Tuesday, 11 May 2021
Matters of Urgency
I sometimes forget the name of their seats; my apologies. 'Senator' is a much easier term to remember. The member for Maribyrnong came out claiming that it was well past time to shut our borders to flights from India. The man who told Arnie Schwarzenegger he was going to be Prime Minister, the next PM of Australia—he wanted to let us all know—the former Leader of the Opposition, said, 'Let's be clear: as a general principle, let's just close the borders for traffic from India and then we can send them some supplies.' Whilst we have acted on the health advice, whilst we have looked to keep Australians safe, whilst we have acted to ensure that a third wave of COVID does not occur in Australia, we were actually supported in this, remarkably, by a number of people on the opposite side. Unfortunately, in their party room or caucus meeting, that message didn't get through to the senators putting forward an MPI today.
But, of course, when it comes to the vaccine rollout, we get the same 'boohoo, isn't it terrible' story. There was no recognition that last week saw the largest number of vaccines delivered across the country. The vaccines are being rolled out, and, as every country's experienced when they've started their vaccine rollout, it's had to be done in a safe and measured way. Now we're seeing those numbers increasing exponentially. I hate to think how upset you'll be when you do start to see increased numbers of people vaccinated. In fact, the fantastic work of Gladys Berejiklian means that those in the 40 to 49 age bracket—an age group I only just slip into—have been able to register for a vaccine. I registered for the Pfizer vaccine yesterday on the New South Wales government website. If only every state were as effective as New South Wales, I'm sure you'd all be in a much happier place. I don't know what Senator Keneally has against Mongolia, El Salvador or Panama, but I am not sure she will be getting an invitation to visit any of them soon.
There are a couple of things that India has done that we might like to recognise now that the world is looking to support it in response to the generosity it showed prior to the crisis that is now enveloping that country. Prior to experiencing this COVID wave, India had actually exported 66 million doses of a vaccine globally—in our region, 10,000 to Nauru and 100,000 to Fiji—and manufactured over 130,000 vaccines for Papua New Guinea and 24,000 for the Solomon islands. A chartered flight left Sydney on Wednesday, just last week, carrying essential medical supplies which included over 1,000 ventilators and 43 oxygen concentrators as part of the Australian government's initial package to assist. This is the initial part of the package. This assistance will continue as India is being supported globally, particularly in recognition of the generosity it showed prior to its COVID crisis.
India has 9,000 Australians waiting to come home, of which 900 have been marked as being high-risk. From 15 May, we will start to see repatriation flights. A couple of states have decided that they will participate in the quarantine of the repatriation, and the federal government along with the ACT, in running the Howard Springs quarantine facility, will be there to bring those Indian Australians or Australian Indians—I'm probably getting it mixed around—home through repatriation flights commencing 15 May, but don't let the truth get in the way of a good scare campaign over there!
These Australians will be coming home in a way that's not only safe for them, not only safe for the frontline workers who will work with them through the quarantine period but safe for the whole Australian community. That's the way the Morrison government has approached all of COVID. Our decisions are based on health advice; our decisions are based on how to best keep all Australians safe. Since February into March, we've seen the number of Australians coming home increase and it will continue to increase. It's not helped when states decide to shut down everything over one case of COVID. Again, I would urge the state premiers to look to the Berejiklian government for leadership on how to manage this crisis. Rather than scaremongering, we should look to the solutions, appreciate the support that the Indians are getting and know that they will start coming home from 15 May.