Senate debates

Tuesday, 3 August 2021

Matters of Public Importance

COVID-19: Vaccination

4:31 pm

Photo of Deborah O'NeillDeborah O'Neill (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I think the Australian people are now very well aware that Mr Morrison had two critical jobs. Mr Morrison and his government and all the people who are sitting on the treasury benches had two critical jobs, which were to deliver vaccinations for Australians, and quarantine that didn't leak, and they have failed absolutely on both fronts. Today I'm really pleased that we can actually put the facts on the record in this place—what the Australian community have been experiencing, suffering and worrying about in the period since this parliament last sat, particularly the people in the great state of New South Wales that I'm so proud to represent here. So many, so many in my community, so many across Sydney, locked down; businesses gone, never to come back—a total failure in governing this country, because the government forgot to do two critical things: get the vaccine out and sort out quarantine. They failed on both.

Today's matter of public importance, though, has a particular focus on the impact of the government's failure, the Prime Minister's failure, to deliver a speedy, effective rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. I have to wonder what on earth Mr Morrison—the man who was supposed to be in charge; the man who'll be in front of a microphone again tomorrow, delighted by the sound of his own voice—was doing in June last year, June 2020, when Pfizer came knocking on Australia's door. Mr Morrison was probably standing in front of a microphone back then, like he will be again, instead of doing his real job, his day job—actually doing the work of government and considering carefully what needs to be undertaken for the people of Australia—and thinking about the future and taking seriously the responsibility for getting vaccines against this COVID-19 outbreak across the world, a one-in-100-year event.

What's happening now is wholly attributable to this glorified ad man, who, along with his team, didn't take note of the advice that he was given. He talks about health professionals and following the health advice, but he didn't take the right advice at the right time, and every single one of us is paying for that now. The consequence, in quite a different reality from the world that Senator Hughes seems to reside in, is that people who have had good faith in the Australian government to date have lost that faith. They have lost that hope. They're all over Facebook on the Central Coast, where I wish I could go home to. I can't, because we're in lockdown, and I've had to do 14 days iso just to come here and do my job—and that's nothing in comparison to the imposition and the suffering that's going on right across Sydney right now. People have lost hope. People are despairing. Mental health crises are on the rise.

There are people like Nadine Morris, who wrote today on the Facebook page of the member for Robertson, Lucy Wicks:

Your "assurance" doesn't mean much when so many people have booked through the federal system … what a joke, I'm beyond furious, this whole situation is a big fat joke. How are we so far behind in this country, I'm embarrassed to be Australian right now. Still in hard lockdown a year and a half into this pandemic with no end in sight.

That's what Australians are thinking about this government and its failures to deliver a speedy, effective rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations. Valerie Dressler writes:

What double standards. One day they are telling people to get out and book in for their vaccine and the next they cancel your appointment.

Danny Long says:

This sends a really bad message—basically you don't matter. There's a few people I know who have been cancelled because of this. All of them have said they won't be trying again.

There, in microcosm, is exactly described the chaos of this government's attempt at a vaccination rollout. Don't buy the vaccines, don't get in a race to deliver them, don't tell people the truth about what's going on, stand in front of a microphone every day and pretend that you're governing a country when you're not really doing your job, and watch the whole thing go to hell in a handbasket. Watch businesses go down the drain, watch families lose their housing because they can't pay the rent, watch kids who can't go to school, and watch mental health crises emerging up and down the streets on which we live. That is what is happening because the vaccines were not purchased when they should have been and because there has been such terrible messaging in the way that this government has gone out to the community.

Julie Redfern says:

Surely this is NOT ok! We are being told we are in a government enforced lockdown until people are vaccinated BUT now the government is cancelling appointments of people booked for vaccination! What a mess …

Janelle Holman calls it like it is:

That's BS, Lucy Wicks MP, I had a booking for my vaccination at Gosford Hospital, it was cancelled today! There's a history of blood clots in my family and I'll be supervising HSC students in Sydney!

We're all interconnected. There are people who need Pfizer. They can't take AstraZeneca. And every time the government says, 'Sign up, get ready, get your jab,' people are taking the government at their word and finding the whole system is failing them.

Gemma Hall says:

So tired of our so called Ministers who don't fight for us at all … why are we the continually sold out region????

People are sick and tired of not being able to get access to a vaccine that the government keeps saying is available. It's not available. There are a number of GPs—very few—on the Central Coast who are able to deliver it, and the ones who had Pfizer have had it removed. So many people are so anxious about this, and it's because of the constant failure of this government to do the right thing—failure to own up to the problems which the government itself and failure to give the Australian people an even chance.

How bad is Australia's record internationally?

The Grattan Institute have been very, very clear over many years in giving frank and fearless health advice to governments of all persuasions. They do their research and they put their reputation on the line every time they put out a report about health. Stephen Duckett said that the government's vaccine strategy is amongst 'the worst in the world'. There are a lot of people in the Australian community who do not listen to politics. They say it doesn't matter. But they're figuring out it matters. I've heard from people who've said they're embarrassed about Australia's stance on this, because we are, in fact, the worst in the world. The numbers don't lie. At the end of last week, Australia had inoculated the third lowest proportion of its population of any OECD nation. We are falling far behind countries like Costa Rica, Mexico, Colombia and almost all of Europe.

We have had contributions like that of Senator Hughes, who tried to indicate that Labor politicians like me, on this side of the chamber, standing up for our communities, holding the government to account and telling it like it really is, haven't got pride in this nation. I've got pride in this nation. I've got pride in the people who want to do the right thing. I've got pride in all the people who want to sign up and get their AstraZeneca or their Pfizer dose. I've got pride in the doctors who are helping them make the decision about which vaccine is best for them. I've got pride in all of those people who have already gone and got the jab. I've got pride in my own family, in my own kids, who could see the writing on the wall and who knew that they could not take a chance and wait for this government to deliver Pfizer into our community. They're in their 20s and they went and got the AstraZeneca jab. They weighed it up, they spoke to a good doctor and they went ahead. But they shouldn't have been in that position. They wouldn't be in that position if this government had actually delivered an effective and timely rollout. It's a disaster. Mr Morrison should be ashamed of himself. (Time expired)


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