

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