Senate debates

Tuesday, 31 August 2021

Matters of Public Importance

Prime Minister

3:40 pm

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

A Prime Minister for no season. Poor leadership is something that we have in this country at the moment—and, as we all know, this can lead us to catastrophic outcomes, as we are witnessing right now in this country. Poor leadership and certain characteristics are evident, including an inability to listen, a lack of empathy for others and an inability to take responsibility. We on this side know that the Prime Minister does not even have the ability to communicate effectively during this time of a pandemic. But now we see the New South Wales branch and the New South Wales government publicly expressing the same frustration. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has ticked these boxes consistently during his tenure as Prime Minister of Australia—never more so than in the last 18 months. As I said, these are not just our views; these are the views of the New South Wales government.

What COVID is doing to Australians is so evident to us, but I want to refer to survey data which suggested Australians are more worried about their job security and mental health than they are about the COVID breakouts and more deaths. The YouGov poll argues that one in three Australians believe vaccinations are the pathway back to normality, with only 22 per cent of people believing continued lockdowns should occur until the number of COVID cases reaches zero. What Australians want is a vision out of the pandemic and a time line for that. They want to see a light at the end of the tunnel—and it's hard when 60 per cent of Australians find themselves in lockdown right now. They don't want a Prime Minister who cares only about himself and his own job; they want a Prime Minister who will lead. It is more important than ever for us to have a Prime Minister who has the conviction to be able to lead the Australian people.

I want to speak about Donna Nguyen, an 18-year-old young woman from Sydney who contracted COVID at a party in Sydney, was tested numerous times before finally testing positive and ended up in hospital twice before recovering from the disease. It is a sad story that should be a warning to everyone who isn't concerned about the delta variant—because you should be. On her fifth day of quarantine, Donna's condition deteriorated quickly. Donna said:

I was passed out for 14 hours a day. Time moves so strangely when you're in that state. Morning and night were barely distinguishable.

I began hyperventilating.

Donna was not able to eat, because she couldn't stop vomiting. She said:

If I tried to breathe, I would cough and gag.

Staggering to the bathroom, Donna tried to take a shower. She passed out from the heat. She said:

I was excessively shivering, but was sweating and hot.

Donna lay dishevelled in her bed for six days unable to sit up. She recalled:

When you're in that state, with no clear trajectory of getting better, you lose the joy in everything.

I am sorry that this happened to you, Donna. It didn't have to be like this. If we had a Prime Minister committed to keeping delta out of the country, then you may not have been forced to go through this ordeal that will stay with you for the rest of your life. Donna is happy that she has recovered. She was lucky that she survived, and she is now recovering slowly from COVID-19.

Unfortunately, over a thousand Australians have died from COVID-19, and many, many more may still face that bleak outcome.

We have a lack of vaccines and no fit-for-purpose quarantine system in our country. We have a Prime Minister who only had two jobs. It was his job to roll out the vaccine in a timely manner, but he said, 'There's no race,' and, 'Nothing to see here.' We all know that he's failed. We've even seen him reject the idea of having purpose-built quarantines to keep Australians safe. We know that hotel quarantine doesn't work. We know that we're losing too many people. We know that there are over 60,000 aged-care workers in this country who still haven't had a vaccine. We don't know how many carers delivering home-care packages haven't yet received a vaccine. This was a race, Mr Morrison, and it was a race that we needed to win.


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