Taking Note - Vaccination Rollout

04 August 2021



I want to comment briefly on the remarks made by Senator Van before me in this debate taking note of questions by Labor senators. He said that Labor have never met a business we don't hate. It's completely absurd and offensive commentary from Senator Van , given that the nature of debate in this chamber today has been about economic support for individuals and economic support for businesses. I know that I personally have been supporting businesses and businessowners through this time who have suffered tremendously because of these lockdowns—not just economically and financially but in terms of their mental health—and are really, really struggling. To suggest that I or other senators in this place hate businesses, when we are currently trying to support them through something extremely tough, and something your government has contributed to, is horrifically offensive and disgusting.

But to the matter at hand, the questions raised by Labor senators in parliament in question time today that we're taking note of: can we just look at the facts? Only 15 per cent of Australians are fully vaccinated. We know that the order of vaccination we need to see to have some kind of road map or plan out of this is well above that. We're talking 70 to 80 per cent—in that frame. We're at 15 per cent. Senator Colbeck couldn't even answer the specific questions that we had around the levels of vaccination in certain parts of Australia and, in particular, vulnerable parts of Australia. He says the rollout's continuing to gather pace. Seriously, mate? Seriously? That's the best you've got? You can't answer specific questions about where we're at in the vaccine rollout when we know we need to get much, much higher. We need to see less back patting from this government, and more arm jabbing. It's ridiculous.

We need to get the vaccine rollout on track. We need jabs in arms. That is our ticket out of these lockdowns, which are causing enormous distress in my home state of South Australia and, of course, enormous distress in New South Wales, where they've been going on for weeks and weeks. And there are weeks and weeks—at least—of lockdown in the future for the people of New South Wales. Who knows what the future holds for Queensland. And we have a government. while this is going on, that just shrug their shoulders and say: 'We'll be right. She'll be right, mate. It'll be okay. We'll get there.' Well, Australians are sick of your complacency. Businesses are sick of your complacency. Australians are sick of your complacency, and they're sick of your blame-shifting. You had two jobs: the vaccine rollout and fixing the mess of quarantine. How are you doing on both of those? Less patting yourself on the back, please, and more jabs in arms. I think that would be a really, really good place to start.

South Australia recently went through a week of lockdown. I know it was only a week, and I acknowledge the states around Australia who are going through or have gone through a lockdown much longer than that. But even one week of lockdown has had tremendously difficult impacts on people in my home state. It impacted their mental health, their wellbeing and their social connectedness. It impacted businesses and unemployment. It impacted people who couldn't work from home and who didn't have a job to go to if their business was shut down, if their workplace was shut down. It impacted the essential workers who went to work every day, at great personal risk to themselves and to their families, to keep our economy moving, to keep us safe, to keep essential services open during a lockdown. Many of these workers aren't vaccinated, many haven't been eligible for a vaccination yet. They're working on our checkouts and in our supermarkets; they're driving our buses and our trains; they're working in essential businesses and essential jobs. They are waiting for this vaccine rollout to ramp up. They're waiting for vaccinations to become available so that they can book in. They're waiting to have their jabs so that they can be safe and protected at work. That's what they're waiting for this Commonwealth government to do. They're two pretty simple things: the vaccination rollout and fixing the mess of hotel quarantine, which contributed to these outbreaks in the first place.

Lockdowns are a necessary tool in combating the Delta variant—I understand and appreciate that, and Australians do too—but we do expect the Commonwealth government to do everything they can with all the policy levers they have available to minimise the impacts of this, to minimise the likelihood of future lockdowns and to minimise the impacts on people living through them and experiencing them. It's not about expecting you to have perfect 20/20 vision in hindsight; it's about expecting you to respond to what's in front of you and to do the best by your fellow Australians, to use every lever in your arsenal to fight this and to make it easier for those Australians doing it tough.