Thursday, 18 March 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Aged Care, Senator Colbeck. Why did the Morrison government decide to launch the coronavirus booking website five days earlier than the medical appointment booking industry had been told? Does the minister understand the extent of the chaos that followed as a result? Is this an example of the minister's claim that the vaccine rollout is 'going quite well'?
I thank the senator for his question. I think the ramp-up of the rollout of the vaccination process continues to progress. And yes, I think it is actually going quite well. Yesterday was always going to be a busy day, the first day when Australians sought to gain access to the vaccine. In fact, 98 per cent of people who checked the website to check whether they were eligible for the vaccine got through the first time—381,000 people.
An opposition senator interjecting—
Well, that's not true, Senator. Some people can book online. And this vaccination process was always going to start slowly and build up. As I said yesterday, Australians must be patient; they should be patient. Every Australian who wants a vaccination will have access to a vaccination. We are scaling up the rollout of the vaccine as more vaccines become available, and we will continue to do that. We said we'd start the Pfizer vaccine rollout in February, and we did. We said we'd start the AstraZeneca rollout in early March, and we did. And we've now started the rollout of phase b, which will commence next week. And I say to all of those in doctors' surgeries: thank you for your forbearance. I say to all of those on the phone lines yesterday: thank you for the work you did. And I say to all Australians who are seeking a vaccination: be patient, be polite, and you will get the vaccination when you need it. (Time expired)
In stark contrast, industry sources have said they were told that the booking website was going live next Monday and that the early launch 'eroded patients' trust in online bookings in one day'. Was the Morrison government so desperate for a good news day that it was prepared to erode confidence in the booking system on day one?
The only thing eroding the confidence in the vaccine rollout is the relentless negativity of those on the other side, who at every turn and at every opportunity try to tear the process down. We have always said we would build the rollout of the vaccine as more vaccine became available, and that's what we are doing. So, the relentless negativity of those on the other side is the thing that's eroding people's confidence in the vaccine rollout. As I said, 381,000 people yesterday were able to access the website at their first opportunity—98 per cent of those who wanted to access the website. It's the relentless negativity of Labor, of those on the other side, that is causing concerns about the vaccine rollout. We will continue to ramp up the vaccination process as more vaccine becomes available. (Time expired)
In response to the vaccine booking bungle and the delayed rollout, Liberal Premier of New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian, has said, 'What is occurring now isn't a surprise to me or the New South Wales government' and that reaching the vaccine targets 'will not happen in the current program'. When even the Liberal Premier of New South Wales has no confidence in the Morrison government, how can anyone else?
One thing that you learn in this place is not to take everything that Labor say at face value, because their record of misrepresentation is probably better than any other record that they have. They could not make a statement that stacks up if they tried. As I've said, we will continue to scale up the rollout of the vaccine as more vaccine becomes available. The states will play their part in that, along with doctor's surgeries, residential aged-care facilities and pharmacists around the country, as well as Commonwealth based vaccination clinics as they come online, and 100 of those will come online next week. So we will continue to ramp up the vaccination process with the availability of vaccine, and none of Labor's relentless negativity will hold us back.