ADJOURNMENT SPEECH – COVID RESPONSE
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
CANBERRA (VIA VIDEO LINK FROM IPSWICH)
WEDNESDAY, 4 AUGUST 2021
Like many of my colleagues, I am speaking tonight from my electorate. I'm here in Ipswich.
My constituents are frustrated that we are 18 months into a pandemic and the Prime Minister has failed to develop a network of dedicated quarantine facilities.
There have been nearly 30 leaks from hotel quarantine, leading to community outbreaks, lockdowns, economic hardship, and worse - illness and death.
Here in South-East Queensland we're unlikely to have a dedicated quarantine facility until sometime next year.
It's frustrating because we could have had a fully operational quarantine facility in two months, except that the Prime Minister thought Toowoomba was located in the desert, disregarding the fact that such a quarantine facility would be close to an airport, close to a well-equipped hospital and within range of major Brisbane hospitals.
Canberra is more arid than Toowoomba, yet our forebears built the national capital there.
The Prime Minister appears to be making decisions based on partisan politics, regularly praising LNP premiers while castigating Labor Premiers, National Cabinet notwithstanding.
In 2020, when it became clear that a sustainable, long-term approach was required to address this pandemic, the Queensland Government put a proposal to the Prime Minister for a dedicated quarantine facility at Wellcamp, near Toowoomba.
Rather than concede to Premier Palaszczuk, the Prime Minister chose the old Damascus Barracks in Pinkenba, a site where there are risks from asbestos, buried military hardware and PFAS contamination.
If work could start today, it is unlikely that it could be operational until sometime in 2022.
Even today, overseas visitors continue to be herded into hotels purpose-built for holidaymakers and visitors.
Quarantine is the responsibility of the Federal Government.
This Government should have been working with states and territories, rather than passing the buck and sniping from the grandstand.
While the pandemic is a major issue, the public know there's only one road back to any semblance of normalcy: mass vaccination.
The delta variant is racing through communities.
Sydney and South-East Queensland are in lockdown, with only about 20 per cent of the population fully vaccinated. T
his Prime Minister has failed to secure enough vaccine to protect the Australian public. He decided the vaccine rollout is not a race.
The result is that we don't have enough supply. That's what local health authorities are telling me.
We're now last in the developed world when it comes to having the population fully vaccinated.
There are still people in the priority 'vulnerable' categories yet to be fully vaccinated.
This Government is procrastinating rather than doing the hard work.
We should have had five or more vaccine deals organised.
According to the Darling Downs and West Moreton PHN, only 44 per cent of local aged-care workers in our community are vaccinated with one dose.
Only one in four local aged-care staff are fully vaccinated.
The mandated vaccination deadline for anyone working in aged care is 17 September 2021.
We have just over a month to get all aged-care workers vaccinated, including chaplains, physiotherapists and occupational therapists as well as care staff and nurses.
We know through tragic experience that getting aged-care workers fully vaccinated is critical to protecting our vulnerable ageing population.
Until now, the vaccination rollout has resembled a pre-Federation approach, with states and territories doing their own thing in the vacuum of policy advice and leadership from the Morrison Government.
The Prime Minister has failed at quarantine and vaccination.
Jobs have been lost and hours reduced. Businesses have closed their doors.
In the last couple of days, I've spoken at length to the presidents of local chambers of commerce, local organisations and local faith-based leaders across my electorate of Blair.
There are concerns about the members of their respective communities.
Local business leaders I've spoken to are frustrated and fearful because they don't know what the future holds.
No-one doubts lockdowns are necessary, but they're made necessary by the Prime Minister's failure, and it's costing the public enormously.
I urge the Prime Minister to take up Labor's offer of a $300 vaccine initiative.
Recently, the Prime Minister likened the pandemic to the Olympics.
The performance of this government during the pandemic is far from Olympian and, frankly, merits disqualification.
This is a national emergency.
Prime Minister, it is a race - a race against the virus.