Senate debates

Wednesday, 11 August 2021

Matters of Public Importance

Prime Minister

4:25 pm

Photo of Slade BrockmanSlade Brockman (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Before the interruption I was talking about the recent approval of the Moderna vaccine in Australia; in particular, the fact that 140 million doses have been administered in the United States alone. That is quite a massive evidence base and gives us, Australians, a lot of certainty that this is a vaccine that is well worth considering, along with Pfizer and AstraZeneca. In fact, as I stated, evidence so far shows that it remains some 93 per cent effective six months after the second dose and is 100 per cent effective at preventing death caused by COVID-19. I would urge all those who are weighing up the benefits of vaccination to consider that statistic when making their decision. I would obviously urge everyone, particularly in my home state of Western Australia, to look at the vaccines that are available, talk to their doctors if they have any level of uncertainty, talk to other medical professionals and get vaccinated. All the vaccines are of very high quality and all offer very good protection, and I would certainly urge people, if they can get into a vaccination centre, to do so for Pfizer and AstraZeneca. As of next month, Moderna will also become part of the suite of tools available and the choices that people have.

As I stated earlier, we continue to take a very methodical, science based approach. That has been seen in our vaccination rollout. We have listened to the health advice. When the health advice changed, as I said, it did cause some issues with the vaccination rollout, particularly with AstraZeneca, but we listened to the health advice and we responded accordingly. We continue to listen to the health advice and are taking a science based approach by developing the national plan. The Doherty institute has obviously done much work on that. The plan was developed in line with that work conducted by the Doherty institute. It sets out very clearly the four-phase response to the pandemic, beginning with the pre-vaccination phase and ending with the post-vaccination phase.

Australians can see that we are in phase A and we continue to suppress the virus for the purpose of minimising community transmissions while we vaccinate. Once we've reached 70 per cent of vaccinations in the eligible 16 years of age or older population, we move to phase B. In phase B, the vaccination transition phase, we seek to maintain the high vaccination rate and minimise serious illness and hospitalisation. Again, I point out that the two vaccines, and the third vaccine that is about to come on stream, all offer very good protection against this virus. I urge all my fellow citizens to be vaccinated. I have had my first dose; I get my second dose next week. I urge everyone to register for their vaccination as soon as they possibly can.

4:29 pm

Photo of Rachel SiewertRachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to make a contribution to this MPI on the government's failure to deliver on the vaccine rollout in an effective and timely manner. This is the rollout that wasn't a race and now is a race. In particular, it's a race for the government to try and justify their slowness in this and to try and roll back what we were having a race about in the first place.

As delta becomes the dominant variant in Australia, we are seeing more and more young people getting and transmitting COVID. It's clear that the virus is finding a way to infect younger groups—which is, in fact, what was expected of mutations of the virus and of the new variants. While the risk of death is low for younger people, it's evident that if more younger people become infected, more of them will develop more serious illness and, potentially, die. Many may also go on to experience long COVID. We don't know what impacts long COVID will have on young people in particular, and whether it will be with them all their lives.

Today Dr Kerry Chant said:

We are seeing a number of childcare centre outbreaks and I think we have given advice if you can keep your children home safely please do so. … children can in many ways transmit between themselves.

We don't have a clear picture of the long-term impacts of COVID on children. Scientists are racing to find the answer. But why would we want to take a risk and expose young people and children to COVID in the first place? Modelling by the Doherty institute clearly shows the devastating consequences of not including kids under 16 in our vaccination targets. It makes a number of predictions based on us reaching 70 per cent vaccination coverage for over 16s: it predicts that 350,000 children under 16 would get infected with COVID, 3,000 children under 16 would be admitted to hospital with COVID, and 280 children under 16 would be admitted to ICU. Nobody in this country wants to see that. The reason these figures are so high is that the government has excluded kids from our vaccination targets. It's absolutely essential that we include kids in our vaccination targets. The Grattan Institute actually included young people under 16 in their models.

We need to sound the alarm bells about the risks the government is taking by only aiming to vaccinate 70 per cent of our population over the age of 16, which is actually 56 per cent of the whole population. We need to make sure our vaccination program is covering young people under the age of 16. It's absolutely critical to ensure that we get effective vaccination of the whole population. It's another failure of this program that the government is not more actively pursuing vaccinating children under the age of 16. This is the reason I've moved a motion for an order for the production of documents. We need to understand what the brief was to the Doherty institute. Why aren't people under the age of 16 being included in our vaccination targets? They should be, and it's outrageous that they're not. (Time expired)

4:33 pm

Photo of Helen PolleyHelen Polley (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

[by video link] I rise to speak on this matter of public importance. When a country is in crisis, whether it's at war or experiencing a pandemic, as we are now, the Prime Minister of the day would normally rise to the occasion and develop the leadership skills that the country needs. But, unfortunately, our Prime Minister has failed miserably. First, he attacked Mr Andrews in Victoria for his short, sharp, effective lockdowns. All that the Prime Minister and our colleagues on the other side could do was come into the parliament and ridicule Mr Andrews, day after day. They'd roll out the lines about how New South Wales was the 'rolled-gold standard' of how to deal with a pandemic.

Mr Morrison has failed on every count. He established the national cabinet to deal with the pandemic as a way of trying to share the blame around. He has blamed the scientists. He has blamed the vaccine manufacturers. He blames everyone else for his failure. He has people on his own back bench who are causing issues now with whether or not masks are an effective way of stopping the spread of this very serious COVID-19 delta strain, and he has failed to address these backbenchers. He has failed to accept responsibility for the failure of his aged-care minister and his health minister. He had two jobs during this pandemic. One was to secure and roll out enough vaccines for all Australians, to prevent the tragedies that we see unfolding in New South Wales at this very time, with people dying. The other was to take responsibility for setting up quarantine, and he has failed on that count. We knew from the outset that hotel quarantine was never going to work, but, no, he blamed the states once again. He blamed the security officers. He blamed everyone.

Well, the buck firmly stops with you, Prime Minister. You're the captain of this ship. You told the Australian community that there was no race, that we didn't have to panic about not having the vaccines rolling out in a timely way. But this is a race. This is a race to save people's lives. Last year we saw so many older Australians dying from COVID-19 because of the failings of the aged-care minister. What we see now is young people dying from COVID-19, and my heart goes out to their families. But when a Prime Minister has a health minister who has failed and an aged-care minister who has failed, and when he has to bring in the Army, that is only reinforcing his failure to show the leadership that we desperately need in this country. He has backbenchers going out and causing hysteria about whether or not COVID is really worse than the flu and whether or not you should wear a mask. The buck stops with you, Prime Minister. You've failed to secure enough vaccines.

Over the weekend, my home state of Tasmania was advised that, as of next Monday, people in the community would be able to be vaccinated through certain pharmacies, but here we are on Wednesday afternoon and we still do not know who has been approved by the Commonwealth and the state Liberal government to give those jabs in arms. We don't know which pharmacies, so how can anyone apply to make an appointment to get that jab? Once again, it just proves that Scott Morrison is all about the spin and the photo opportunities but never about the follow-up. He has failed, just as he did last year with the bushfires. He said, 'Oh, it's just too hard; I don't hold a hose,' and flew off to Hawaii. Sorry, but when you have the job of being Prime Minister, you have to take responsibility. And people respect you if you own up and say: 'Look, I stuffed up. We didn't buy enough vaccines. We haven't rolled them out. Our ministers have failed.' Sack the minister for health, sack the minister for aged care and put in people who can do the job. But you've failed even to do that.

Scott Morrison, people in this country are depending on you—vulnerable people, young people. You have failed people over and over again. It is about time you stepped up, because this is a race and you've failed at every hurdle that you've tried to get over. It's time for a new captain of the team. (Time expired)

4:38 pm

Photo of Hollie HughesHollie Hughes (NSW, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I guess it helps that I find Bill Murray more funny than annoying, because I'm pretty sure that we've all slipped into some sort of Senate version of Groundhog Day. But, unfortunately for those opposite, they really haven't seemed able to adapt. As we come back, day after day after day, they still seem to be stepping in that puddle. Let's go through the meaning of the word 'exponential' again, for those still struggling with the maths and those still clinging to the notion that somehow their role is to pull Australia down, to confuse and mislead the Australian public and contribute to vaccine misinformation and hesitancy.

Yesterday we saw just shy of 256,000 vaccinations delivered. That is over a quarter of a million vaccinations in one day. And these record days—they just keep coming. We're now in a situation where 45 per cent of eligible Australians have received their first dose, so we're getting very close to 50 per cent, and, as we hit those days with a quarter of a million jabs, it's going to be here before you know it. But with the second dose, we've now hit 23 per cent. Almost one-quarter of all eligible Australians have now been fully vaccinated—not that you'll hear a word from those opposite.

I am glad that Senator Farrell and Senator Chisholm are sitting down, because there are a couple of things that I kind of almost agree with them on! There were delays in getting the vaccines approved. I think they did take a little bit too long. We know that some vaccines were being administered overseas sooner than they were here. They were being rolled out faster than they are here.

But that was because we had an independent TGA process that wasn't pushed through. There were no shortcuts. We didn't look to circumnavigate it somehow and get them out more quickly. And the reason is that, unlike what was happening in the US, Europe and the UK, we weren't seeing hundreds and thousands of people dying. We weren't seeing these outbreaks that were affecting hundreds and thousands of people every single day. We actually had a bit of time to make sure we went through the processes. I can only imagine what those on that side would have been going on about, had we skipped those steps, had we cut a corner, had we sped it through. The outcry would have been deafening.

But, of course, the people on that side don't remember that. Their memory is incredibly short; in fact, it's groundhog day, or perhaps it's better to describe them as a bunch of goldfish. I've got to be honest, I am actually quite confused—as I'm sure most of my colleagues on this side are—about what Labor actually want, what they actually support and what they actually think should have happened. No-one knows, because they swap and change and move around and twist and turn every second of the day. I heard a claim about guinea pigs today, and, when we talk about the proper processes of authorisation and approving the vaccines, I'm not quite sure where that even came from. But as they move into their perpetual whine and try and find their next line of attack—based on fallacy, based on misleading information—I just thought I'd go through a couple of the interjections we heard during question time today.

Senator Wong called out, and I think it may have been responding to one of my interjections, and I appreciate the President's ruling that all interjections are unruly and out of order. But Senator Wong claimed over the chamber to me that we were 12 months behind. Now, I don't even know how this is possible—and I know maths isn't their strong suit on that side; I know they struggle a little bit over there with the numbers. But the first vaccine was approved for emergency use in the US on 11 December 2020. Now, by anyone's maths, that's eight months ago. So if Senator Wong can just inform the chamber how we're 12 months behind in the vaccine rollout when the vaccine was wasn't even there—I mean, I realise that Labor talk in mistruths and misleading information, but, you know, one fact every now and then wouldn't hurt them.

For those opposite who don't understand, this vaccine has been developed and approved and rolled out in record speed. The pandemic started, what, in February or March last year? Previous to the development of these COVID-19 vaccines, the shortest time for a vaccine to be developed and approved and to start to be administered was four years, and that was for the mumps. That was the fastest vaccine ever. This one's been done in absolute record time, and, in fact, the operation was called Operation Warp Speed in the US. But some of us who have memories longer than the goldfish remember how much Labor were not happy with that. They felt that the vaccines were being pushed through. They weren't happy with the new technology and certainly not the mRNA, because that was new—we couldn't have that! But now, all of a sudden, there's not enough of it, we didn't buy it before it was approved, we didn't buy it before it had been tested—we certainly didn't buy it before it had gone through TGA processes. They would have been over there complaining, had we spent all this money on a vaccine that then didn't get approved. But Labor never let the facts get in the way of a good scare campaign, something we know they are so fond of.

So, as per usual, those opposite are about as clear as the Mehi after a flood, and as full of as much rubbish and old debris as well. I thought maybe we should invite those opposite to commit to answers in writing to some of these questions, and not only so some of us, and the rest of the Australian people, can get some clarity as to what they actually think. It might also serve as a little reminder for them when they need to go back and check, 'Well, hang on, what did I actually think about this a month ago, a week ago, yesterday or 10 minutes ago?' I'm not quite sure consistency is their strong suit.

I am intrigued to find out whether or not we're now going to see another AZ-type scaremongering campaign because there's a third vaccine in the mix. In hommage to the member for Goldstein, I assume those opposite are participating in a Jimmy-Rees-like form of comedy skit and that we will be seeing these fear campaigns rolled out using the correct pronunciation as to whether we prefer the 'Pffffiiiizer' or the 'Modern-A'. You guys are clearly trying to participate in some kind of comedy act, because you're certainly not working with any form of fact. Do you know anything about the difference between the Moderna and the Pfizer? Do you understand any of the differences other than the brand name?

I can tell you what I know and what anyone with a reading level above grade 3 knows: all vaccines are effective—all of them. All vaccines are effective. All of the vaccines are at the highest safety level, and all of the vaccines are hundreds and thousands of times less likely to kill or injure you than COVID, so just get vaccinated. Stop going out there with your brand based scare campaigns. You and your mates Jeanette Young, Norman Swan and the guy who's not even a doctor, Bill Bowtell: just go away. You are less correct than a broken watch most days.

Maybe I'm just feeling kind—it's Wednesday, I'm wearing pink, and maybe we're a bit warm—but here's another shocker for you: I want to say, 'Well done, Dan Andrews; good on you, Dan.' The Premier of Victoria is out there telling young people to go get the AstraZeneca, absolutely supporting the AZ, Australian jobs and Australian manufacturing. It's an effective vaccine. There's plenty of it around. Let's get out there and get it in those arms. I'm not a big fan of the Premier of Victoria. I'm not sure whether his brothels-not-families lockdown route is really the one we want to go down. It's all a bit unclear how Victoria has really been doing on this, but Dan Andrews's calls on the AZ are spot-on. Perhaps he's just backing in his Victorian mate the member for Maribyrnong, who's currently in the process of resurrecting, Lazarus-style, his leadership ambitions.

To everyone in New South Wales: there are now hubs and buses out there. I love it! Get them out! It's so good. You know what? Park them on the corners. Park them in the shopping centres. And, just because I know how much you love it that they're still open in New South Wales, park them in a Bunnings car park. Go and get your Seasol for your veggie patch. You can't get your sausage sandwich, but go get a vaccine, every time you pop into Bunnings—you could get shot 1 and shot 2. Gosh, imagine how many people would be vaccinated at that rate!

I would like to give a shout-out in particular today to the pop-up clinic in the Sydney LGA that I live in, Redfern and Waterloo. From today through to Saturday, every day between 10 and four, it will be providing the AstraZeneca for anyone 18 or over who wants it. As well, it's very clearly advertised, I'd just like to say, that it is the AstraZeneca. So when you see the ABC report on Sunday, because they managed to find one guy who'd turned up and then had a whinge because he thought he was coming to get the 'Pffffiiiizer'—it's the AZ. It's very well publicised: 'AstraZeneca available'. To everyone in that Redfern and Waterloo area in the inner city of Sydney, around the eastern suburbs: make sure you get over to Woolloomooloo and Waterloo to get that vaccine, because, as the great Richo acknowledged, we need to do whatever it takes. (Time expired)

4:48 pm

Photo of Malcolm RobertsMalcolm Roberts (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The subject is blame, and I'll return to that in a minute, but I can't let the previous speaker's comments go. These vaccines have been provisionally approved. The testing is not complete, because the TGA admits it sees merit in bypassing the testing procedures because of perceived urgency. That is it. They are provisionally approved. They are not fully tested. They rely on the manufacturers' recommendations and the manufacturers' testing. That's it.

At the same time, we see a drug that has been proven safe, now proven effective in clinical trials, in practical real-world trials, in many countries. We see it actually treating COVID successfully, curing COVID successfully and being a prophylactic to prevent COVID and prevent its transmission. That drug is ivermectin. It has been approved in many countries for 60 years; 3.7 billion doses have been given around the world. It has been approved in this country since 2013 for treating various illnesses. It has not been approved for COVID. There are doctors now wanting to use it. There are some doctors actually using it because they're so concerned about people's health.

So we've got a situation in which a minister is bypassing some empirical evidence—there are overseas clinical trials yet he's ignoring them—that could really change the situation in this country. It would change it, just as it has in India and other countries. In the meantime, all we've got is a blame game, exactly as this motion says. The blame game is not just from the Prime Minister. It's from state premiers, state bureaucrats, health ministers and federal ministers. In the meantime, no-one is talking about the people's needs. (Time expired)

4:50 pm

Photo of Jess WalshJess Walsh (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

[by video link] Prime Minister Morrison must be allergic to responsibility, judging by the lengths that he goes to in order to avoid facing a problem and doing something about it. I wonder if he checked the job description before he decided to stick his hand up to be Prime Minister, because, if he did, he should know that the first job of being Prime Minister is to keep Australians safe—not photo ops, not slogans, not money for mates but keeping Australians safe. Time and again we see that, when the Prime Minister fails to do his job, he looks for someone else to blame. Lockdowns caused by leaks from hotel quarantine? Well, blame the state premiers! Low vaccination rates? Well, blame the health advisers; blame the Australian people. Continued outbreaks in aged-care facilities? Blame the essential workers.

But the people of Australia know who is really responsible. Who has failed to deliver a national, purpose-built quarantine system? It's Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Who failed to order enough vaccines and instead decided that it wasn't a race? Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Who failed to get aged-care staff vaccinated by Easter? Again, Prime Minister Scott Morrison. This is who we have leading the biggest national health response in a hundred years: a Prime Minister who blames low-paid essential and insecure workers in aged care, rather than doing what is necessary to keep people safe. Four months after he promised that every aged-care worker would be vaccinated, only one-third have received both doses, because there just weren't enough vaccines to give them. Then he pinned the blame on the aged-care workers. He set a deadline for them to get vaccinated or leave the jobs that they love, but then he went to ground when it came to doing his part. He didn't ensure supply. He didn't ensure that it would get to the workers. He didn't ensure that they could access the vaccines that they need.

The Senate Select Committee on Job Security recently heard evidence from aged-care workers and employers about just how hard it has been to get vaccinated. Employers reported that it wasn't staff hesitancy but the lack of access to vaccines which was delaying the rollout. Mr Greg Reeve, CEO of Heritage Care, said:

… it's been the accessibility. … There doesn't seem to be a significant reluctance to getting vaccinated; it has been about access to the particular drugs required.

Carolyn Smith from the United Workers Union also outlined the barriers that aged-care workers face. She said:

Imagine a worker who lives in an outermetro area and works across two different facilities, sometimes up to 50 hours a week, all at the times when immunisation clinics or GP clinics are open. She was told there was going to be Commonwealth run vaccination in her facility and when she turned up she was told it was only for residents and only if there were any leftovers would she get the vaccination.

Aged-care workers have been trying to get vaccinated, as is required by the national cabinet, but they have been trying to get access to vaccines that don't exist and at times when GPs are open and hubs are open. Without urgent action, what hope do they have?

Prime Minister Morrison has failed on aged-care vaccinations. He failed to ensure that staff had access to the vaccinations they need. He failed to meet his Easter deadline, and I wonder exactly who he is going to blame when he fails to meet his new, re-worked September deadline when aged-care workers trying to do the right thing with no support will be faced with losing their jobs. In a time of crisis, Australia needs a real leader. Instead, Prime Minister Morrison has shown he is prepared to throw anyone under the bus to avoid his responsibility—even Liberal state premiers, health advisers, the people of Australia, and the dedicated, essential and hardworking aged-care workers of this country. He has shown that he won't even take responsibility for members of his own government. How can we call him a leader when he allows members of his own government to spout dangerous misinformation— (Time expired)

4:56 pm

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

This is the second matter of public importance I have spoken on this week. It's somewhat sad that the content hasn't improved. We're meant to be debating matters of public interest, and, from my perspective, I don't think the public is particularly interested in a blame game taking place. I think the public expects those in positions of authority to take responsibility with respect to matters within their authority. When people wish to criticise those in positions of public authority—whatever that position is, whether they be a prime minister, a premier or a senior public servant—I think there is a reasonable expectation that those who are critical should also put forward constructive suggestions and ideas. I don't think there is any public interest in a blame game occurring in this place. I think the public is more interested in looking forward and looking for solutions. This debate shouldn't be simply about political pointscoring. It's an opportunity to debate a matter of public interest. It's an opportunity to provide constructive suggestions and advice and it's an opportunity, I think, to soberly reflect on the current situation and look forward in terms of promoting solutions.

I quoted these same words on Monday in relation to the first MPI I spoke on earlier this week, and I'll say it again. Our Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, 'I take the responsibility for the early setback in our vaccination program.' End quote.

Honourable Senator:

An honourable senator interjecting

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

No, that's the quote. There were no 'buts'. He said, 'I take the responsibility for the early setback in our vaccination program.' End quote.

Senator Whish-Wilson interjecting

There was no 'however'. I'll take the interjection from Senator Whish-Wilson.

Photo of Carol BrownCarol Brown (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Tourism) Share this | | Hansard source

It's disorderly to interject, and I would ask Senator Scarr not to take the disorderly interjection. Continue, Senator Scarr.

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

Okay, I won't take the disorderly interjection. The Prime Minister did also say that he should also take responsibility for the positive things that have happened, and I think that's quite a fair and reasonable position to take, but he did say, 'I take the responsibility for the early setback in our vaccination program.' I think that should be recognised. It was in part recognised by Senator Whish-Wilson in his disorderly interjection, which I'm not going to respond to, Madam Acting Deputy President. At least it was partly recognised by Senator Whish-Wilson, but it's a bit unfortunate that it hasn't been recognised by any other previous speaker in this debate. So the Prime Minister did take responsibility. It is fit and proper that he take responsibility. We have a Westminster system and the Prime Minister should take responsibility.

But, having said that, as we all know, with something as complicated as a vaccine rollout in a country like Australia by the Commonwealth government it isn't government by soliloquy or by a single individual. There are whole departments of people involved in this process. There are the scientific advisers. There is ATAGI. There is the Scientific Advisory Council, which gave advice on what vaccines should be ordered and on the program. There was the medical advice coming from experts. I say to everyone who might be listening to this: please, take your advice from the medical experts. Please take your advice from them. They're the people you should be listening to—your local GP, your local pharmacist and medical experts. Take advice from the experts.

The Prime Minister did that, as the Australian people would expect him to do. We're in the position we're now in and the Prime Minister has taken responsibility. It's extraordinarily pleasing that there has been a material acceleration in the rollout. If those opposite were being reasonable, that would be recognised. The first million vaccine doses took 45 days to roll out— (Time expired)

5:01 pm

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I think the one thing Australians can be sure about in this time of chaos and complexity is that the one race that our Prime Minister will win and would win under any circumstances is how fast you can run away from responsibility. I just hope that at the next election, which will no doubt be in the next nine months, the Australian people run as fast as they can away from this government and vote with their feet.

When I heard Senator Cash talking in question time today, with the coalition asking themselves a question about how many terror attacks they have foiled since 2014, I noted that it's usually a sign that they've hit political rock bottom when that's what they start talking about. I read in Malcolm Turnbull's book over Christmas with interest his discussion about Tony Abbott's reign of terror in this place, hiding behind the flag and trying to throw this out there amongst the Australian people. It is the government's No. 1 role to protect its citizens, but it is absolutely failing to do that with this vaccine rollout. This is a major crisis and the government have failed to protect the Australian people. So it's no wonder the government are going back to questions they haven't asked themselves for years about foiling terror attacks.

What about climate change, the biggest threat we face? Yesterday was all the evidence we need that this government has also failed to protect the Australian people and failed in its duty of care to future generations. Mr Barnaby Joyce said just this morning on the radio, 'We don't have to come up with a plan for climate change in 2050.' That's just like they haven't come up with a plan for vaccinating this country. This government is a mess, and we need to bring a broom.

5:03 pm

Photo of Raff CicconeRaff Ciccone (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

[by video link] I'd also like to thank Senator O'Neill for bringing this matter before the chamber today, because it is indeed a matter of the greatest public importance in our country. In her home state of New South Wales there are now more regional parts of New South Wales in lockdown. As I speak to you now, I'm doing so from a city under lockdown yet again. There are some five million people in Melbourne, all of whom, for the most part, are currently confined to their homes. They're free to leave for barely a few hours a day for their daily exercise. Sadly, this has been a reality for Melburnians for quite some time now and may very well be for some time yet. But it is not just Melbourne that is affected by the latest wave of transmission. As we know, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide all have experienced lockdowns of their own in recent weeks. In the case of Sydney, we may very well see their lockdown continue for weeks, if not months.

Whilst there is no doubt that a multitude of factors has meant the circumstances we are currently living in, there is equally no doubt that the most significant among them is this government's failure to deliver on the vaccine rollout. One would have thought that, in such a case, the government would take responsibility for such failure. Certainly this is what we've seen from previous governments. I wonder if any of us could envisage former prime ministers ducking and running and finger-pointing at everyone under the sun, as this Prime Minister has. Whether it be ATAGI or Pfizer or AstraZeneca or state and territory governments or vaccine clinics or working Australians, everyone has had some share in the burden of the blame except the Prime Minister himself, of course, because he seems to blame everyone else.

As bad as this rollout is in our major cities, however, we must not forget that the challenges are greater in regional and remote communities. We already know that those in regional and remote communities have poorer health outcomes than those in metropolitan areas. This is not something that is new. Those of us in this place who have lived in regional areas or who have travelled to them extensively know full well the extent of this problem: doctors frequently coming and going, clinics not always open, specialists hundreds of kilometres away. These systemically poor health outcomes have meant that Australians in the country are inherently more vulnerable to COVID. As a result, it is these Australians that have the highest price to pay for the government's vaccine failure. It is these Australians that will feel the health repercussions of this most prominently. Australians in regional and remote communities cannot afford further failures. They cannot afford more buck-passing and finger-pointing. What they need are outcomes, not excuses.

As reported in the Herald Sun today, Victorian doctors are administering fewer than half as many vaccine doses as their New South Wales counterparts every single day, leaving my home state behind in the race to meet the targets to reopen. Sadly, this is a government that is more interested in laying blame at the feet of others than in getting on with the job of delivering for our community. I share the disappointment of my fellow Victorians who live throughout country Victoria and who feel let down and at risk because of this government's decision-making. Whilst I cannot promise them that this government will eventually step up and do what's necessary to keep them safe, I can promise that I and all members on this side of the House will not cease to hold the government to account on their behalf.

5:07 pm

Photo of Jordon Steele-JohnJordon Steele-John (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

[by video link] All disabled people who want to get vaccinated need to be able to do just that, and we need to be able to do it urgently. The Morrison government has failed to meet its 1a and 1b targets, and right now there is no plan, no pathway, not even a trail of breadcrumbs to guide us as a community to how to get vaccinated, to give us all the protection that we need. Once again it is the disability community that have been abandoned by our government, and once again it is the disability community that have had to rise, work together and make a clear demand of the government to ensure that we are protected from COVID-19. The community are calling for a list of actions to be taken immediately, and I want to read them in detail to the chamber.

First of all, there is a need to urgently develop and implement a clear and publicly available plan to fully vaccinate disabled people, including people in congregate care settings, disabled people over 12 and those who are not NDIS participants; urgently develop and implement a clear and publicly available plan to vaccinate the close contacts of disabled people—a key aspect that is often missed in these conversations—and release data each week about the number of disabled people and their close contacts who are vaccinated. There is a need for the proper provision of PPE and the creation of a dedicated and fully accessible vaccination booking system to ensure that all call-out services are properly promoted so that we can get vaccinated in our place of residence.

The Greens will not risk the lives of disabled and young people, and we will ensure that, as we move to change the way we respond, the needs of our community are centred. (Time expired)

Photo of Carol BrownCarol Brown (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Tourism) Share this | | Hansard source

The time for the discussion has expired.