Senate debates

Wednesday, 11 August 2021

Matters of Public Importance

Prime Minister

4:33 pm

Photo of Helen PolleyHelen Polley (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

[by video link] I rise to speak on this matter of public importance. When a country is in crisis, whether it's at war or experiencing a pandemic, as we are now, the Prime Minister of the day would normally rise to the occasion and develop the leadership skills that the country needs. But, unfortunately, our Prime Minister has failed miserably. First, he attacked Mr Andrews in Victoria for his short, sharp, effective lockdowns. All that the Prime Minister and our colleagues on the other side could do was come into the parliament and ridicule Mr Andrews, day after day. They'd roll out the lines about how New South Wales was the 'rolled-gold standard' of how to deal with a pandemic.

Mr Morrison has failed on every count. He established the national cabinet to deal with the pandemic as a way of trying to share the blame around. He has blamed the scientists. He has blamed the vaccine manufacturers. He blames everyone else for his failure. He has people on his own back bench who are causing issues now with whether or not masks are an effective way of stopping the spread of this very serious COVID-19 delta strain, and he has failed to address these backbenchers. He has failed to accept responsibility for the failure of his aged-care minister and his health minister. He had two jobs during this pandemic. One was to secure and roll out enough vaccines for all Australians, to prevent the tragedies that we see unfolding in New South Wales at this very time, with people dying. The other was to take responsibility for setting up quarantine, and he has failed on that count. We knew from the outset that hotel quarantine was never going to work, but, no, he blamed the states once again. He blamed the security officers. He blamed everyone.

Well, the buck firmly stops with you, Prime Minister. You're the captain of this ship. You told the Australian community that there was no race, that we didn't have to panic about not having the vaccines rolling out in a timely way. But this is a race. This is a race to save people's lives. Last year we saw so many older Australians dying from COVID-19 because of the failings of the aged-care minister. What we see now is young people dying from COVID-19, and my heart goes out to their families. But when a Prime Minister has a health minister who has failed and an aged-care minister who has failed, and when he has to bring in the Army, that is only reinforcing his failure to show the leadership that we desperately need in this country. He has backbenchers going out and causing hysteria about whether or not COVID is really worse than the flu and whether or not you should wear a mask. The buck stops with you, Prime Minister. You've failed to secure enough vaccines.

Over the weekend, my home state of Tasmania was advised that, as of next Monday, people in the community would be able to be vaccinated through certain pharmacies, but here we are on Wednesday afternoon and we still do not know who has been approved by the Commonwealth and the state Liberal government to give those jabs in arms. We don't know which pharmacies, so how can anyone apply to make an appointment to get that jab? Once again, it just proves that Scott Morrison is all about the spin and the photo opportunities but never about the follow-up. He has failed, just as he did last year with the bushfires. He said, 'Oh, it's just too hard; I don't hold a hose,' and flew off to Hawaii. Sorry, but when you have the job of being Prime Minister, you have to take responsibility. And people respect you if you own up and say: 'Look, I stuffed up. We didn't buy enough vaccines. We haven't rolled them out. Our ministers have failed.' Sack the minister for health, sack the minister for aged care and put in people who can do the job. But you've failed even to do that.

Scott Morrison, people in this country are depending on you—vulnerable people, young people. You have failed people over and over again. It is about time you stepped up, because this is a race and you've failed at every hurdle that you've tried to get over. It's time for a new captain of the team. (Time expired)


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