DOORSTOP: 7/9/21

September 07, 2021



MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGEING: It's been another very tough day for Australia's fight against COVID. With almost 1,500 new cases again and tragically losing the lives of eight fellow Australians. Our condolences are extended to the families and the loved ones of the eight people whom the New South Wales Government reported had lost their lives over the past 24 hours to COVID. 

This third wave is an unmitigated disaster that is getting worser by the day, not better, and it's a disaster caused by Scott Morrison’s abject failures on vaccine and quarantine. Today in Australia there are more people in lockdown and fewer people fully vaccinated than any other developed country on the face of the planet. And in an attempt to cover up his failures, Scott Morrison continues to refuse to come clean about key elements of the nation's pandemic response. Scott Morrison must stop keeping the Doherty Institute modelling secret from the Australian people. 
We know that updated modelling has been provided to two separate National Cabinet meetings, but not yet released to the Australian people. Australians deserve to know what Phase B and Phase C of the plan is going to look like given the scale of this disastrous third wave. Greg Hunt said over recent days that over the six-month period, after the move to phase B, there will be only 13 additional deaths and fewer than 3,000 additional cases, but the Western Australian newspaper reported on Friday that because of the scale of this third wave there could be as many as almost 9,000 additional deaths moving to Phase B and C - in the event that our test and tracing system started to falter, which they already have clearly done in New South Wales. Now the Government told The Australian newspaper on the weekend that modelling would be released yesterday, on Monday. Still, we haven't seen it. Scott Morrison must stop keeping it a secret. Australians deserve to see it. 

Australians also deserve a clear explanation from Scott Morrison about his secret diversion of hundreds of thousands of vaccine doses from all other states in the federation to the state of New South Wales. Now, in those other states people within them have shown a clear willingness, a clear generosity to help New South Wales out during this tough period. But those other states now deserve a clear apology and explanation from Scott Morrison for having secretly diverted even more doses without having the decency to tell them about it first. 

JOURNALIST: Should the PM have forgone Father's Day with his family, and do you share Bill Shorten’s view that he exercised appalling judgement in travelling to Sydney? 

BUTLER: I don't think anyone, certainly I don't begrudge any father being able to spend time with their children on Father's Day. I just hope that Scott Morrison spared a thought for all of those families who weren't able to be together because of his failures on vaccines and quarantine. 

JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister says he's allowed to travel home to Sydney and similarly allowed to travel back to Canberra when needed for security related meetings. Is that reasonable? 

BUTLER: We understand that to be part of the Prime Minister’s job. It's just always the cover-up with this Prime Minister. I mean people don't begrudge him spending time with his family. Of course, we all want fathers to be able to spend time with their children on Father's Day. People just don't understand why this Prime Minister can't be upfront with them about his travel plans. 

JOURNALIST: And you touched on this one. Is it fair enough that New South Wales received more than a per capita share of Pfizer of vaccine doses due to the outbreak?

BUTLER: There were very clearly announced, quite transparently, additional doses provided NSW and those additional doses above their population share were supported by all other states and by Federal Labor. It's the secret diversion of other vaccines that, I think, deserves an explanation, and  requires an explanation from Scott Morrison. Why did he not clearly indicate that to the states who are losing doses secretly diverted from their own people to the state of New South Wales? 

JOURNALIST: And lastly, the PM says businesses will be within their right to deny entry to unvaccinated people later this year, should it be left to businesses to make that call? 

BUTLER: We need some involvement from the national Government here. We're seeing New South Wales, we’re seeing Victoria starting to develop their own vaccine passport arrangements. We can't end up with a situation where there are eight different arrangements in this federation to deal with people's ability to enter restaurants and hospitality events and retail venues, there should be a national approach to this. Labor supports a sensible system of national vaccine passports. Obviously, that can only happen after everyone has had access to a vaccine. Still too many people who want a vaccination can't get one. It also requires some robust systems that will work, that are resilient to forgery, that will ensure that people's vaccine history is accurately reflected in the immunisation register. We're already hearing cases of many people whose data is not uploaded accurately but we need the Federal Government to get involved here. But because of their own divisions in their Coalition party room, Scott Morrison is taking a hands-off approach to this. He should be sitting down with business, with trade unions, with the states and with health groups to design a sensible national passport scheme that would have the support of Federal Labor. 

Thanks everyone.