Monday, 21 June 2021
COVID-19 Vaccination Certificates; Order for the Production of Documents
by leave—I move:
That the Senate take note of the document.
In taking note of this, I'm firstly going to take the chamber through a cognitive bias effect. When we consider the performance of Minister Reynolds, we are afforded a living, breathing embodiment of what social psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger described as the 'internal illusion of people of low ability where they perceive their competence to be much higher than it is'. While a fascinating experiment to see just how out of her depth a minister can be without a whole government department collapsing and government programs failing, it is clearly time for the government to accept that the Dunning-Kruger effect is real and to put this hapless, heartless, cretinous minister out of her misery.
On 18 March this year, I moved a motion—
On 18 March this year, I moved a motion in the Senate that passed with the support of the entire crossbench, requiring the minister to table a monthly report outlining information on COVID-19 vaccination certificates, including the number of certificates issued, the number uploaded to the Australian Immunisation Register, the number made available on the myGov app, the average number of days between receiving a vaccine and the certificate being made available, among other information—and this was to be tabled. Let's see what we got.
On 8 April I received the first reply to the order, which, instead of being the report that is required, was a letter from Minister Reynolds. Here she declined to provide the report on the basis that 'the request is premised by an assumption that Services Australia provides COVID-19 vaccination certificates to individuals immunised against COVID-19. This is not the case, as the proof of vaccination process is customer initiated, and the production and potential sharing of any proof of vaccination is controlled by the individual solely and designed to support a range of essential vaccines requirements and settings'. However, the minister's letter goes on to say, 'Services Australia's role is to maintain the record of vaccination.'
Let's move back in time to the previous minister in this area, Minister Robert. I have to say I think his sole qualification was that he was the Prime Minister's flatmate. But he said in an interview with Fran Kelly on 8 February:
So, the vaccination record gets updated with every vaccination you receive. So, after your first dose, you'll be able to look at your vaccination certificate online, or indeed, go and print it out or the vaccination provider can print it out for you, and you'll see that it'll have the first dose, and then you'll see it'll have the second dose.
He went on to say:
… so it'll be able to be provided in hard copy, either through the vaccination provider or through Services Australia, if you call us we'll send it to you or pop into a service centre.
Now, it is common knowledge around this building that Minister Robert has always said that he's never going down; he's only always going up because he's a friend of the Prime Minister's. But the minister who replaced him is no better. He's made similar statements during other interviews.
In Community Affairs estimates on Friday 4 June, Services Australia acknowledged that 'vaccination certificates'—I will put that in quotes—were coming very soon. In fact, the minister noted on that day—amongst, may I add, many other things she said, both on Hansard and privately—that 'that's the next step'. There is a table that we wanted to see, the vaccination certificates, as provided by the previous minister, Minister Robert. Then the current minister—anyway, look, I won't say it; I know: 933—goes on to say that this is the next step. Just remember that. I then wrote to the minister on 11 June to remind her that now that it had been acknowledged that vaccination certificates were here, there was no reason my order could not be complied with. In my correspondence, I noted that 'vaccination certificates' is the recognised term and, now that vaccination certificates are being provided to those who have been fully vaccinated, a plain-language reading of order 1077 would be that it stands as is and that Services Australia is able to furnish the Senate with the monthly report detailing the information requested.
After all this, the minister comes to the Senate today and, using similar weasel words for the first response to order 1077, says:
This request is premised by an assumption that Services Australia provides COVID-19 vaccination certificates—
It's as if she never heard a single word that was being said at the table during estimates—
to individuals immunised against COVID-19. This is not the case, as the proof-of-vaccination process is customer initiated, and the production and potential sharing of any proof of vaccination is controlled by the individual solely.
The former minister, Minister Robert, said that we will have vaccination certificates for COVID-19. The current minister has said this. The department has said this. If you have received both doses of your COVID-19 vaccination, you can log into myGov right now and see your vaccination certificate.
But the minister still refuses to provide the information set out in order 1077 agreed to by this Senate. I can only assume that this is because the vaccination rollout so far has been a disaster. That still so few have received the COVID-19 vaccine is a national disgrace. If this government can't get this right, how do we expect that they will be able to open up this country and get the economy going again? Not only has the government failed in its responsibility to keep its citizens safe; it has also failed in its responsibility to provide for the conditions that ensure that Australians can be prosperous, and what we've seen is two ministers who are totally out of their depth.
Question agreed to.