Senate debates

Tuesday, 12 May 2020


COVID-19: Queensland

7:35 pm

Photo of Paul ScarrPaul Scarr (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Acting Deputy President Gallacher, can I first say that it's good to see you in this chamber and good to see you back. I'd like to say a few words about the great response from the Queensland community in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been absolutely inspiring.

First, it's apt that on this day, which is International Nurses Day, I would like to pay tribute to all of the frontline health workers in Queensland: our great nurses, our doctors, our allied health professionals, and also the receptionists, the cleaners, the kitchen staff and everyone working in our hospitals and in our medical centres. They have been under unbelievable pressure over the last few months, and I pay tribute to each and every one of them. It takes a special, special person to put yourself in harm's way in order to help your fellow man and woman, and that is what they do every day. So I pay special tribute to each and every one of them.

I also pay tribute to all the other essential workers in our economy. That includes everyone who's been working at the forefront of dealing with the public at this difficult time. We've all seen those issues of the supermarket workers dealing with the shortages and the long queues, and I pay tribute to all of those people working in our supermarkets and in our retail sector, which has kept operating.

Thirdly, I want to talk about some of the special community groups in my home state of Queensland. Government can only do so much, and this government has done a great deal to assist all Australians to get through this terrible crisis. We're getting through it. We're building that bridge to recovery. But we wouldn't be able to respond as a nation without the response of our small community groups—churches and other community groups who are out there helping people as volunteers. They don't need the government to tell them to go out and help their fellow Australians; they just do it because that's who they are.

I want to pay tribute to a few organisations here this evening, starting with Wounded Heroes. Wounded Heroes is a special non-profit organisation that helps our veterans. They catch veterans who fall between the cracks. Quite often, they're the first responders. They'll get a call, late at night, from a veteran who is about to become homeless. When the formal processes, the institutions which are there to provide assistance, aren't able to help, they're there, a phone call away. Their volunteers will get in a car and go to the veteran that very same evening. From speaking to some of those volunteers, I know that they'll do it at one o'clock in the morning or two o'clock in the morning and they'll provide sustenance to those veterans in their time of most dire need. I pay tribute to them.

I pay tribute to Ipswich Assist, a not-for-profit organisation which has provided assistance in the Ipswich region of South-East Queensland for over 20 years. Jason Budden, their program and pastoral manager, wrote to me and said, 'In those 20 years we have never seen a crisis affect our community in so many ways as much as COVID-19 has put our marginalised people most at risk at this time.' They provide hampers, they pay for prescriptions and they pay for bills, as does the 5&2 Ministry—five and two, five loaves and two fishes—who assist communities and families in need in the Ipswich region.

I would also like to pay tribute to range of multicultural organisations in my home state who have specifically helped international students. In particular, I would like to pay tribute to the Federation of Indian Communities of Queensland and to another organisation, quite aptly called Simply Humans Inc—Superheroes without Capes: you are, indeed, in the way you've been supporting our international student population.

I would like to pay tribute to our Australians of Chinese heritage. As Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said, our Chinese community has been absolutely outstanding. When the travel restrictions were first brought in, they were the ones who had to bear the brunt, and they did it superbly. I would like to pay tribute to the Islamic Council of Queensland, which, at this time of Ramadan, has been providing food hampers along with a special program to provide assistance to New Zealanders who haven't been provided government assistance, due to their visa status. The University of Southern Queensland has helped its students. I could go on and on, but my time has elapsed.