Senate debates

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

COVID-19: Vaccination

3:01 pm

Photo of Kimberley KitchingKimberley Kitching (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Deputy Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate) Share this | Hansard source

One only has to look at the Hansard to understand why Senator Henderson needs to understand the standing orders and how to behave in committees.

As Senator O'Neill asked in her question, how could Australians living with a disability and their families possibly trust this minister to protect them? The NDIS looks after the welfare of the most vulnerable people in our society, and one of the most serious duties of our type of government is to look after those who are vulnerable. But that will require, of course, the most capable, the most competent and the most composed—which, as we know from Senator Reynolds, is not always the case—of the decision-makers this government can offer. The consequences of the poor leadership which we've seen from this government will be more people dying in their own faeces, more people waiting for a wheelchair and more people who have been approved for plans dying before they can avail themselves of those plans. This is a very, very serious portfolio, and Minister Reynolds, who often has trouble with her recollection, as we've seen quite a lot this year, is probably not the most competent minister to have this portfolio.

There will also be more people left behind by an uncaring bureaucracy. Let's go to the NDIA CEO, Martin Hoffman, who told Senate estimates earlier this year that Liam's death was 'a complicated matter'. That is what he said. Minister Reynolds said, 'I cannot imagine the grief that they are going through,' but what we've heard is that she hasn't understood that grief because she hasn't actually phoned the family, as she claimed she had done earlier in the year. If this scheme were managed properly, Minister Reynolds would not have to imagine the grief of the Danher family and they would not have to go through it, but this scheme is not run competently by this government.

We have seen the devastating effects of the pandemic and what the virus does when it gets loose in aged-care facilities. We should be doing everything we can to ensure a similar breakout does not happen in the equally vulnerable disabled community. This is basic stuff, but the government continues to shirk its responsibilities, whether they are constitutionally mandated or not. They are much more comfortable outsourcing risk to others, including the states, and then piling on when something goes wrong. Nowhere have they done this more than in my home state of Victoria. During the recent COVID-19 outbreak, the Prime Minister had to be dragged kicking and screaming to help in providing even the most basic support to struggling businesses and workers. This is a Sydney-centric government, and, despite the Treasurer of our nation being a Victorian, the state of Victoria was discarded on the road.

Let's go back to people who are on the scheme. You imagine them in the pandemic, cooped up for long periods inside their homes, terrified of the virus, some of them with conditions that mean they can't deal with being cooped up inside. But there has been the bare minimum of support from this cruel and heartless government. Should we really be surprised? I'm sure the minister, if she had managed to stay, has recovered from losing her previous portfolio and now understands the mess she has to fix, which was left by her predecessor, the member for Fadden. Under his reign of errors, of course, it was revealed that 1,200 Australians with disability had died over three years while waiting to be funded by the scheme. (Time expired)


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