Monday, 18 October 2021
Questions without Notice
Thank you, Mr President. It's just great to be back, I've got to say. My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Birmingham. With Australians responding magnificently to the call to get vaccinated against COVID-19 so we can safely return to normal life, can the minister advise the Senate how the Liberal and National government is supporting our safe reopening and economic recovery from the pandemic?
I, too, would like to warmly welcome back Senator Molan. It is wonderful to see him back in this chamber and, indeed, to see him looking so well. Congratulations on your battle, Jim.
Australians have been responding magnificently to the call to get vaccinated, as Senator Molan said. More than 32.6 million vaccines have been administered across Australia. Some 84.8 per cent of those over the age of 16 have received their first dose of a vaccine, and 68.3 per cent across the nation have received their second dose, being fully vaccinated. This comes when Australia's comparison in the saving of lives to the rest of the world remains an incredibly strong one. We remain the nation amongst the 38 OECD countries to have the second-lowest incidence of COVID cases per capita. We're in a nation where we have seen far fewer deaths. In fact, if you look at the UK or the USA, they've seen some 40 times the number of deaths per capita that have occurred in Australia from COVID-19. By avoiding the OECD averages in terms of COVID-19 deaths, we've seen some 30,000-plus Australian lives saved and the time for millions of Australians—the vast majority of Australians now—to turn out and to get vaccinated, enabling us to see those states who have been battling lockdowns, such as Victoria, New South Wales and here in the ACT, begin the steps of reopening and other states begin the steps of looking at how they transition to the next stages of a more vaccinated population.
I welcome the news from the Queensland government, just prior to question time, indicating that the vaccination targets set out in the national plan our Prime Minister released, informed by the Doherty institute modelling, will see Queensland open its borders at those 70 and 80 per cent thresholds. That is welcome news and a sign of the progress being achieved.
r BIRMINGHAM (—) (): Australia is one of the few countries in the world that, after the COVID-19 recession of last year, saw its economy grow back to be larger than it was prior to the pandemic starting. Whilst the delta strain and the lockdowns across parts of the eastern states have caused an impact, on the whole our labour market remains strong. Despite the havoc of the delta variant, the outlook for the Australian economy is incredibly strong. This was reaffirmed last week by one of the three major global credit-rating agencies, Fitch, who not only reaffirmed Australia's AAA credit rating but indeed upgraded our outlook. They had previously indicated that Australia was on the negative watch list. They've removed Australia from that, reaffirming the AAA credit rating, removing that negative watch list and pointing to the strength of the Australian economy and to their confidence in terms of the jobs rebound that we've seen before when coming out of COVID lockdowns and that we will see again. Australia stands tall in the world for saving both lives and livelihoods, and that is something that we should all be grateful for. (Time expired)
What we'll see is that the continued opening up in accordance with the national plan that is happening across New South Wales and that we're now seeing Victoria and the ACT take steps to follow will give that confidence. The encouragement of seeing greater freedom in terms of international movements to come will enhance business confidence. The news from Queensland today will be one to enhance business confidence and I hope will be looked at by other state and territory premiers and chief ministers in relation to decisions aligned with the national plan, because what we've able to achieve as a country is not just saving lives but providing the scientific framework for decisions to be made, the scientific framework of the Doherty institute modelling demonstrating that at 70 per cent and 80 per cent fully vaccinated rates we can not only take the steps to reopen but do so while keeping Australians safe and do so in ways that enable us to manage COVID-19 as more analogous to the flu and that create an environment of confidence for Australian businesses and for Australia. (Time expired)