Thursday, 26 August 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Aged Care, Senator Colbeck. Yesterday, in question time, the minister was unable to say what advice the Morrison-Joyce government had received about the prevalence and impact of long COVID, including in relation to children and infants. Last night, he sought advice and clarified: 'Longer-term impacts of COVID-19 on children under 16 years are emerging.' Will the minister admit to Australian parents that the Morrison-Joyce government can't tell them what the impacts of long COVID are on their children?
I have to say that it is really very disturbing that the Labor party continue to try and frighten Australians about the impacts of this virus. This virus has been with us for a little over 18 months. We are still learning about this virus. As we learn about the virus and as the advice comes to us, we are very comfortable with providing that information to the Australian people so that they can understand it too. But it is changing all the time. As information emerges, we work with health agencies around the world to better understand the impacts of the virus. Of course, as different variants of the virus emerge, they also have different impacts.
I did respond to the chamber, as I said I would in question time yesterday, and I indicated that we are all still learning about the syndrome. But it also indicates the importance of the other measures that we have in place to support Australians in dealing with the virus, including the process of vaccination of the broader population. We know that, when we vaccinate the broader population and we get those rates up, that protects everyone because it limits the transmission of the virus through the community. So we will continue to work to understand the virus, working with the health professionals. There are some symptoms of this that will continue to emerge—
Israel, which has fully vaccinated 78 per cent of people aged 12 years and over, has predicted that, by September, half of new COVID cases will be in children. How many Australian children are projected to contract COVID when Australia reaches the 70 and 80 per cent vaccination targets for those aged over 16?
Those figures will depend on the amount of virus being transmitted through the community. I think it's a ridiculous thing for the senator to state across the chamber, because the information will be dependent on the amount of virus being transmitted through the community and on the various variants of the virus that might be being transmitted at that point in time. We know that the delta variant, for example, is much more transmissible than the alpha variant was. The virus continues to mutate, and the effects of that are being felt and learnt in respect of the way that the virus moves through the community. But we do know one thing. There are a range of principles we can follow to protect ourselves: social distancing; processes that we're working on with the states with respect to the restriction of movement; and, of course, vaccination.
The Morrison-Joyce government was responsible for the tragic deaths of 685 older Australians in residential aged care last year and has failed First Nations children in western New South Wales, who account for more than 40 per cent of new cases. How can Australian parents possibly trust that this government will protect their kids?
An opposition senator: That's right!
Honourable senators interjecting—
It's quite clear that, despite some members of the opposition indicating that they support the national plan to emerge from COVID, there are quite a few on that side that do not. And it's about time they got on board, because I can tell you that the Australian people are on board. They want to take up vaccinations. They want their freedoms back.
Senator Polley interjecting—
It's about time the Labor Party did other than undermine the national plan for us to recover from COVID and got on board with the rest of us.
Honourable senators interjecting—