Senate debates

Tuesday, 3 August 2021

Matters of Public Importance

COVID-19: Vaccination

4:27 pm

Photo of Rachel SiewertRachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

[by video link] I wish to contribute to the debate on the Prime Minister's failure to deliver a speedy, effective rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, meaning Australians remain dangerously exposed today to the highly infections delta variant, with the lowest vaccination rate in the developed world. As people have called it, this is definitely a 'stroll out' of vaccines across this country. We were in an excellent position just before the rollout occurred. We could have been so much further ahead if the government had not squandered our advantage in this stroll-out of a vaccination process. Billions have been spent on trying to get this rollout fixed. There's been contract after contract, and yet we are still seeing the lowest vaccination rates in the developed world.

The Morrison government's rollout to date has been characterised by chaos and incompetence. We've witnessed a rollout that has been plagued by constant supply issues, poor messaging and a lack of transparency. We try to get the information that Australians want, but we can't. We've seen that through the COVID committee time and again. Every step of the way we have had to beg for data, information and action from this government. Across Australia, people have been left confused, angry and disappointed.

The vaccination targets that were released last Friday raise even more questions. If we are going to get 80 per cent coverage by March 2022, we need to include children over 12 years. The TGA has already approved the use of Pfizer for kids over 12, so why weren't kids over 12 included in the vaccination targets?

It just boggles the mind that we have not included children over 12 in those targets. The government is aiming for 70 per cent of people aged 16 and over to be vaccinated, but this equates to only 56 per cent of the entire population. The Grattan Institute predicts that, if we reopen at 50 per cent vaccination coverage, then we will see nearly 900,000 cases of COVID. Our hospitals, and our ICU wards, will be overwhelmed. We can't afford to play these sorts of politics with people's lives.

As the government fails to meet its own targets for vaccinating vulnerable populations, we've also seen vaccine inequity emerging. As of 1 August 2021, only 24 per cent of First Nations peoples have received at least one dose of a vaccine. This is unacceptable, when everybody agrees that First Nations communities are particularly vulnerable and when they were supposed to be prioritised. If this is what the government calls prioritising, I'd hate to think what the situation would be if in fact they hadn't been prioritised.

Scientists have been warning us for a long time about the emergence of variants, yet we seemed unprepared when delta hit us in this country. We still haven't adapted. We don't have fit-for-purpose quarantine facilities or the ability to produce mRNA vaccines here yet. We need to be doing better. We need to understand that we are in a race, a very fierce race, to ensure that we get 80 per cent of our entire population vaccinated as soon as possible. We have no proper dates, no proper time line, for when we will see the targets under the government's new approach, its new plan. (Time expired)


No comments