Wednesday, 1 September 2021
Questions without Notice
Western Australia: COVID-19
My question is to the Attorney-General, Senator Cash. In an article this morning in the Australian titled 'Feds muscle up on borders', the Attorney-General warned state governments they may once again face High Court challenges to force their borders open. Given the Morrison-Joyce government has now spent more than $1 million—
Government senators interjecting—
Given the Morrison-Joyce government has spent more than $1 million of taxpayers' money supporting Clive Palmer's High Court challenge to the Western Australian borders, will the minister now guarantee that the Morrison-Joyce government will not spend any more taxpayers' money on challenging Western Australia's border decisions?
I am so glad that Senator Pratt read that article, and, Senator Pratt, can I say: the journalist completely sensationalised what was said. Let me be very clear to you, because what we have—
Opposition senators interjecting—
is Labor in Western Australia, and—my Western Australian Liberal colleagues would understand this—these are just more Labor lies. Let me be very clear, Senator Pratt, for the Channel 7, the Channel 9, the ABC and the Channel 10 news tonight: the Commonwealth will not challenge Western Australia's border closures in the High Court. And we will not, in any way, support Clive Palmer. Can I be clearer? I do not believe so. What we are doing is working with the states and territories through the national plan. That is what we are doing: working with the states and territories to implement the national plan to reopen. And, on any analysis—and my Western Australian colleagues would agree with me—we have actually done incredibly well in Western Australia. Mr McGowan has done incredibly well in keeping COVID-19 out of Western Australia. But the states and territories have now agreed to the national plan. And when 80 per cent of Australians and Western Australians are vaccinated—and I'm so pleased to see Western Australians, every day more and more of them, putting their arms out and saying, 'I will be vaccinated'—the question becomes, for Mr McGowan: if not at 80 per cent, then when? That's all it comes down to. If not at 80 per cent, then when?
Honourable senators interjecting—
Let me make it clear again to Senator Pratt: the Commonwealth will not challenge Western Australia's border closures in the High Court and we will not support any challenge to Western Australia's border closures by Clive Palmer. What we are doing, though, is working with the states and territories in relation to the implementation of the national plan. And in Western Australia, I understand, we've now reached 50 per cent of Western Australians having had their first dose. That is actually a good thing. And very shortly you'll get to 60 per cent, then 70 per cent and then 80 per cent, and, once we are at 80 per cent, the question does become: what do we all do at 80 per cent? But we are working with the states and territories, as agreed, through the national cabinet, to implement the national plan for reopening.
Why is the Morrison-Joyce government more focused on attacking Premier Mike McGowan and Western Australians than on taking responsibility for their failures on quarantine and on the rollout of the vaccines?
I certainly don't believe that I, in any way, knocked Mr McGowan. In fact, what I know I said is that Mr McGowan has done a very, very good job as the Premier of Western Australia in keeping our state relatively COVID-free. I commend Mr McGowan for the work that he's undertaken. That is why the national cabinet has agreed to the national plan for reopening. That is why the Prime Minister, every day, goes out and says to Australians: 'You understand that sticking to the national plan is the key to getting back to as normal life as we can while living with COVID-19.' And, as I said, it is very pleasing that over 50 per cent of Western Australians have now received their first dose of the vaccine. That is a good thing, and we want to see more and more Western Australians receive that first dose so that we can eventually do what the national plan says and live with COVID-19. (Time expired)