Senate debates

Tuesday, 31 August 2021

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers


3:07 pm

Photo of Matthew CanavanMatthew Canavan (Queensland, Liberal National Party) Share this | Hansard source

What we have just seen from the deputy leader of the opposition in this place shows exactly why the Labor Party lack the credentials to lead this country. The panicked pantomime that we just saw from Senator Keneally is exactly what the Australian people do not want now, at a time of difficulty and crisis. This is a very difficult time for our country. It's a very difficult time for the world, to be tackling a pandemic. But what people want in a pandemic is not panic; they want calm. What people need during a pandemic is not gross exaggeration; they want us to be steely and stoic, deal with the situation and come up with solutions.

Senator Keneally and the other Labor senators today quoted from the New South Wales government extensively in their questions, but they failed to quote the Premier on the very topic that Senator Keneally just spent her time talking about. Senator Keneally is in this place spreading panic through our land, suggesting that somehow our hospitals may within hours or within days be completely overcrowded and have no ability to take people. That is completely untrue, and, if she were seriously looking at the statements from the New South Wales government, she would know it is untrue. But she has been cherrypicking her statements for political interest, rather than providing the professional, calm leadership that is required at a time like this.

The Premier of New South Wales, Premier Berejiklian, was quoted just the other day—this was an article from just four days ago—as saying:

We have been ready for additional ICU patients for a long time … We have always had those contingency plans, but what is confronting for us is when you have a network that has great staff, is seeing more patients, it does stretch things and it does mean things are done differently.

That's exactly what the Australian people need: calm leadership, saying, 'We will respond to this. We will tackle it.' I don't know if Senator Keneally has spoken to her own local health authorities. I've been in constant contact with mine in Central Queensland since the start of this pandemic, and I know that they expanded their ICU capabilities very early on. They've always had plans in place to do that. In fact, there was a detailed paper published in The Medical Journal of Australia last year which showed the ability of our great health system, our fantastic health system, to respond. In that paper, a variety of professionals went across the country, and I believe they spoke to 191 ICU units across Australia. At the start of the pandemic, we had 2,378 intensive care beds. What this study found was that, very quickly, we could add another 4,258 intensive care beds if required, because we have a great health system full of great health professionals. I think Senator Keneally does our health professionals a great disservice when she seems to question their ability to respond. I have great faith in them.

What we need to focus on now is coming up with the solutions to support our health professionals and support Australians in this pandemic, not unnecessarily panic everybody throughout the land and further contribute to the stress and strain that is on many Australians, especially those going through lockdown right now. We would, of course, all love to return to a place where we have zero COVID cases—it was wonderful; it was great—but we do live in the real world here, and it seems to me that Senator Keneally and her colleagues on the Labor side want to be the government of Disneyland, not the government of Australia. The only place where zero COVID cases will exist now is in a fantasy land, in a Disneyland. We are not going back to that state of affairs. That is the reality. In fact, even the Victorian Premier today recognised that when he said that he will look at easing restrictions even before Victoria gets back to zero cases. Apparently, in the next few days he will outline some steps where, even with positive cases, restrictions will be eased. That is a sensible approach.

The Labor Party are playing catch-up. They are holding onto a fantasy that we can no longer deliver. What our job should be, as leaders, as people in this country in positions of authority, is to level with the Australian people and tell them the truth, not spread panic and fairytales that will never be able to be implemented. This government, along with the state and territory governments, is responding professionally to this crisis. We need to have a map out of this so we can let people out of their homes, let people get back to work, and deal with this pandemic in the best way we can, with the wonderful health system we have in this nation.


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