Monday, 22 November 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Birmingham. In August this year Mr Morrison said:
A business under property law has the ability to say 'no, you can't come in', and they can ask for that. That's a legitimate thing for them to do. It's got nothing to do with ideology.
But last week he claimed that, at 80 per cent, unvaccinated people should be able to get a cup of coffee at a cafe in Brisbane. Why did Mr Morrison change his mind?
Indeed, the Prime Minister has continued to be clear, in the other chamber and in comments in recent days, that he believes that Australian businesses—as he said in that interview on 25 August this year—should and do have the right, under existing laws, to make decisions in relation to the operation of their businesses themselves, that it is a matter for those businesses in terms of how they structure their arrangements in relation to customers and those entering their businesses and requirements around vaccination status.
We've been clear all along that it was not the government's intention to change the laws in relation to those arrangements, either to motivate or encourage more businesses to apply such provisions or to do so in a way that would prevent Australian businesses from doing so. We provided and published, as the Minister for Workplace Relations did through her agencies, the information to Australian businesses that provided them with the choice and the opportunity in how they respond. That's what the Prime Minister said in the interview on 25 August that Senator Gallagher referenced. That remains the case, and I believe it's what he has repeated in the House during the course of question time today.
But, crucially, the fact is that the vast majority of Australians have been vaccinated, with more then 85 per cent double-dosed, and that number continues to grow each and every day. That ensures that we can and should have confidence that we can, as the nation is doing, move through the stages of reopening under the national plan that was taken by the Prime Minister to national cabinet and that means that steps are taken to reopen progressively from particularly the 80 per cent double-vaccination level. That's what we've continued to do, and another important step was taken today in announcing the reopening of our international borders to visa categories— (Time expired)
Recently, Senator Pauline Hanson declared: 'He has listened to me because that's why he's changed his tune with the whole lot.' Is Senator Hanson right to say she changed Mr Morrison's mind?
On the primary question, when it was put to me that there'd been some change of position, I went through the fact that the Prime Minister's position, the government's position, was consistent and is consistent in relation to the fact that businesses have that choice, and it's the choice of individual business owners. The Prime Minister listens to people right around the country, including those in this place. He doesn't always agree with the positions put by others and, indeed, he was very clear—and I believe Senator Hanson made it public—that the government would not be supporting the bill that she brought to parliament this morning. It was debated. It was voted on. The government did not support that bill. That is what the Prime Minister said to Senator Hanson, what she has confirmed publicly that he had said to her, and that was the position the government applied in this chamber this morning.
Has Mr Morrison changed his mind or is he engaging in doublespeak in order to campaign to a small and extreme element of the Australian population? When Mr Morrison tries to tell everyone what they want to hear, how can anyone believe a word he says?
Mr Morrison has provided exceptional leadership throughout the pandemic, from the moment on 1 February last year when the decision was made to close our international borders and to start that process—a decision that, perhaps, more than anything else, kept COVID out of this country and provided the time and capacity for Australia to save 30,000-plus lives and to be able to roll out a vaccine program that has now penetrated and reached a far greater proportion of Australians than nearly any other country on this planet. It was a huge accomplishment to see that occur.
The Prime Minister led, in relation to questions of mandatory vaccination, when it came to protecting our most vulnerable, those in the aged-care sector. The Prime Minister also led in saying we need to be able to reopen. He took a scientifically endorsed plan to national cabinet, outlining a road map to get the states and territories to see that path to reopening as well. It's been leadership to keep Australians safe and to protect Australian jobs but also to make sure we can successfully and safely reopen. (Time expired)
[by video link] My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Aged Care, Senator Colbeck. The British Medical Journal has published an article revealing that the company that conducted part of the phase 3 trial of Pfizer's Comirnaty COVID vaccine—covering 25,000 people—falsified data, unblinded patients, employed inadequately trained staff and was slow to follow up on adverse events. Minister, the Morrison-Joyce government failed to conduct an Australian trial of the Pfizer vaccine and, instead, simply took Pfizer's word for it. Was this a failure in your duty of care to the Australian people?
I can't agree with the statement that you make as a question, Senator Roberts, at all, through you, President. The Australian government undertook a comprehensive assessment of each and every vaccine that is being used in this country to ensure Australians had the confidence that we had safe and efficacious vaccines for utilisation in the pandemic, and I think the results speak for themselves.
If you look at the circumstances in respect of what's occurred in aged care this year compared to last year, the impact is profound. It is very clear that we took all steps to ensure that the vaccines that are being used in this country were safe and that they worked. We took evidence and advice, yes, from the companies. We received the data that they used in their trials, appropriately, but we also had the advantage of being able to use data from other jurisdictions around the world, and we've remained in close contact with those agencies that consider vaccines, to ensure that they are safe to use.
I say to all Australians who are still contemplating whether or not they should get a vaccine: please be assured that our public health system and our authorities—the Therapeutic Goods Administration, recognised as one of the best in the world—have done—
Yes, Senator Reynolds—amazing work, to ensure that Australians who want a vaccine and anyone living in this country who wants a vaccine have access to a safe and efficacious vaccine. (Time expired)
nator ROBERTS () (): [by video link] Prior to the TGA's approval of Comirnaty vaccine, Steve Anderson, the director of the US Centre for Biologics Evaluation and Research, released data detailing potential Comirnaty adverse outcomes, including Guillain-Barre syndrome, acute myocarditis, autoimmune disease and death. This is exactly what has happened. In approving Pfizer's Comirnaty injections, did the TGA fail in its duty of care to the Australian people?
No, it did not. I couldn't be any firmer than that. As I indicated in my answer to the primary question, the Therapeutic Goods Administration has considered all data in relation to the vaccine and, in fact, it continues to monitor the data in relation to the vaccines. We've been extremely open with respect to that. We've published reporting on the outcomes of the vaccination program here in Australia. We've published data in relation to adverse reactions to the vaccines, of all types. So I reject any assertion that the TGA has failed in its duty at all. No, it has not. I could not be any firmer. We should be proud of the fact that we have one of the best therapeutic goods assessment organisations in the world, and we have safe vaccines for Australians. (Time expired)
[by video link] The latest data from America's CDC indicates that children aged 12 to 17 are likely to experience myocarditis and related conditions at the rate of 9.5 cases per million vaccinations. Yet, after the second vaccination dose, that rate rises sevenfold from 9.5 to 66.7. In approving two doses of Pfizer's Comirnaty vaccine for our children without testing, are the Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, and Professor Skerritt at the TGA risking our children's lives, health and future?
The very simple answer to that question is no. As I've said in my previous answer, the TGA continues to monitor all of the data not just from Australia but from around the world in relation to the impact and the utilisation of the vaccines, particularly those that we have for administration here in Australia. We continue to monitor all of the data so that we have the most up-to-date information and so that we can continue to assure Australians that the vaccines that they are taking are both safe and efficacious. All of the data and the advice continues to demonstrate that. Are there contraindications in relation to the vaccines? Yes, there are. We publish the data; we're open with that. But we need to ensure that Australians have confidence that the vaccines we have access to are safe and efficacious. (Time expired)