Senate debates

Tuesday, 30 November 2021

Matters of Urgency

COVID-19: Morrison Government

4:01 pm

Photo of Eric AbetzEric Abetz (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

Today's matter of urgency is a huge window into Labor's policy void—policy vacuum—and petty vindictiveness. So, I thank Labor for moving this motion, because it's a huge public service. On one hand, what we have seen in the motion and the first contribution to this debate is nothing short of relentless negativity. If I were an opposition senator, believing that my party was worthy of government, I'd be moving a matter of urgency saying that the government should be adopting my positive policy platform. But there is not a single word of alternative from the Australian Labor Party in the motion or in the debate thus far. All we've had is fact-devoid negativity being thrown at us.

Let's move to that which is before us. First of all, the government is accused of its 'ongoing failure to open any new federal quarantine facilities'. Well, at Howard Springs there's already a facility that I think caters for 1,000 or so. But we are, as we speak, building facilities. In Victoria, we expect that construction of the first 250 beds will be completed by the end of 2021—within a month. And this is the shallowness of the Labor Party's attack: do you know why it will only be the end of this year? Because the state Labor government's lockdown of its state delayed completion. The federal government pleaded with the state Labor government, saying, 'Please give an exemption for the building of these quarantine facilities in Victoria so that they can be ready.' But in typical Labor style, talking out of both sides of their mouths, on one hand the state Labor government says, 'No, we will not give you an exemption,' and then federal Labor uses that denial of an exemption to condemn the federal government for not building the facility. That sort of shallowness tells you everything you need to know about the Australian Labor Party and why it is not fit for office.

In Western Australia—your home state, Mr Acting Deputy President O'Sullivan—as well as in Queensland, the federal government is working towards construction of the first 500 beds at various sites being completed by the first quarter of 2022. So here we are, on the cusp of delivering all these quarantine beds and facilities that Labor are asking about, and what do they do? Instead of celebrating the quick movement and the fact that we are on the cusp of delivering them, they're telling us, 'They're not ready yet; isn't this terrible!' It's just relentless negativity, and there's no description to us, as a nation, of how they would have done things differently.

In referring to the Victorian situation, Multiplex was the company that was on track for delivery of the first 500 beds by December, which is next month. We're on the very last day of November today. The finance minister wrote to the Victorian Premier, seeking an exemption from lockdown for the Mickleham project. The Victorian government did not agree to any concessions whatsoever, and undoubtedly that is part of the coordinated Labor Party political playbook—that the state government will refuse and delay so that federal Labor can somehow take advantage of it. How shallow. How un-Australian. Sadly, how very predictable it is for Labor to engage in such stunts, but I have every confidence that the Australian people will see through it. Labor are crying crocodile tears. It is fake concern. Surely, they must know the truth about the facilities that are about to come online, and the delays occasioned by state Labor? No, they seek to airbrush all of that out of the equation.

Having dealt with the quarantine facilities, let me turn to the other aspect of the motion, the delivery of sovereign mRNA vaccine-manufacturing capacity. Wouldn't we all love it! That'd be great, wouldn't it? But there are no new end-to-end mRNA facilities that have been established, since the vaccines were approved, anywhere in the world. That was just a slight omission, I'm sure, by the Labor Party mover of this urgency matter—that nowhere in the world do such facilities exist. Yet they seek to slap the federal Liberal-National government around the chops for not having done that which nobody else in the world has been able to achieve as yet. Please, give us a break! Do not use this pandemic for such cheap political points, when you know that what you are saying to the Australian people is demonstrably false on all the evidence. I would encourage the next Labor speaker to tell us where there is that capacity anywhere in the world. If they can't, I would say to the Australian Labor Party: apologise for having brought this matter forward.

Then we have the assertion that we somehow haven't protected Australians and our neighbours. Again, let's look at the evidence. Let's look at the facts. Australia has pledged to supply up to 60 million doses to our region by the end of 2022, of which up to 15 million would go to the Pacific and Timor-Leste. We have shared over 2.3 million doses with our neighbours in the Pacific and Timor-Leste, as of 17 November. Australia has provided 1.076 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses to Fiji. How many more would Labor have delivered? Not a word from them as to how much has been done in this space. There have been 677,000 doses given to Timor-Leste, 213,000 doses given to the Solomon Islands, 204,000 to PNG, 100,000 doses to Vanuatu—these are all figures as of 17 November—as well as medical supplies, personal protective equipment and testing equipment. Australia has committed $623.2 million to assist vaccine procurement and rollout efforts in the Pacific and South-East Asia. Excuse me, but where does Labor get this nonsense from that we have done nothing for our neighbourhood or our region? They're demonstrably false on the figures. I would encourage the next Labor speaker to say how they would have done more, and how.

Finally, let me deal with what is so vindictive and nasty: this talk about pandering to antivax extremists. I happen to be vaccinated; I encourage people to be vaccinated. But I'm willing to accept that men and women of good faith looking at the same evidence can come to different conclusions. And do you know what? Even the very best of our judiciary in the High Court—taking the same oath of office, hearing the same evidence and applying the same law—come to different conclusions, and that is why sometimes the High Court is split 4-3. Or, for those of us who did jury trials from time to time, men and women are sworn into a jury and hear the same evidence, yet you get a split jury verdict. Why? It's because men and women of good faith applying themselves to the same situation can reasonably come to different conclusions. It's the same in the vaccination space. Respectfully, I disagree with them, but to call them 'antivax extremists' is, if you like, Hillary Clinton-esque, of the 'deplorables' that cost her the election against Donald Trump.

So the Australian Labor Party deserve to lose the next election, because what they are seeking to do is to divide the Australian society into a two-tier system of the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. We on this side, whilst we have certain views about vaccination, are willing to accept that there are alternative views. This motion shows that Labor is not ready to govern.


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