Thursday, 5 August 2021
Treasury Laws Amendment (COVID-19 Economic Response No. 2) Bill 2021; In Committee
Thanks, Senator Roberts, for the questions. While I may disagree with some of the analysis underpinning his questions, they're views that are held in parts of the community and it's important that there's the ability to ask those questions openly.
Analysis shows that Australia's approach to managing the COVID-19 pandemic has saved the lives of around 30,000 Australians, relative to the way it's been managed in other parts of the world. As a government we think that saving Australian lives has been worthwhile and does justify the extraordinary steps that have been taken. We know those steps have involved sacrifices by many people—sacrifices by individuals, by families, by households, by businesses—right across the country, and they have come at an enormous cost, particularly a fiscal cost. The economic cost in Australia has been real but, in part, subdued by the success of fiscal, monetary and other policy measures that have helped businesses and households through the pandemic. But the fiscal cost is real and will have a legacy to be dealt with in years to come. We acknowledge all of those realities.
Of course, in dealing with a global pandemic, we've also had to deal with the continuous uncertainty associated with that. We as a government do not know what necessarily comes next at every stage. COVID-19 was unheard of until the pandemic struck, and the delta variant was unspoken of until it was struck this year. These are different variables that we have had to respond to and that the states and territories have had to respond to as well.
But, Senator Roberts, we believe the Australian approach, at its heart, has enabled us as a country to save the lives of an estimated 30,000 Australians. Despite the difficulties felt in different parts of the country, particularly New South Wales at present, as you referenced, it is an approach that is continuing to save lives whilst vaccines are distributed across the country. The Doherty Institute modelling provides a road map that enables us to see how the progression of that vaccine rollout will get us to a position where we can, with less economically and socially harmful restrictions, manage the pandemic in the future in a way that still saves lives but doesn't have the same costs as those being felt today.