Wednesday, 4 August 2021
Treasury Laws Amendment (COVID-19 Economic Response No. 2) Bill 2021; Second Reading
I want to start this speech by acknowledging all those who have had the most horrific last 18 months. There are people who have lost loved ones, who have long-term illnesses, who are supporting families and friends with long-term illnesses. There are people who have lost employment, who have lost their homes, who can't afford to pay the rent. There are people who have juggled working from home with home schooling, who have suffered anxiety and depression from social isolation and people who have been locked down for weeks, and my heart goes out to everybody in greater Sydney at the moment and those locked down in Brisbane. I know as a Melbournian what you were going through. There are people who are separated from families, who haven't seen loved ones for over two years, who have missed saying goodbye to parents, who have missed funerals. There are people struggling with mental illness, for whom the anxiety and the depression and the stressors of just keeping your head above water have been overwhelming. And there are elderly people and people with disabilities who have had their world shrink around them, who have felt locked down in their homes for most of the last year and a half, who have had friends no longer able to visit. My mother, who lives at home by herself at the age of 89, says she and her friends just feel as if the world is telling them not to go out. Then we've got young people who are missing out on the rituals of coming of age, missing out on blossoming relationships, missing out on being on campus at uni, missing out on travelling to the big smoke, of leaving home and doing that big overseas trip on their own or with friends. And then there are the people who have had to go out to work during this pandemic despite the risks—the health professionals, the logistics workers, the childcare workers, the school teachers and the Uber drivers bringing the rest of us our home deliveries. And then there are the people who have been told that they should be in isolation, but they have taken the risk to go out and earn some money because there has been nothing else for them to do as otherwise there would be no food on the table, no money to pay the rent. We can admonish them and say, 'You're breaking the law. It's no good for the health of our community and it's helping the pandemic to take off.' But what would you do if it were a choice between going out and earning a quid and being homeless and on the streets with your family?
Of course the Greens are supporting this bill that is before us this evening. It will provide support for many of these people, but it's not enough. This bill will still leave people living in poverty, still struggling on JobSeeker payments of $43 a day. It will leave people with skyrocketing rents and no mortgage freezes. Rather than the minimum handouts that the government feels it can get away with, we should see JobSeeker again doubled to a liveable income of at least $80 a day, as it was last year. We should see JobKeeper reintroduced. Instead—and this is a choice—we have got the government giving minimum support at the same time it is giving tax cuts, billions and billions of dollars in tax cuts, to its rich mates. This is a choice, and this government is choosing to spend money to support its rich mates, rather than giving the rest of the community the support it needs to get through this pandemic.
We need to see the federal government pull its finger out, fix the botched vaccination rollout and invest in federally run fit-for-purpose quarantine facilities so that Australians can come home and be reunited with their families. There are still tens of thousands of Australians who are stranded overseas. They have been let down by Prime Minister Morrison. They are facing incredibly challenging situations around the world and they can't come home. Some are running short of money and have no support networks. All they want to do is to come home to Australia, but they can't. Some are facing acute health crises and incredible mental health strains. Some of them just want to see loved ones: dying parents, new family members, people they want to care for and support here in Australia. But they can't. And why? Because Prime Minister Morrison has let them down. They can't even return to their own country. It's important that we note that it is a basic human right to return to your own country. Amnesty International summarises this right:
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights say that everyone has the right to return home to their country, and shall never be deprived of the right to enter their own country.
The problem is that the government has introduced a cap on how many people can return to Australia each week. The cap was introduced so that there were enough facilities in Australia for returnees to isolate. The answer is simple: by increasing the capacity to allow people to isolate, you can increase or even remove the cap and get people home.
In February this year Adam Bandt and I wrote to the Prime Minister. We wrote about the devastating stories we have heard and the awful situations that people are facing in countries around the world. As part of that we called upon the Commonwealth to fund and to build more quarantine capacity. Our joint letter said: 'Prime Minister, to address this crisis we need more quarantine places. We welcome the steps taken by state governments to provide more places, but the Commonwealth must do more.' When he wrote back, the Prime Minister's letter said, 'The government is doing everything it can to help Australians who have faced difficulty returning, especially those who are the most vulnerable.' Of course we now know that this was not true. Imagine writing in February 2021 that the government is doing everything it can to help Australians who are stranded overseas. The audacity of telling the Australian public that when, in fact, the Prime Minister has failed comprehensively on the two jobs that would have made a difference. In June this year the Australian government proposed three new quarantine facilities. A year and a half into this pandemic and the Liberal Party finally started work on a plan—not that they finished developing the quarantine facilities, not that they started taking extra people into these facilities; no, they just put out a statement that they had a plan. Like so much of Prime Minister Morrison's government, the spin is loud and blustery, but when it comes to meaningful action it is too little and too late.
My office has heard from Australians around the world who are stranded overseas, and every day my staff members are working to support these people. We've tried as much as we can to elevate their voices so that we can make sure that the most vulnerable are getting the support they need. But it's incredibly hard when there's a quarantine bottleneck because Prime Minister Morrison has refused to act. We have heard from and continue to hear daily from people who are unable to enter Australia, despite being crucial carers for elderly family members in Australia; from people who are in incredibly vulnerable situations with really significant strains on their mental health; from people who planned to return and had wrapped up their jobs, only to have a flight cancellation throw out their plans, leaving them incredibly vulnerable. Why are there so many people who clearly meet the criteria of compassionate and compelling circumstances unable to return to Australia?
Australia owes a basic duty of care to its citizens, and that includes protecting their basic human rights, including the right to return to Australia. More quarantine facilities could have made that happen. But, instead, their return has been stymied by the failure of our Prime Minister on quarantine facilities. So to all those people stranded around the world, desperately trying to return to Australia: we see you, we hear you and we will keep working to make your voices heard in the Australian parliament and get you home as soon as we can. Today, when we are debating this bill for a level of support to help Australians get through this pandemic, we think of those people who are stranded overseas and what is not happening to get them home.
I also want to mention the many people who are not Australian citizens who have also been unable to return to Australia. Many have worked here for years and they have family here. But, because of the callous cruelty that the Liberal Party shows to so many people, they have been left in limbo for months and, in some cases, more than a year. The failure of Prime Minister Morrison's approach to building Commonwealth quarantine facilities shows in relation to the many people who clearly qualify for the priority migration skilled occupation list who have had their applications denied. It also shows in the incredibly harsh conditions that have been placed on people in India, compared to the lesser restrictions placed on people travelling from other countries. We need genuine action from our government to build the quarantine facilities that should have been finished months ago so that those around the world who are so desperate to return to Australia and be reunited with family can do so.
As we talk about the impacts of COVID-19, it's important that Australia actually look beyond our borders and do everything we can for our regional neighbours. Here is another big gap in the government's response to COVID—because other countries around the world are facing much bigger challenges than we are. I particularly want to mention the impact of COVID-19 on young people in the Pacific. I met with some wonderful young folk from Oaktree yesterday, who told me about the complex issues faced by young people in our region. When 50 per cent of the global population is under the age of 30, and nine out of 10 people live in countries classified as developing, the Indo-Pacific is experiencing a 'youth bulge', with 1.7 billion young people under the age of 25. Those young people are facing an increasing set of really complex challenges. Many face unemployment, or they work in insecure or informal employment. And that's before we start talking about the compounding impacts of the pandemic and the climate emergency that we face. We know, of course, that young people, because of that work in insecure employment, can be at greater risk of exposure to COVID-19 in some ways. Beyond that, the lockdowns have impacted their incomes, their ability to access education and their mental health. So many of these young people have had their schooling massively disrupted through the pandemic, and they're having to cope with COVID ripping through their communities, killing thousands of people and infecting millions, with vastly inadequate health facilities and limited access to vaccines.
So we call upon the Australian government. There are steps forward that the Greens are supporting in this bill, but it is not enough. There is so much more that needs to be done. We call on the government to take more meaningful action and, in particular, to support young people across the Indo-Pacific. That should include significantly increasing our aid budget, to much higher levels. That would ensure that we are providing development assistance to countries across the region and providing support to young people who have been impacted by this pandemic. It's not just in their interest; it's also in our interest, as Australia, to support the wellbeing of people across the region, to support these countries in dealing with the pandemic and not to foment unrest in those countries.
So the Australian government should be providing much more support for COVAX, which we've called for repeatedly for months now, to ensure that vaccines are available as widely as possible. It must also take action to advocate for the TRIPS waiver so that vaccines can be produced at lower prices and be more readily available. This bill provides a small level of the help and support needed in Australia, but locally and globally the Australian government can do more, and it must. We are here facing a global pandemic. There are choices to be made, and the choices that need to be made are ones that support the community and say, 'This is where resources are needed.' We should not be talking about more support for the big end of town, for billionaires, with massive tax cuts putting billions more dollars in the pockets of the already extraordinarily well-off. We should not be talking about handing out subsidies to our fossil fuel industries, who do not need them. We should not be having rorts that provide facilities that aren't required in decisions that are being made purely on the basis of politics. What we should have is a government that looks at what the needs of the community are, sees that there is a need there and can take action. This bill is a small start. It's a little bit of what we could be doing. But so much more is needed, and I urge this government to take that action so we can build a healthy, prosperous and sustainable Australia.
I rise to speak as a senator for the great state of New South Wales, after six weeks in lockdown, and I want to put on the record some of the challenges that are facing businesses who desperately need assistance. Today I received correspondence from a company that describes itself as a 63-year-old commercial construction business headquartered in Albury, with additional offices in Orange and Ulladulla. It's a very significant employer. They talk about the construction industry and how that's been shut down. All of this goes to the government's failure to do those two critical jobs of government: to plan a proper form of quarantine that wouldn't leak on at least 28 occasions, and to provide proper vaccination. Companies like Zauner, and companies right across the Central Coast that suffered in last year's lockdown, have had a 45 per cent loss of revenue over the first two weeks of the lockdown in New South Wales. They faced a 23 per cent loss last year and 48 per cent after two months. Now they're down 45 per cent in this year alone. So the impact on business is absolutely enormous.
In Sydney right now, there are 286 people who are in hospital. We've had 17 deaths. I just want to put on record how distressing it is for me, as a mother of three 20-somethings, to think about what the family of the 27-year-old person who died in New South Wales is going through now and how entirely preventable this illness could be if there were access to the vaccines—if the government had acted.
We're discussing, in the Treasury Laws Amendment (COVID-19 Economic Response No. 2) Bill 2021, a response to the economic impact, but the economic impact is not separate from our lives. It's not separate from the illness. It's not separate from the mental health challenges. It's not separate from the identity issues that people are struggling with.
In the LGAs of Campbelltown, Blacktown, Canterbury Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Liverpool and Parramatta, huge numbers of Australians who have ABNs, who are hardworking tradies—blue-collar workers who cannot work from home—are stuck in their homes. Many of them are facing the challenge of being unable to feed their families. They are looking to this Liberal-National government to respond to their challenges.
The government has come forward with a few different plans that carved out businesses and put some back in. They said they couldn't do anything; they couldn't help you if you didn't first spend your $10,000 in the bank. Then they waived that. There are so many changes. So many people who are from non-English-speaking backgrounds or for whom literacy is not their strong suit, but who are great workers, are struggling not only to understand the health orders and directions that keep changing but to participate in the scheme that the government has constructed. There is some money. It's coming through, but it's not working in the way that we need it to work, and not in a timely way.
I also want to quickly indicate that critical to getting the messages out in these eight LGAs in total lockdown in Sydney are the churches and the faith leaders from all of the faiths. They are out there trying to do their best to support the people in their communities. They are offering spiritual nourishment and mental health support, and they're providing physical support through charities that are associated with them. I just want people to know that, while the government have provided some financial support, at the same time they are trying to put through regulations with regard to charities. The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission amendment is going to massively limit and impact all of the communities of faith who practise charitable works in our community. The government are saying, 'We want your help.' They are going to communities of faith. At the same time as they're doing that, they are actually constructing regulations that will massively limit what great Australian charities attached to so many religions are doing in the community. Again, that is an indication of what the government says and what it does, and how all the things that it says it's doing don't match up with what it actually does.
So I warn people in communities of faith to protect those communities, to stand up and to say to the government, 'We need to look after one another right now, so don't attack our faith community and don't attack the charities that we desperately need in the middle of this enormous crisis'—the COVID-19 crisis, now into 2021, that is doing such damage to families, communities and businesses right across this country but particularly to those people from New South Wales in Campbelltown, Blacktown, Canterbury Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Liverpool and Parramatta, and, of course, on the Central Coast, in the Blue Mountains and at Shellharbour down around Wollongong, where they're so captured by the chaos of the failure of the Liberal-National Party government in New South Wales, in concert with this federal government.
[by video link] I'm speaking from my home in lockdown, as greater Sydney has entered its sixth week of lockdown. Millions of people are under stay-at-home orders as the virus circulates in our community Tragically, people are dying because vaccinations haven't been provided even to essential workers who have to leave home and are expected to stoically put their health and that of their families at risk. It was heartbreaking to hear today of the death of 27-year-old Aude Alaskar, who collapsed in his Warwick Farm unit. My deepest condolences go to his wife, family and friends, and to those of others who have passed due to COVID-19. It has also been weeks of anguish for people who have been unable to see their loved ones and are under immense financial and health stress.
All of this could have been avoided if the Morrison government had just done their job. Our vaccination rates are very low compared to other OECD countries, thanks to the completely botched-up rollout by the Prime Minister and his government. We simply cannot expect to return to any semblance of normal life any time soon, unless we change course immediately and drastically.
I do really want to thank people, especially people in South-West and Western Sydney, who have turned up in droves to get tested and vaccinated. We have seen some of the highest numbers of tests ever conducted, and the rates of first doses of vaccinations are going up. This is despite the lack of testing facilities and the misinformation about vaccines spread and cultivated by politicians.
This government has time and again failed to acknowledge the depth of the economic hardship that comes with COVID lockdowns. We know that millions of people, especially those left behind by this government, have had to endure this pandemic in poverty. They are being pushed further into poverty with these repeated lockdowns. Yet we have another bandaid bill in front of us. This is pretty appalling and shameful for a country as rich as Australia, where billionaires and the wealthiest are accumulating wealth because the Liberals and, disappointingly, Labor are handing them more and more while everyone else has less and less.
It's now four times that the government have attempted to replace JobKeeper with something else, which has always been inferior. Instead of simply reintroducing JobKeeper and the coronavirus supplement, here we are again with the government trying to come up with yet another version of payments, trying to do the bare minimum it can get away with. We will not let it get away with this.
Millions of casual workers in the higher education sector, artists, small businesses, construction workers and people in insecure work are suffering. We need JobKeeper 2.0 where millions of casuals and others on temporary visas are not left behind. People doing it tough need economic certainty and economic security. We need much faster vaccinations so people can move forward with their lives. Raise the rate and bring JobSeeker back above the poverty line so people can live with some sort of security in these incredibly difficult times. The government has completely failed on the vaccine rollout and is now failing in its responsibility to provide relief for the immense economic hardship that people are facing, especially in my home state of New South Wales and particularly in Greater Sydney, where we are still in hard lockdown and life has come to a standstill.
We support this bill, but it isn't enough. Surely you two, even with your new Liberal hats permanently on, can see the deep inequalities that have been starkly exposed and heightened by the pandemic. Indeed some of the measures initiated by the Morrison government last year, such as free child care, moratoriums on evictions and rent rises and raising the rate of income support above the poverty line, were tacit acknowledgment of the failures of a system built on profit-making privatisation. We know what needs to be done: income support that includes all workers, raising the rate of JobSeeker above the poverty line, expanding the public service sector across the board and making essential services like health and education universal and free. We need to head towards a society which has the wellbeing and welfare of all people at heart.
I rise today to support the comments and contributions made by my Greens colleagues in relation to this bill, the Treasury Laws Amendment (COVID-19 Economic Response No. 2) Bill 2021, and I pay tribute to Senator Faruqi, who has so eloquently spoken about the realities facing people in lockdown right now in Sydney. I'm sorry you are not here with us, Senator Faruqi, but thank you for representing your constituents as well as you can from there at home. I say to all of our friends and loved ones in Greater Sydney and in the rest of New South Wales right now, and those in Queensland, as a South Australian I am really sorry you are continuing to have to go through this.
I'm really sorry for those in industries that have been hardest hit by the pandemic—the arts industry, the entertainment industry, hospitality and tourism—that government support has really waned throughout this pandemic over the last 12 to 18 months. For so long arts and entertainment workers, for example, were left out in the cold. They got nothing until months and months after others. And then the government prematurely stopped JobKeeper well before there was any horizon for arts and entertainment workers.
Senator Van interjecting—
I'm speaking about the hardship of people in lockdown, those who have lost their jobs, and all I can hear is Senator Van mouthing off aggressively. I just want to make it clear to everybody listening that this is what this senator thinks of your hardship.
Senator Van interjecting—
I'm speaking about those who have not been able to access enough government support to get them through what has been a torrid and awful time, those who have lost jobs and work, and the many who have lost hope of really ever being able to go back into sectors like the arts or entertainment. I'm speaking about many of the tourism operators, who are just pulling their hair out, wondering why their industry never got a specific support package.
I'm glad that we're seeing support on the table now for a number of people, organisations, businesses and workers who are currently in lockdown in Sydney and Queensland, but there are so many more who still have nothing. It's time for the government to really understand and acknowledge that, unless we inject proper support—particularly into the arts and entertainment and tourism sectors—we are going to lose an entire generation of artists, creatives and workers in those sectors. They're sectors that are intertwined. They rely on each other, and they've had such a massive blow. JobKeeper should never have been ripped away from those industries and workers in the first place. They need industry-specific support, and those workers need support as well. Tourism operators and artists in South Australia, WA, Victoria, Tasmania or the Northern Territory right now may not be in lockdown, but their business has been destroyed. There is no work. People can't travel.
We're all working hard together to defeat this virus, to keep our community protected and healthy. We're in this together, except that some people, those who work in those industries, have been left out in the cold. I urge the Prime Minister and his government to reconsider the support and the level of support that they are offering those in the industries hardest hit. The HomeBuilder program for the construction industry was an uncapped program. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent keeping that industry afloat and putting money into the pockets of workers and businesses, but the arts and entertainment industry got nothing like that. They got a small, capped program that was oversubscribed, and then everybody was kicked off JobKeeper.
There is a long way to go in relation to helping people deal with this, and, without a proper vaccine rollout or fixing hotel quarantine, this is going to continue for some time. We've got members within the Prime Minister's own government actively undermining vaccination and the health response. What message does that send to workers who have lost their jobs, whether it was in the last week, the last fortnight or over the last 18 months? I think it's incredibly selfish of those members, in this place or the other. We haven't lost our jobs. We haven't taken a pay cut, as politicians. I think it's incredibly selfish of members in this place or the other to advocate dangerous positions that undermine the very response that is being asked of every other Australian in order to get through this, despite so many people losing their jobs, losing hours or losing money and so many businesses closing. When Mr George Christensen tells people not to get vaccinated, what does that say to the tourism operator in Queensland whose business is now dead in the water, the artist who is struggling to get their next gig and has no idea when that will happen or the mum who is doing as many shifts as she can at the local cafe to make sure she can afford the uniforms and the school camps? Mr George Christensen, Senator Rennick, Mr Craig Kelly, Alan Jones and Sky News are all making it much harder for these people to get back up on their feet. It's insulting. Anyway, I'm glad we're seeing more support being put on the table, but it's far short of what is needed.
I have been listening this afternoon and I heard 'bandaid solution' and 'bring back JobKeeper' thrown around. Those opposite—those sitting at home on the screens and those sitting to my right—just don't get it. This is a pandemic no-one has ever seen before—it's a one-in-a hundred-year event. The Morrison government has continued to focus on lives and livelihoods. This means we don't set and forget how we roll out financial assistance to businesses and individuals. The pandemic has changed and we've seen situations evolve.
I want to spend a little bit of time talking about the persistent call for JobKeeper to be returned. We heard from those opposite when JobKeeper ended that the world was going to end and that we were going to fall off an economic cliff. That just didn't happen. In fact, we saw more Australians in work than pre the pandemic. You would think that by now they might have figured out that they got it wrong about JobKeeper then, but they have got it wrong again now.
I want to draw attention to Mr Paul Waterson's comments. He discussed the assistance that has been given to his business, Australian Venue Co. or AVC. They own a number of hospitality venues, particularly pubs, across Australia. He said that what the Morrison government is proposing now to assist workers—which has direct payments to workers from the Commonwealth, as opposed to the JobKeeper program, which was administered by the business—is all the best parts of JobKeeper with improvements. The improvements include those workers on visas who previously didn't qualify now being able to access some assistance.
This isn't a national lockdown; it isn't happening the same in every state across the country. I'm a senator from New South Wales and I know how tough it is for everybody at home in Greater Sydney at the moment. AVC wouldn't have been able to access JobKeeper because, whilst some of their venues are shut at the moment in Sydney, South Australia and Queensland, they not shut in the other states and, therefore, the group's revenue would not be seen to decline enough to allow them access to the previous JobKeeper payment. By modifying things, being a bit adaptable, looking at how we can change and make things better, learning, moving forward and continuing to develop, we've a system that will provide assistance to individuals who are impacted, not businesses that are national groups.
Whilst 2,000 of AVC's 5,400 workers have been stood down, they're maintaining significant contact with them. One of the claims is that JobKeeper was allowing bosses to stay connected to their employees. What a lot of businesses have discovered, particularly in the post-lockdown economic bounce that we seem to see happen quite regularly, is that they were struggling to find workers. So businesses are doing everything that they can to remain connected to their staff. If you look at a company like AVC, which is in one of the most impacted areas—hospitality and pubs had no vertical imbibing, square-limit limitations and all of those things that were having impacts across this industry—what they're doing is looking at training for their staff. They're remaining connected to them and keeping training programs going. They know this will end, things will change and things will open back up again, and they want to make sure that they still have access to those staff and that they're still connected to them. Perhaps they've even taken the opportunity to grow their staff, develop their skills and look at ways that will best serve them to open up as quickly as possible when they can. They're keeping that connection with their staff.
Admittedly, this is with a larger organisation, but businesses have offered staff an incentive. Pubs and hospitality can have quite a transient workforce. It tends to be quite a young workforce. Some businesses are topping up their pay to 80 per cent of what it would normally be. So staff are currently not earning as much money as they normally do, but if they're still with the company at the end of January—when, hopefully, we'll all be back open again and can enjoy, particularly, the fabulous Sydney summer—once these venues reopen and staff go back to work, they don't have to pay the money back. Businesses are continuing to invest in their staff as best they can, connecting with their staff and making sure that those employee-employer connections are remaining strong.
As I said at the beginning, this is about focusing on lives and livelihoods. People, particularly on the opposite side, are calling out about the vaccine and the vaccine rollout, but it's the vaccine hesitancy that half of you lot have been responsible for that is causing the problems. You consistently cling to this. You've got chief health officers in states—I know our friend is up there in Queensland, that abomination! The comments that she makes are just out of control. No wonder vaccine hesitancy in Queensland is the highest across the country. What an embarrassment! The fact that the Premier wants to promote this woman—maybe we should get her up there as soon as possible so she can stop giving health advice, because I can tell you that's not her strong suit. This is where we're seeing the vaccine hesitancy come in. People are vaccine shopping. The best vaccine you can get is the one that's available—go and get it. Get your arm out and get that jab. There are plenty of options to do it.
Senator Pratt interjecting—
Senator Pratt, if you're struggling to find a vaccine, I've put together a COVID page on my website that has both state and federal booking systems. It's got some actual information, not Dr York's interpretation but actual information from real scientists who have got some experience in haematology and who understand how viruses and vaccines work. We've put the information together for them so people can go to my website—have a look, Senator Pratt, it's holliehughes.com.au—and we've got all the booking systems there. The booking systems include the GP rollout.
I know this must be such a blow to you, because you consistently need to talk things down—I can't imagine how much the Olympics are disappointing you, at the moment, because we're just going so well. The fact that you'd have to cheer Australia on at any point might kill you!
But if you go to my website you can have a look at all the booking systems. I can show you. I'm happy to walk you through it. A couple of them there actually cover WA. You can go on there and have a look and see where the GPs are. Jimmy Rees could give Premier McGowan's press conferences—'Shut the borders!' That's all we ever get from Premier McGowan. The fact that his national cabinet walks out and agrees with the Prime Minister, and then says, 'We're going to do it on our own terms,' is a disgrace. It's an absolute disgrace. This sort of contribution to the conversation, if it doesn't stop—this is a national conversation, and these premiers need to start putting them and their CHOs back in their boxes. Stop spreading vaccine hesitation and start encouraging people to get it. Go and make it easier for to go and get into that.
Senator Pratt interjecting—
Lockdown—you guys will lock down when someone sneezes. It's just insanity. It's embarrassing, having lived in WA for a while. Guys, just secede already, if that's what you think.
This vaccine hesitation, picking a vaccine: I still want to know if anyone who had their flu shot this year can tell me what the brand it was. Anyone know? I went to PNG a couple of years ago. I couldn't tell you what brand any of those vaccines were, you know, but got a flu vax, got a Pfizer, got an AstraZeneca depending on what you want. But it's all there and available. You guys just can't stand it. You cannot bear that we've now hit 12 million doses. You can't stand that yesterday was a record day of doses, of over 200,000. You guys should be ashamed of yourselves. Get on team Australia. Get out there and encourage constituents. Go and encourage people to have their vaccine shots. I'll send you a link, Senator Pratt. You can check out the vaccination booking systems. Do you know the great thing about them—what we've seen when we've recommended people to them—is they've actually been able to get a vaccine within two days, sometimes faster.
But I digress. We were talking not only about vaccine hesitation but how good it is now for people to be able to go and access these vaccines when they're not shopping around and listening to Dr York, of all people. Just have Nick Coatsworth on. At least he knows what he's talking about. The guy's got some sort of comprehension of what's going to be involved in this process, but, you know, here we are.
This government is focused on actually providing benefits and financial assistance to individuals. So when we want to talk about the times, I just said you can get a vaccination within a couple of days. One of the things that we've learnt since we introduced this new scheme for people to get assistance is that sometimes the money is in their banks within 40 minutes. By cutting out that visit that they were going through. It's going straight into their bank account in 40 minutes. Can you imagine this lot on the other side? They wouldn't have a system up that you could have it in the bank by 40 minutes. Can I just pop in, because I do think it's gold, the 300 buck cash incentive this week. That's like cash for clunkers, off we go again. Let's get the pink batts and the school halls happening—shall we?—the cash splash, the cheques to dead people. Here we go again in the way they want to address this.
Senator Chisholm interjecting—
It's hilarious. We hear from those opposite: 'Bring back JobKeeper. We need JobKeeper. Bring it back.' Then we get Senator Chisolm, particularly, and a couple of the others who like to get up and have a bit of a whinge. They're upset because Harvey Norman accessed JobKeeper. Guess what. The Australia Club accessed JobKeeper, heaven forbid. They need to pay it back. Don't worry about the 300 bucks. Let's give it to Gina Rinehart. I'm pretty sure Katie Page—they'd all love their 300 bucks. So let's just splash that cash around for absolutely no—no targeting, just chuck it out there and see how we go.
But no. These guys: no consistency, no real comprehension of how things work, of how people actually want real support delivered to them in a timely fashion. I reckon in anyone's book, 40 minutes from being on Centrelink into your bank account is a pretty good effort. But you won't hear a word over there: talk it all down, negative, negative, negative. Let's talk about the graphs, the fact that we're at the bottom—the bottom of the death tally, my friends. The bottom of the death tally, but we won't ever say that. Don't worry about it. We won't acknowledge the lower end, you know—bottom of the death tally
Opposition senators interjecting—
But, you know, here we are again. I mean these guys obviously didn't pay much attention in maths class, because they don't understand how to read these graphs or what's happening in them or what they actually mean. They just want to chuck the cash out wherever they can, to whoever doesn't need it for whatever they can think of. But one of the best vaccine-hesitancy people—I love this, it's because the opposition leader in his bid to make a point of difference from the member for Maribyrnong, who's out there cheering the AstraZeneca on—I love Mr Shorten's photos of him getting his AstraZeneca out there. At every media opportunity he's banging that leadership drum. All those ambitions are coming back through. But there he is, supporting AstraZeneca, supporting Australians, wanting them to get the jab. What does Mr Albanese do? What does the Opposition Leader do? He races out as soon as possible to find an antivaxx campaigner; some woman who—by the way, her tweet today was just gold. If anyone hasn't seen it, go have a look; it's a cracker. He is out of time. He is out of ideas. I don't think she was supposed to be a newly endorsed Labor candidate— (Time expired)