Federation Chamber - PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS - COVID-19: Morrison Government

Federation Chamber - PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS - COVID-19: Morrison Government Main Image

I move:

That this House:

(1) recognises the significant impact that COVID-19 is continuing to have on the day-to-day lives of Australians;

(2) notes that the Government has demonstrably failed in preparing the nation to be able to live with COVID-19, with;

(a) significant shortages of basic necessities prevalent in our supermarkets and shops;

(b) many communities being unable to access Rapid Antigen Tests, and countless examples of price gouging of these essential medical supplies; and

(c) issues in supply chains, workforces and a lack of support from the Government continuing to wreak havoc on small businesses and employees;

(3) further notes that the Prime Minister and the Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services would rather go to the cricket than show up and do their jobs while Australians continue to suffer; and

(4) condemns the Prime Minister and the Government for:

(a) their lack of foresight;

(b) their lack of planning;

(c) their lack of leadership; and

(d) abrogating their responsibilities to everyday Australians.

We're now well over two years into the pandemic. By the government's own rhetoric, by now we ought to be able to live in a world that is 'COVID normal', having left our caves and embraced the new world. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. Certainly, it is clear to me that during the pandemic a pattern of behaviour has emerged that has harmed our response and harmed our progress. The reality outside of these walls, in my own community in the electorate of Macarthur and in electorates around the country, is well short of normal. We have a Prime Minister who, at the beginning of the pandemic, was off to the footy. He couldn't manage the vaccine rollout and put some of our most vulnerable, particularly those in aged care but also other vulnerable people, at very high risk. We've had huge queues for testing. We've had a lack of response to staffing levels in our aged-care environment and in our hospitals around the country. We have a Prime Minister who, in spite of being requested to make sure we had supplies of rapid antigen tests available, did nothing of the sort. He really ignored the problem, and it was too little, too late. There has been a pattern of behaviour from this government and this Prime Minister that has harmed our response, harmed our economy and put those most vulnerable at risk.

We've had the aged-care disaster, in which many very vulnerable people have lost their lives, yet we had a minister who was off to the cricket and a Prime Minister who didn't see it as a crisis until far, far too late. Unfortunately, there is a systemic problem here, and it will not be addressed by reading out shopping lists from the health minister or by complaining about the states but doing nothing to fix the problem. People are unsure, they're very worried about what is happening, yet we still have a government whose reaction is too little, too late. The Prime Minister would have everyone believe that everything is going well. That's his perspective, from Kirribilli House, but it's not the perspective that we see in my electorate. There are still supply chain issues, with shortages of even simple things, like aspirin. If you go to the supermarket now, there are control limits on how much aspirin you can buy, because of shortages. It's also true for more sophisticated medications. Tocilizumab, which has led our response for those with severe COVID but is also used for severe rheumatoid arthritis, is in very short supply. Its use is being limited because of the lack of supply. The government have mismanaged the pandemic. They've called the shots wrong. They blame other people. And issues in supply chains are affecting us around the country.

Let us consider rapid antigen tests. It is absolutely ridiculous that we don't use rapid antigen tests in this parliament. Every other parliament around the country is using rapid antigen tests to screen people coming into parliament, yet we are doing nothing of the sort. I've written to the Speaker and to the President of the Senate about this. It is ridiculous that we are still relying on temperature testing for people coming into this parliament. We know that temperature testing is a very poor tool. The majority of people who catch COVID, particularly young people, do not have a fever, and yet we're relying on temperature screening in Parliament House.

It was apparent to me very early on—and I wrote to the Prime Minister about it—that rapid antigen tests could play a very important role in the ongoing management of the pandemic, not just in parliament but also in schools, major businesses, sporting events and functions around the country. We could reduce the restrictions if we used rapid antigen tests. Nothing has happened. Months after rapid antigen tests have become normalised in other countries, the government has failed to secure adequate supplies for our population. Residents of Macarthur face great difficulty even now in getting RATs. In fact, at times they are unable to get them at all. This is a direct result of the Prime Minister's failures and the failures of the coalition government to adequately manage the pandemic from the word go. The response from the Prime Minister has been, 'We're off to the footy; there's no problem,' then, 'I don't hold a hose,' and now 'I don't hold a RAT.' Aged care is a disaster, and the government has had no systemic response to fix the problems. Those opposite have been abrogating their responsibilities to the most vulnerable, and they should be damned for that.