Senate debates

Thursday, 5 August 2021

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

COVID-19: Vaccination

3:17 pm

Photo of Ben SmallBen Small (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

Whilst Senator Watts had a lot to say about potential misinformation today, it's not the first time that Senator Waters focused on this. Indeed, in estimates only two months ago, the senator was giving air to an article:

… which refers to a public health England preprint study in the UK that found that both AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines were only 33 per cent effective against the Indian variant three weeks after the first dose.

So at the same time that this government was getting on with the business of rolling out the vaccine, of protecting lives and livelihoods, Senator Watt was scaremongering and undermining the effectiveness of our vaccine rollout in this parliament. Professor Kelly said she had read the article. She said she is always wary of preprint articles:

A preprint article means it has not gone through the usual peer review process that is required. We've found … all through the COVID-19 pandemic … that many of those articles have … proven to be false.

When it comes to talking, in fact, lecturing this chamber, about spreading misinformation, I won't take it from Senator Watt.

On the very real questions of sovereign vaccine manufacturing that Senator Carr raised today, this is a government that has a story to tell of which all Australians can rightfully be proud. Not only was Australia the first country in the world to close its international borders at the onset of the pandemic, it took the decision in August 2020 to ensure we had sovereign vaccine manufacturing capability in this nation.

It's worth noting that mRNA vaccines had never received widespread approval for use in humans before COVID-19 was affecting the world in 2020. mRNA vaccines are at the cutting-edge of medical science. Australia has, in fact, asked for proposals from local manufacturers to ensure that we develop this capability here in Australia. Other nations have done the same. Singapore, for instance, has started the process of developing mRNA vaccine manufacturing capability and expects it to be up and running in 2023. So, whilst we've received a dozen proposals that are in the process of being assessed, the best advice the government has is that it's between one and three years from concluding that sort of arrangement to the vaccine-manufacturing capability being a reality.

We hear lies and misinformation from those opposite. They are seeking to scare and frighten the Australian people at a time when they are seeking to do the right thing by themselves, to do the right thing by their loved ones and to do the right thing by their nation—to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated, as we're seeing in record numbers. Just yesterday yet again there was a new record of almost 214,000 vaccines in arms of Australians. That was without trying to bribe them, as the Labor Party have sought to do, showing that they have learnt nothing from their previous errors in government when we saw cash for clunkers, pink batts, school halls and cheques to dead people. No, they have learnt nothing from that. They have learnt nothing from eight years on the opposition bench. In trying to bribe the Australian people to do what they are doing in overwhelming numbers the opposition show that they have learnt nothing from their previous mistakes and are not fit to sit on the government bench in this parliament.

The PM has acknowledged the challenges that we have faced with this unprecedented vaccine rollout. It's the first time the nation has had to confront such a challenge. It is testament, therefore, that we have a great story to tell, having protected lives and livelihoods—a death rate that is the second-lowest in the OECD. In fact, if we had the OECD average mortality rate, some 30,000 additional Australians who are currently here would not be alive. That is the cold hard fact of the success of this government in protecting lives and livelihoods throughout the pandemic. In the face of the misinformation, the lies and the scaremongering of the Labor Party we will remain resolute in continuing to deliver for Australians.


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