DOORSTOP: 28/7/21

July 28, 2021


MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER HEALTH AND AGEING: In this afternoon's press conference, the Prime Minister Scott Morrison has made yet another series of changes to the inadequate support arrangements in place for businesses and workers who were suffering through the lockdowns and the ongoing restrictions in other states caused by his failures on vaccines and quarantine. We have been calling, along with business, with state governments and unions for a number of the changes made today but there are still too many gaps in the system. This chaotic approach by Scott Morrison chopping and changing the support arrangements every few days is a body blow to confidence and certainty for Australian businesses and workers. Still there is absolutely no support whatsoever for the many thousands of workers who even after the end of lockdowns in South Australia and Victoria are suffering huge losses of wages because of ongoing COVID related restrictions. All of this, of course, could be resolved by Scott Morrison simply swallowing his pride and reintroducing the JobKeeper system that was shown to be so effective last year. 
Scott Morrison, after all, had two main jobs this year: a speedy and effective vaccine rollout and a safe national quarantine system. Yet again today we've seen a welter of evidence that shows that he has failed on both of those jobs. Today we've had yet another outbreak from hotel quarantine, the second in just two days, the 28th during Scott Morrison’s quarantine system. The Chief Health Officer in Queensland today said that this is a system that is clearly insufficient. A piece of advice from a health expert on top of advice going back to last year, that said hotels built for tourism, not medical quarantine, are an insufficient protection to the Australian community, particularly in the face of this highly infectious Delta variant. Remember this lockdown that's still in place in Sydney, restrictions that are still in place the across the country, goes back to another failure in Scott Morrison’s quarantine system several weeks ago. The fact that a limousine driver transferring flight crew from the International Airport to their hotel was not vaccinated, was not wearing PPE. The lockdown in Victoria in early June, the two week lockdown, again caused by a failure in hotel quarantine. How many more outbreaks, how much more distress and loss and financial damage needs to happen before Scott Morrison recognises the hotel quarantine system is not working and he needs to put in place a network of purpose built quarantine facilities - just as he has been advised to do since last year. 
There have also been more failures come to light in his vaccine rollout. Shockingly, we learned today that as few as 5 per cent of home care workers who provide care and support to older Australians in their home in the community are fully vaccinated. This is a shocking figure. An absolutely shocking figure. Now the Government can't put a precise figure on it because they only started collecting data on this question this week, 18 months into the pandemic. Lieutenant General Frewen told the Senate last week that vaccination of home care workers, providing care and support to some of the most vulnerable members of our community was, in his words, “not a focused effort at this stage.” The more shocking thing is that only one in three older Australians receiving this support are fully vaccinated out in the community. Compare that to the figure of more than 95 per cent of older people in the United Kingdom who have full vaccine protection. This group was supposed to be fully vaccinated before the onset of winter, we're about to enter the third month of winter and still the vast bulk of older Australians are not fully protected. This terrible failure on the part of Scott Morrison has left older Australians and their home care support staff dangerously exposed in the face of this highly infectious Delta variant.
Now in relation to the vaccine rollout, I heard Scott Morrison in his press conference just a little while ago say that the vaccine rollout was a “gold medal run.” Well, I tell you, if the vaccine rollout was an Olympic event, Scott Morrison would not even qualify. 
Finally, can I just say as I did yesterday that there were disturbing revelations yesterday, in BioPharmaDispatch and on Sky News, that the Government last year deliberately adopted a so-called “wait and see” strategy on vaccine procurement. This is an extraordinary revelation, and frankly accords with the repeated assertions by Scott Morrison that the vaccine rollout was not a race. Well, given that the article in question specifically referred to a senior advisor in the Prime Minister's Office being centrally involved in this debacle, Scott Morrison has serious questions to answer. How did the Government arrive at a so-called “wait and see” strategy on something as important, as critically important, as the vaccine rollout? And why did it take Scott Morrison until Christmas Eve to sign a deal for vaccines with Pfizer, when countries like the UK, the US, the European countries, Canada and Japan, had signed deals with Pfizer, five to seven months earlier?
JOURNALIST: New South Wales will redirect Pfizer vaccines from regional areas to HSC students in Sydney. Is that an acceptable move?
BUTLER: This will surely be a move that's the result of health advice from the Chief Health Officer and other experts in New South Wales. And so we support the implementation of that health advice. 

JOURNALIST: We're seeing AstraZeneca hesitancy in people over 60. What's your message to them?

BUTLER: AstraZeneca is a safe and effective vaccine. It's a vaccine I’ve taken. It's a vaccine that is recommended, particularly for people over the age of 60 and, frankly, for all adults in the Sydney area right now by our experts. I encourage people over the age of 60 to take advantage of the very substantial supply of at least that vaccine that we have here in this country. I do recognise, though, that the Prime Minister Scott Morrison has made a complete mess of communicating the different advice that has been in place over time by ATAGI, the Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation. And we have said for weeks now, Scott Morrison needs to be clearer about his communication of the expert advice he receives as the country's Prime Minister, and he needs to be more proactive in putting in place strong public health information campaigns that make sure that Australians over the age of 60, and under for that matter, have access to clear information about our vaccine system.

JOURNALIST: Is it fair to say that those people over 60 who are not getting AZ are putting other people's lives at risk?


JOURNALIST: And the COVID disaster payments being increased, is that adequate?

BUTLER: As I said there are still too many gaps in the support system that seems to change every few days from the Prime Minister. Why doesn't he simply accede to the request by the business community, by liberal state governments, by the union movement, by Federal Labor, swallow his pride and reintroduce the JobKeeper system that was shown last year to be so effective. There are extraordinary gaps in the system of supports the Prime Minister announced today. Lots and lots of workers who received nothing when they're losing wages because of COVID related restrictions put in place because of his failures on vaccines and quarantine.