Wednesday, 16 June 2021
Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers
In rising to take note of answers from question time today, first and foremost, it is important for all of us in this chamber to remember the unprecedented nature of what we as a country, as a community, as a society, have dealt with over the last 18 months. I think it can be quite easy to forget the quantum of policy response that has been required to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic in a country like Australia, where we have been so fortunate in the way the pandemic has been handled. Remember, it could have been a lot worse than this.
Eighteen months ago, when COVID-19 first hit, I don't think anyone in this chamber thought that we would be in this position now, where we are rebuilding the economy and where we are developing and administering and rolling out a COVID-19 vaccine. We have to remember that 18 months ago we weren't even sure if a vaccine could be invented in that short a time frame. I can remember speaking to a few experts at the time who said that this sort of thing ordinarily takes decades. We were able to do it, of course with the help of experts around the world, in a matter of months. That is an incredibly impressive thing, and it's something that we have to keep in mind when we think about the way that all levels of government have dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic and the response, and the way the vaccine has been rolled out. We are doing something unprecedented and, quite frankly, completely remarkable in the current situation.
I was having a look at the news during question time. Ordinarily I would be paying attention to all the questions and answers in great detail, but I did have a quick look at one of the newsfeeds and I saw that we ticked over six million doses of the vaccine in the last few hours today. I think that is a really exciting milestone that should be celebrated.
I often come in here and happen to do take note with Senator O'Sullivan at the same time. Sometimes it's hard to find something to say after Senator O'Sullivan has made his contribution, because he is so measured and reasoned and has said all there is to say. But I will touch on a few of the points that he made around the importance of the vaccine; I think I have alluded to that already. In hitting those six million doses today, obviously there is still work to be done. There are still phases to be rolled out and there are still people out there who are yet to have a dose of the vaccine. I am one of those people; I am not quite yet anywhere near the front of the queue, I suspect, given my age, but I will be looking forward to having the vaccine when I am able to, at the young age of 31, because it is important that Australians get vaccinated.
We know that the vaccine is our best way of keeping safe from this virus and getting life more back to normal as we continue the COVID-19 recovery. I see the vaccine as a really important part of how we deal with this issue not only through a health lens but also through an economic lens. If we can ensure that as much of the population as possible gets vaccinated, then we might have some hope of getting back to living our lives the way we want. If there is one thing that I've heard resoundingly not only from Tasmanians in my local communities but also across the country more broadly in the last 18 months, it is, 'We all want to get back to normal', and I think that is entirely understandable.
In his contribution Senator O'Sullivan spoke about how rapidly the vaccination program is increasing. Again, this is a really important point. Yes, we started off slowly, but I think that the rapidly increasing rate of vaccination demonstrates that Australians have faith in our vaccine program. I look forward to seeing that vaccination rate continue to increase, because, like I say, getting as many people vaccinated as possible is key to our COVID-19 recovery. It is key to dealing with this health issue on an ongoing basis, and it is key to enabling Australians to get back to living their lives the way they did in a time before COVID-19. It is an incredibly important issue that we have discussed here in the chamber today, and I am so proud of all the efforts that our government is going to in rolling out the vaccine and ensuring that Australia can recover from the COVID-19 economic and health issues.