Senate debates

Tuesday, 3 August 2021

Matters of Public Importance

COVID-19: Vaccination

5:00 pm

Photo of David VanDavid Van (Victoria, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I'd like to thank Senator O'Neill for this MPI. I always love it when Labor get their MPIs up in the ballot. It's like they're delivering us a Dorothy Dixer every single time—and this is just another example. What rot we see in this MPI! How Senator O'Neill could possibly write that down is beyond anyone. But let's have a look at why. The vaccine rollout is continuing to gain momentum. More than 12 million doses have been administered, and we're now hitting more than a million doses administered each week. If you look at the starting point from when we started rolling out this vaccine, 160 days ago, Australia is actually ranked around 14th from that time. Why was it late? Because we built in that safety factor of seeing how it affected other countries. And why could we do that? Because we didn't have COVID at the time. So we built in extra safety measures. Now we're rolling it out, and 80 per cent of over-70s and 65 per cent of over-50s have had their first jab. If we look at the whole eligible population, 40 per cent have had their first jab and 19 per cent have had their second. The rollout continues apace, and it will continue to do so.

As the Prime Minister said, there have been a number of setbacks in the vaccine program. As a government, we've taken responsibility for this. No-one could have foreseen the challenges that AstraZeneca has brought, but it has saved countless lives nonetheless. The UQ vaccine fell out. It was a very good candidate but it had false positives so we had to take that out of the list. Now we have other vaccines, and the amount of vaccines is growing every week.

The government is taking responsibility for these steps, but we also take responsibility for a number of other things. As some of my colleagues have said, we have the second-lowest death rate in the OECD. We've protected the jobs of over three million Australians on JobKeeper and we've got more people back into work than were out of work before COVID hit. All these facts are lost on those on the other side. They don't seem to grasp what's important to Australians, and that is protecting their lives and protecting their livelihoods.

Currently we have two vaccines on offer that we know are safe and provide effective protection against COVID-19 and it's subsequent variants. To ensure Australians are protected against the delta variant, we all have a responsibility to promote the vaccines and reduce vaccine hesitancy. What doesn't help in delivering a speedy and effective rollout is when Labor's candidate in the seat of Higgins spreads mistrust around the AstraZeneca vaccine and promotes vaccine hesitancy even further. What doesn't help the rollout is when the Queensland Labor government's chief health officer continues to criticise the AstraZeneca vaccine when we know it is safe; it has been approved for use by the TGA and we know it will help keep Australians safe. You only need to look at the UK's rollout. The effective vaccination rate of their population is 57 per cent. And their death rate has dropped from over 1,000 a day; the last number I saw was 24 a day. So AstraZeneca is very effective in protecting life.

We need the Labor Party to stop doing everything it possibly can to undermine the rollout and promote vaccine hesitancy.

Even just today, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Albanese, explicitly refuses to endorse the AstraZeneca vaccine. What is his thought bubble of $300 a day going to do to people's minds? It will make them think, 'Oh, I'll just wait a while until I get my vaccine, because I'll get 300 bucks if I wait.' We want people to go and get vaccinated now, so these little thought bubbles that wander out from those opposite need to stop. They need to get behind our vaccine rollout. They need to roll up their sleeves and do the work that parliamentarians should. So the answer to those questions is that they just don't care. They're very happy to play politics with the vaccine rollout, and I think Australians have seen through their political aims. (Time expired)


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