Senate debates

Tuesday, 9 May 2023

Matters of Public Importance


5:19 pm

Photo of Penny Allman-PaynePenny Allman-Payne (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

A letter has been received from Senator Roberts:

Pursuant to standing order 75, I propose that the following matter of public importance be submitted to the Senate for discussion:

"The need for a Royal Commission into Australia's COVID-19 response."

Is the proposal supported?

More than the number of senators required by the standing orders having risen in their places—

5:20 pm

Photo of Malcolm RobertsMalcolm Roberts (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

As a servant to the many different people who make up our one Queensland community, One Nation has today advanced a matter of public importance calling for a royal commission into Australia's COVID response. The rush of real science in the last few months makes it clear that COVID-19 has been a tragic and criminal exercise in stakeholder government. The stakeholders have milked COVID for their own personal and corporate benefit, at the expense of everyday Australians, destroying confidence in our health system. For corporations, the objective was profit from the sale of tests, PPE and fake, deadly vaccines that government and private mandates maximised. This profit accrued from fast-tracked TGA approvals that saved pharmaceutical companies billions of dollars and caused a new cost in human suffering, death and injury.

Nothing could illustrate this point more than the heartbreaking testimony last week of Deborah Hamilton at the Senate inquiry into Senator Hanson's bill to ban COVID injection mandates. Deborah lost her daughter immediately after her COVID injections, which her employer mandated for her to keep her job. Her employer and their parent company had Vanguard investment fund as a leading shareholder and financier. Vanguard is the leading corporate shareholder in Pfizer. Vanguard mandated vaccines they make a profit from. When predatory billionaires and their trillion-dollar investment funds murder a beautiful, vibrant 21-year-old Australian in their unquenchable thirst for profit, it shows corporate ownership and influence have gone too far.

For media the payoff was advertising accepted in return for government's aggressive propaganda-level promotion of the COVID narrative, messaging broadcasts to citizens who were captives in their own homes. Academics took their research grants and delivered the outcomes they were asked to deliver. So much science in the COVID period was delivered with a high degree of confidence, yet in recent months much of the science underpinning our COVID response has been proven to be dodgy, deceitful and dangerous—inhumanly so. Bureaucrats saw the opportunity to spread their power in a way that was previously never allowed. Bureaucrats who were there to oversee drug companies failed in their duties so badly that malfeasance must be a term of reference for a royal commission.

We know the TGA did not check the Pfizer clinical trial data. The TGA took Pfizer's word for the trial results, and Pfizer lied repeatedly. When leading international virologists analysed the trial data in a peer reviewed and published paper they found the Pfizer vaccine caused 14 per cent more harm than it saved and should never have been approved. Our politicians—Australians elected to have nothing but the best interests of their constituents at heart—engaged in policy decisions that did more damage to Australians than any foreign enemy has ever achieved.

To emphasise why our COVID response cannot be allowed to go without scrutiny, let me review the COVID developments that have come to light in just the last month. One: ivermectin won the Nobel Prize for medicine in 2015 and was shown over and over again to be a remarkably effective, safe treatment for early-stage COVID. It would have saved thousands of lives. Ivermectin was never horse paste. It was an obstacle to drug company profits, and our authorities sided with drug companies over the best interests of the people.

Two: COVID injections cause eye damage. Stanford University published a study in Nature journal last month using medical data from 4.5 million people showing that retinal vein occlusion, including blindness, significantly increased during the first two weeks after injection and persisted, in the case of Pfizer and Moderna, for two years. Our vaccine approval process was bypassed. It was smashed.

Three: Hamburg and Munich universities' investigation of long COVID using mouse and human post-mortem tissue found an accumulation of spike protein in the skull marrow and parts of the brain months after infection or injection, leading to a conclusion that spike protein damages the brain and contributes to long COVID, whether the source is the COVID infection or a vaccine. The TGA has now approved the Moderna injection, which uses spike protein, for permanent use. What the hell are they doing!

Four: COVID injections harm menstrual cycles. A study published last month in the British Medical Journal studied three million women in Sweden and concluded the Pfizer vaccine contributed to a 41 per cent increase in menstrual complications. This information was first collated in 2020 and was simply ignored when the fake vaccines were approved.

Finally, the World Health Organization took time out from promoting child grooming to declare COVID no longer a global health emergency.

Now is the time to take stock, to end all private and government mandates, suspend all hasty approvals and re-examine every fake vaccine and every drug approved using emergency approval. Now is the time to call the royal commission Minister Gallagher promised last year. Now is the time to start the painful-yet-necessary process of taking power from those who misused it and taking liberty from those who manipulated the response for their personal profit. Jail the bastards. We want justice. (Time expired)

5:25 pm

Photo of Marielle SmithMarielle Smith (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I also rise to speak on the matter of importance raised today by Senator Roberts. All of us in this chamber note that the COVID-19 pandemic caused enormous dislocation, stress, illness and mortality not just in Australia but around the world. It absolutely stretched our health system and our resources to the limit. It asked so much of our talented and committed workforce in the health and aged-care sectors. There were aged-care workers caring for their residents in really difficult scenarios, doctors on COVID wards holding iPads to their patients to say their goodbyes to families and loved ones, and the work of nurses day after day in very difficult circumstances during a very scary time.

The challenges of this pandemic, of course, have been beyond our health sector, with our teachers, transport workers and retail workers showing up day after day in the most difficult of circumstances, risking their personal health and safety and that of their families to keep our country, our health system and our economy moving. That includes, of course, early educators, who I spoke about in this place many times during the height of the pandemic. They were sent into work each day without PPE, without the necessary supports needed to provide very-hands-on care to some of our most vulnerable citizens as their parents undertook essential work.

The pandemic challenged governments around the world to craft effective public health responses. It threw unprecedented challenges to our scientists, to our health system, to all who worked to develop the vaccine. It presented extremely difficult circumstances for businesses and touched every part of our economy and every part of our society. We said before the last election that, given the enormous dislocation, stress, illness and mortality involved in this pandemic, of course there would need to be a thorough inquiry. The Prime Minister has indicated that the government will undertake, at an appropriate future time, an inquiry into Australia's COVID-19 response that will examine the impact of the pandemic and respective actions of government. That is wholly appropriate.

All of us here know that there were serious issues in the response to the pandemic. I raised a number of them myself in this place, including around the preparedness of the aged-care workforce and the availability of masks and PPE, and it is worth noting that across our country many jurisdictions are already undertaking parliamentary reviews. I note that in South Australia just today another review has been launched into the COVID response and the emergency management response. So there is agreement, and I think there is understanding. I think everyone in this chamber agrees that we need to look at the government's response, look at what happened at that time and review that, but the timing also has to be well considered, noting that the pandemic isn't over. COVID is still amongst us. In my community it is certainly running rife at the moment. We are still in this pandemic. COVID is still with us. It presents a heightened risk during the winter months, which we are just about to enter, and our focus at this particular point in time, as we enter winter, has to be about continuing to keep Australians safe in a pandemic in which we are still living.

We're also still doing serious work during this high-risk time to make sure our aged-care sector and our aged-care workers are supported and that we are minimising outbreaks in these facilities, including through strong infection prevention and control measures, regular reinforcing of advice to address complacency, and the provision of a range of support services to the sector. We know and have seen over years that the aged-care sector is particularly vulnerable, especially during the winter months.

We're also investing $50 million into research into long COVID. This is an issue that has been raised with me by a number of constituents. It led to the recent parliamentary inquiry chaired by Dr Mike Freelander, which made a number of recommendations in its final report on long COVID, informed by over 500 submissions and testimonies from a range of sources. The response to that report is important because there are issues in long COVID too. So, whilst the government agrees that, yes, a review is absolutely and wholly appropriate, the timing of that review, at this particular point in time, is not. But there is absolute agreement on its importance.

5:30 pm

Photo of Gerard RennickGerard Rennick (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak in support of Senator Roberts's motion on the need for a royal commission into COVID. It is long overdue. I will qualify that by saying that, if there is a royal commission into COVID, all aspects of the management of the COVID pandemic should be looked at properly. I say that because, when I went to the Queensland Supreme Court to listen to the police case put forward by the Queensland police that were stood down because of the mandates, the judge said that he wasn't interested in the biochemistry of the vaccine. If you're not interested in the biochemistry of the vaccine and the biochemistry of the human body, I fail to see how you can do a proper review of what took place.

The first thing we need to have a good look at in any royal commission is what genomic sequence was used in the PCR test. Knowing that the virus had 29 proteins of about 1,000 nucleotides each, which part of those nucleotides was actually used in the PCR test to determine a positive COVID case? We still don't know what was used in the PCR test in terms of that part of the sequence. There's a primer, and then there's a probe. What part of that probe was used and amplified—40 times, I might add? The cycle threshold used in Australia was 40 times. Anthony Fauci himself said that anything over 30 is basically considered dead nucleotides. The TGA said that the PCR test couldn't distinguish between a live and dead virus. So how many people tested positive for COVID that didn't actually have COVID? We need to do some serious quality assurance here.

We spent hundreds of billions of dollars locking the country down. Before we even got to the vaccine rollout, we caused immense harm through government overreach in locking people out of their homes, states and the country. When they were allowed in, they were locked down for up to two weeks. I'm still getting emails from Queenslanders who have been asked to pay for their two weeks in hotel accommodation, and they can't afford it. They have a $10,000 bill because they were locked down against their will for two weeks. We have to look at why the state government spent hundreds of millions of dollars on these quarantine facilities that were never used. In Queensland, the Wellcamp quarantine facility at Toowoomba has been handed over to Wagners. I can assure you that these guys don't need any free gifts from the government.

It's the same in Western Australia, where $600 billion was spent on RATs. All they did was test for antibodies. You could have antibodies, day or night, for all sorts of coronaviruses. We need to have a serious look at this. We need to ask the question: why did three different pharmaceutical companies have a vaccine for a coronavirus in the first two weeks after Joe Biden was elected when, 40 years prior to that, they'd never been able to find a vaccine for a coronavirus? Suddenly, after Joe Biden's election, we have pharmaceutical companies that have a vaccine for a coronavirus that was supposedly going to stop transmission and infection. Did it stop transmission and infection? No.

By September 2022, we had 10,000 recorded cases of COVID. When I caught COVID, I didn't bother telling the government. I just stayed home for seven days. This idea that you have to get a test and tell the government every time you catch a virus has never taken place before. Are we going to go forward with rules like that? I don't think so. It's not sustainable to live in a society where we terrify people about a virus. I'm not saying there wasn't a virus; I'm sure there was a virus and a pathogen out there. By all means we should be protecting the vulnerable, but we shouldn't be locking down healthy people, especially those in the working-age population, denying them the right to work and not allowing them to make proper choices, given the risk of the virus for them is very low.

I personally dispute whether the vaccine did stop serious infection. I'd actually argue it possibly enhanced it, given that studies show that there was an increase in IgG4, which is a down-regulating antibody, and there was also an increase in the interleukin 10 cytokine. These are all down-regulating proteins in your body, which are designed to stop your immune system from reacting to all this overexposure to viruses. I welcome a royal commission into COVID, but I would hope that it's done with the best intentions and not with the idea of being a political hit job. (Time expired)

5:35 pm

Photo of Jordon Steele-JohnJordon Steele-John (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Disabled people should have always been put first in the planning and response to the pandemic. We should have never seen the kind of delays and the lack of basic understanding about disabled people's needs in emergency health responses that were in fact the reality when COVID broke out, and we must never see them again. There has been plenty of consultation about pandemic response now, and so, from this point forward, there is no excuse that can be found in the halls of government for the failure to centre disabled people in emergency health responses.

For disabled people, we know that the Morrison government's response to the pandemic was grossly inadequate. The response to the pandemic largely failed to meet the government's obligations under the UNCRPD. The Morrison government failed to roll out the vaccine to disabled people as a priority community and failed to quickly immunise their family members and their workforce, which are central to supporting them. The government were too slow to provide PPE supplies and too slow to provide RATs to the workforce and to disabled people, increasing our risk of infection and transmission. Disabled people and carers were denied the COVID supplement payment that all other vulnerable people received—that was a measure that was in fact supported by both major parties in this place—not to mention that we didn't receive clear, accessible and consistent information.

Disabled people were not consulted or included in planning and rollout processes across the board. It took months, after the government started to respond at all, for an advisory body to be established. Those in residential accommodation settings were often left isolated, distressed and vulnerable. The Morrison government failed to collect adequate data on disabled people contracting the virus or on the deaths associated with the virus. That is a failure which continues to this day under this government, with the absurd reality that, if a person who is disabled contracts or dies from COVID-19 but is not an NDIS participant—I remind the Senate that a vast majority of disabled people are not NDIS participants—then that is not reported anywhere as a disabled person having contracted or died from COVID.

We know all this because there have been many reviews and consultations about responses to the pandemic to this point, including hearings of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability. There are also current, ongoing reviews being undertaken about the federal government's and the state and territory governments' responses to COVID-19, including their responses specifically in relation to disabled people. In my home state of Western Australia, there is a review underway right now. The Greens will be closely monitoring the outcomes and recommendations of these reviews, as we are closely monitoring the outcomes and recommendations of the reviews that are looking into the detail of the impacts of things such as long COVID. We will be looking particularly to the disability royal commission for its expected recommendations in its report in September. For these reasons, we will not support this motion at this time.

5:40 pm

Photo of Matthew CanavanMatthew Canavan (Queensland, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to support Senator Roberts' motion on the need for a royal commission into Australia's COVID response, and I hope the government can too, because right now the Labor Party are on the verge of breaking another promise that they made to the Australian people in regard to having an inquiry into COVID. I welcome the comments earlier by Senator Marielle Smith, who said they did still support an inquiry, but we are now two weeks away from a year since the election, since Mr Albanese made this promise to the Australian people, and people are still desperately waiting for this inquiry.

I want to put on record exactly when Mr Albanese made this promise, so it's not just me saying that. On 25 January last year, a few months before the election, Mr Albanese spoke at the National Press Club. A report of that speech in the Australian Financial Review said that, when Mr Albanese was asked whether he would have an inquiry—I think the question was a royal commission—into coronavirus, Mr Albanese said it was 'beyond doubt that you will need an assessment'. He went on to say, 'Whether that would be a royal commission or some form of an inquiry, that will need to happen.' That promise was made a year and two months ago, and we haven't had any detail since. There has not been a single reference about what that inquiry would look like. Will it be a royal commission? What will its terms of reference or powers be? Will it be able to inspect the decisions of state governments and state bureaucrats? There's been nothing, absolute radio silence from the government until Senator Roberts—and I give him credit for moving this motion—and through this motion we've heard a statement from a government senator saying they do still support an inquiry. Well, where is it?

At the time, Mr Albanese gave the excuse that we couldn't have it right now because we were in the heat of the pandemic. This was early last year. Clearly, we're not in the heat of the pandemic anymore. All of the restrictions have gone. No-one, effectively, is wearing masks anymore. It is time to have a proper inquiry into what went on. In a few hours time, we're going to have a government budget delivered, and that budget will show Australia with crushing levels of debt, largely or significantly accumulated because of the response to the coronavirus pandemic. There was over $300 billion of government spending to support the decisions that were made to lock down, to close borders, to roll out a vaccine in record time—all of this spending added up. The fact that we now have seven or eight per cent inflation in Australia is largely because of that government expenditure and that government spending. This has been the largest single level of government expenditure outside of war, and we are still waiting for a proper inquiry into what the hell happened.

Other senators have raised that people who have lost loved ones during the pandemic deserve this inquiry, that people who have been injured by vaccines deserve this inquiry, that people who have suffered through lockdowns deserve this inquiry. But every Australian family suffering to pay their bills right now deserves this inquiry, because the reason we have this inflation is the somewhat, in the end, misguided policy responses to this pandemic.

You can only hazard a guess that those who are resisting this, those who are using delaying tactics here to have this inquiry are a little concerned about what it might find out. They are hoping, perhaps, that people will forget or that people will have moved on from their roles and positions by the time this inquiry is announced, and that's not good enough. We need to have this ASAP, because the longer it takes, the less institutional and corporate knowledge will remain in government bureaucracies to actually reveal what the hell happened. We should have had this inquiry announced as soon as the pandemic effectively ended late last year. We've waited long enough. I give credit to Senator Roberts for bringing this motion. I fully support it, and, apparently, the government supports it too. Well, stop the talk, and just get on with it and announce an inquiry ASAP. It should really be a royal commission. We have had royal commissions into robodebt, into pink batts—all of these other types of things. Surely, we can have a royal commission into the largest government response in this country outside of wartime? People deserve that.

We've had some Senate inquiries. Last week we had a Senate inquiry into removing vaccines—we've still got vaccine mandates in some areas. They should be hauled in first. I note that Pfizer and Moderna have refused to appear at those Senate inquiries. We are pursuing that, but that's another reason why we should have a royal commission, because all of these companies and all of the government bureaucrats should be held to account and made to explain to the Australian people what the hell happened. (Time expired)

5:45 pm

Photo of Ralph BabetRalph Babet (Victoria, United Australia Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The UAP obviously support the establishment of a royal commission into our COVID-19 response, but we don't just support one; we demand one. It's time. To simply move on from the pandemic as if nothing ever happened—'Don't worry about it'—is an absolute outrage, maybe an even greater outrage than the multiple outrages perpetrated during the pandemic itself. To not forensically examine how the government and public institutions handled the COVID crisis would represent an epic failure of curiosity, a dereliction of public duty, and would heap insult on top of injury to the millions of Australians whose lives were devastated not only by the virus but, more importantly, by the government's response to the virus.

University of New South Wales professor of economics Gigi Foster analysed the economic, health and societal impact of government imposed COVID lockdowns and estimated that the cost was 68 times greater than any benefit provided. If she's even half right, we need to investigate that. If it's even partly true, decency alone, let alone duty, demands a full and frank inquiry. Real-world evidence comparing Sweden, where lockdowns were not implemented, with nations like ours, where government panic was the order of the day, showed Sweden actually did better on every relevant data point.

Does anyone here remember what happened in my home state of Victoria? Police enforced curfews and rings of steel around Melbourne and arrested a pregnant mother in her home for a Facebook post. To ignore this, to sweep it under the carpet, to insist, 'Nothing to see here,' is just disgraceful. That's what it is; it's disgraceful. I could go on and on with more examples and more evidence that the state and federal governments, first of all driven by fear, then drunk on power, hurt and harmed citizens with their manic COVID response.

Investigation—we need to have one. That's to say nothing of vaccine mandates, which threatened free men and women with punitive measures, effectively turning them into second-class citizens, destroying so many livelihoods and breaking up families if they declined a drug that has since proven to be less than effective, let's put it nicely, and in some cases dangerous. Worse, we're now seeing overwhelming evidence of the injuries that were caused by these mandates.

Are we not the least bit curious? Do we not care even a little bit? Are we really going to tell Aussies we're uninterested in finding out any truths? We must investigate. We must learn lessons. We must make sure these mistakes are never repeated. A royal commission into Australia's COVID-19 response is not something we should just consider; it is something we should begin at the earliest opportunity. It is the least we can do for the people we represent. I was elected largely on the issue of lockdowns and vaccine mandates, due to the heavy-handed, unscientific nature of what the government did both in my home state of Victoria and around the country, and I made a promise to the people who voted for me that I would always push for an investigation and uncover the truth I'm here today to call on all of you to have an interest in the truth, to say: 'Hey, we're not going to sit back and just push this under the rug.' We're going to find out what happened because we want to do better for our constituents. We don't want to be back in this position one day in the future, especially now that the World Health Organization has come out and said that they want control over our health policy. Let's not let this happen again.