Thursday, 2 September 2021
Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers
I just find it incredible. Today the experts Labor want us to listen to are the AMA. Previously they wanted us to listen to other experts. Continually we are told, 'Listen to the experts.' Well, we have been listening to the experts. We have been listening to the experts since day one. We've listened to ATAGI about the vaccinations. We've listened to the AHPPC about the strength of lockdowns and what we should do. We've listened to the chief medical officers. And we've listened to the Doherty institute, who are experts at modelling and looking at when would be an appropriate time to start focusing on the future. But apparently we've now got to ignore all of them and listen only to the AMA. What a ridiculous concept, because if we ignored everyone else and focused on only one sector of experts we would find ourselves in a much worse position.
We do know that, as a government, by listening to the expert advice, we have been adaptable; we have managed to pivot our approach. Yes, we have accepted as a government that the early stages of the vaccine rollout did not go to plan and that we could have done better. But hindsight is a wonderful thing. No-one could have foreseen the change in advice for AstraZeneca. No-one could have foreseen that.
Senator Keneally interjecting—
You may laugh, Senator Keneally, but had you had a crystal ball I would have been impressed, because no country in the world foresaw that change in advice. And we were not the only country that changed the advice on what groups to provide the AstraZeneca to without talking to a GP. Even ATAGI always said, 'If you are confident and comfortable and have spoken to your GP you can still take AstraZeneca,' but that was conveniently ignored by the media and by Labor. The Prime Minister reminded people that they could sit down with their GP and have the conversation, and that if they were comfortable they could take the AstraZeneca. So many people across Australia have done that because they're not feasting on the fear or the vaccine hesitancy that is being spread by people.
I am very grateful to the millions of Australians who, combined, have now had over 19 million doses of vaccine—both AstraZeneca and Pfizer, the two vaccines that are available. We are now getting over 330,000 doses a day into people's arms. It is now taking us less than four days to get a million doses into people's arms, and we are doing that while listening to the advice. We are doing that with our eyes firmly set on the advice of the Doherty institute, which tells us that we need to look to the future and that, when we get to 80 per cent vaccination rates across Australia, we will be in a position to move forward.
I want to bring to Labor's attention that this is now being acknowledged by your own side. Senator Kimberley Kitching said: 'I think we are getting to the end of the lockdown era, partly because we are doing so well on vaccinations.' Senator Kitching recognises that vaccinations are our road out. Gone are the days of COVID zero—that is not going to happen. Premier Daniel Andrews accepts that that is not going to happen. Senator Kitching accepts that that is not going to happen. We need to get these vaccinations out the door. We need to get to 80 per cent so that we can progress on our national post-COVID pathway, because this disease, unfortunately, is with us. (Time expired)