Senate debates

Wednesday, 25 August 2021

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

COVID-19: Western Australia, COVID-19: Vaccination

4:35 pm

Photo of Nita GreenNita Green (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

[by video link] In question time today what we heard from the ministers—and what we continue to hear from the Prime Minister—was an attempt to misconstrue the facts and avoid scrutiny on some very important issues relating to the vaccine rollout. We know that the vaccine rollout is the responsibility of the federal government and the Prime Minister, and yet when we ask these questions they continue to ignore the answers and not contribute to what we need to know and what families need to know about what we will see over the next couple of months.

We know that there is an agreed national plan. We know that we need to reach 80 per cent of people vaccinated to see restrictions start to be pulled away. But we also know that reaching 80 per cent won't mean that every restriction will be minimised. That is what the national plan says. It's a document that is freely, publicly available, and yet we seem to have this idea from ministers and from the Prime Minister that there is a magic solution. We need to understand how we're going to reach that magic 80 per cent mark and how many people in vulnerable cohorts will be vaccinated. That is why Labor asked these really important questions today. We need to understand how children will be vaccinated. We need to understand how children with a disability will be vaccinated. We were asking questions about how many people will be vaccinated from First Nations groups. These are questions that need to be answered, and yet the government continues to avoid these questions.

It seems to me that the government wants to move forward in a way that avoids any scrutiny of what is happening right now. That is very convenient for them, we understand. They've got their talking notes and they're out there pushing this idea, picking fights with premiers and trying to talk about something that will happen five or six months in the future. Where we are headed is incredibly important, but how we get there is important as well. Right now we are not even close to this target. Right now half of the country is in lockdown. Right now only 13 per cent of Indigenous Australians are vaccinated. And right now only one in five aged-care homes across the country are ready to have staff fully vaccinated when they need to be. Right now where I live, in Cairns, there are two aged-care homes that have only 10 per cent of their workers fully vaccinated. So of course these questions need to be asked and of course they need to be answered.

We want to understand how we got into this mess in the first place, because not committing to vaccinate these vulnerable cohorts will get us into a mess no matter what happens with our targets. The Prime Minister wants to pick a fight with our premiers about what might happen later on, and that's because he is trying to distract from what is happening right now and his responsibility for this mess. We know that, in the last 18 months of this pandemic, the Prime Minister has failed to build a single national quarantine facility. Right now, sadly, we've had to close interstate arrivals in Queensland because the Morrison government failed to help us build the quarantine facilities that we needed. We know that, right now, vulnerable Australians are not vaccinated. Groups that need to be and that were a priority under this government's plan—its own plan—have not been vaccinated yet. We also know that that is because Scott Morrison failed to get enough vaccines.

Finally, with the last minute that I have to discuss this very important issue, I just want to respond to some comments from the government, from senators opposite, accusing Labor of running down this vaccine program. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was an incredibly difficult decision for me as a pregnant woman to decide to get vaccinated. I did that freely as soon as I possibly could and I made sure that that information was public. I encouraged other pregnant women to be vaccinated. I posted a photo with a needle in my arm. There is no-one on the Labor side who is not encouraging people in this country to go and get vaccinated. What we have on the other side of politics are MPs who are making sure that they're flirting with the antivaxxers out there—anti-lockdowns, anti-masks. If there is someone undermining this program, it is the government, it is the MPs, it is Scott Morrison.

Question agreed to.