Senate debates

Tuesday, 3 August 2021

Matters of Public Importance

COVID-19: Vaccination

4:41 pm

Photo of Susan McDonaldSusan McDonald (Queensland, National Party) Share this | Hansard source

What a dismal, disappointing afternoon we are having here. At Australia's time of greatest need, what do we hear but negative rock-throwing? What do we hear but from an opposition who are very, very happy to be in a nation that has had the lowest infection rates, the lowest death rates and the most extraordinary financial response to this pandemic of any country in the world and that has managed to save lives and save jobs with its programs. Yet now we're going to listen to an opposition who, with the benefit of hindsight, can tell you exactly what was going to happen. With the benefit of hindsight, and without having any manual, as wasn't provided to any government in the world, they are going to tell us exactly what they would have done and how the government, without any of the benefits of hindsight and this mythical manual, could have done so much better.

I'll tell you what has happened in my state of Queensland. When the Pfizer vaccine doses started arriving earlier this year, they were poorly administered by Queensland Health. There were so many that were going out of date they had to start throwing up tents and hoping people would walk in off the street to commence their vaccinations, despite the federal government providing the vaccines and the ammunition to inform people. I was aware of people who walked in, having seen it on the street, and got their vaccination within 30 minutes. How many of those vaccine doses were destroyed after going out of date? How many people in Queensland were not encouraged to be vaccinated early? How much vaccine hesitancy was the result of the words of the Queensland government, which was only keen to be a roadblock in the way of the federal government's successful rollout?

Let me tell you about what happened in Burketown in the far north of the state. When I arrived, the public health system had flown up six people to vaccinate a community of 300 people and, in the two days they were there, they vaccinated 50. In that time communities were left exposed because of the lack of practical administrative processing. Queensland Health admin officers in Townsville were being vaccinated but not the doctors and nurses at the hospital.

These are the kinds of practical implementations that Queensland Health has failed on. The greatest impediment to vaccinating Queenslanders is our own Labor state government. Queensland Health did not order any Astra Zeneca in July and only ordered a thousand doses in May. Queensland has the second-lowest rate of fully vaccinated people, at just over 18 per cent, and the lowest rate of people who've had just one dose, at under 37 per cent. It is extraordinary that the opposition would continue to lay all this blame at the feet of the federal government, despite the millions of doses that have been provided to state governments to get into the arms of its population.

The latest thought bubble that has come from Mr Albanese is 'cash for jabs'. The best incentive that we can provide to get vaccinations is that it could save your life and the lives of your loved ones. It's not something that people put a price on. Australians know that, and they know that their taxpayer dollars are best spent supporting those who are doing it tough, who've lost their job or lost work due to another round of lockdowns. Instead, Labor is proposing payments to people who have already been vaccinated or have already decided to get their vaccinations. Research has highlighted that financial incentives have little to no impact on vaccination rates. Suggesting that people be paid to get vaccinated will alter their risk perception on what decision they should be making. It will also remove the personal responsibility from Australians to understand what is the right thing to be doing. At some point, we as a nation have to make the decision about what actions we personally are going to take. Senator O'Neill was talking about her pride in this nation, but I can't help but wonder how much further ahead the people of New South Wales might be if she spent more time picking up the phone to help people understand how to book a vaccination and what options they have to make that decision for themselves and their families and less time reading Lucy Wicks's Facebook page. I put to so many people the question: Have you been able to get a vaccine? So often, the answer is, 'Yes. I rang the hospital, but I couldn't get an appointment. I rang my GP and I got one,' or, 'I went to see my pharmacist and I got one.' There are many examples of people taking their own personal responsibility to go ahead and take the actions to become vaccinated, because they know that that is the right thing to do.

Senator Siewert raised questions about children over the age of 12 being vaccinated. From 9 August this year around 220,000 children aged between 12 and 15 who are at a high risk of illness if they contract COVID 19 will be able to receive a COVID vaccination. This includes:

        over 12. This follows a review of the Pfizer vaccine for use in children aged 12 to 15 by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.

        One of the things that Australia has done very well is not rush. We've not rushed decision-making and approvals because Australians are telling us they don't want that to happen. Australians are telling us that they have questions about the vaccination and they want to feel confident, and so this rollout has allowed people to know that, for those people who want the vaccination, the vaccination is available to them. We cannot put a price on Australians' safety. We know that we have a plan to get back to normal life and a target of getting 70 per cent of eligible Australians vaccinated, so lockdowns are less likely, restrictions are eased and many freedoms are returned. This plan is working. Already, more than 12 million doses have been given, and that has ramped up to more than a million doses per week.

        Regardless of what rocks the opposition is going to continue to throw, what criticisms they have, what benefit of 20/20 hindsight they have, what secret manual they have that apparently nobody else in the world has, in Australia the plan is working. Australians are able to get access to vaccinations, they're able to consult with their doctor and they are able to visit a range of different sites, whether hospitals, GPs, community pharmacies or other primary healthcare providers. So I beg the opposition not to continue this horrible, negative, anti-Australian, antisafety messaging but to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the government, to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the communities of Australia, particularly those regional and rural Australians, and to support this incredibly successful vaccination rollout that is speeding up with every day that goes past. The rollout is ensuring that Australians will be safe and that we will continue the extraordinary economic recovery that we are having.


        No comments