MARK BUTLER MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGEING
MEMBER FOR HINDMARSH
LABOR SENATOR FOR QUEENSLAND
TUESDAY, 12 OCTOBER 2021
SUBJECTS: Far North Queensland; Vaccination rates; COP26; IBAC.
ELIDA FAITH, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR LEICHHARDT: Good morning, thanks for coming out today. My name is Elida Faith and I’m the Labor candidate for Leichhardt. I'm joined here today by our Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, and Cairns’ very own Senator for Queensland, Nita Green.
Today we're here at Alive Pharmacy in Cairns City and for the last couple of days we have been talking a lot about vaccines, vaccinations, and how our community is addressing their fears and their challenges around this. And I thought it was very important that we asked our Shadow Minister Mark to come up here to Far North Queensland. Yesterday we spent some time at Wuchopperen, who deals with a lot of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the community.
They talked to us a little bit about what's happening in the Indigenous health space around vaccinations, and we know that it's really important that we all get out there and we get ourselves vaccinated. If we want to move forward, that's what we need to do, and today we've come here to Alive Pharmacy and we've been having a chat with our local pharmacist here, Nick, who has been talking about how things are going for the pharmacies in Cairns and talking a little bit about the fact that when pharmacies got the green light to come on board and give vaccinations, back in June. The beauty of that is, especially communities like ours, is that pharmacies are often and having more accessible for the residents in the community.
We've had a really great chat with Nick and I'm going to hand over to Mark in a minute, but before I go, I would just like to say the Queensland Government has announced today that for those who want to go down to Bunnings in Smithfield this weekend, I encourage you to head on down if you haven’t had jab. Go to Bunnings this weekend, Smithfield, get a sausage and get your jab.
I'm going to hand over now to Mark, thank you.
MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGEING: Thank you Elida. The nation’s community pharmacists have been heroes right through this pandemic from the get-go, from the beginning of the pandemic, pharmacists have been open right through Australia, ready to take consultations from their patients, fill scripts and deliver advice. They've done that at times at great risk through the community. As we've seen, the three waves of COVID spread through different parts of Australia. And now they're doing so much of the heavy lifting with the final stages of the vaccine rollout.
When the vaccine rollout strategy was first announced by Scott Morrison, way back in January, it was intended that pharmacists, it was promised that pharmacists would start to deliver vaccines as early as May, and we know how important that would have been because so many Australians rely upon their community pharmacist, who is often the health professional with whom they have the closest, most regular relationship, to deliver vaccines like the flu vaccine every single year, but because Scott Morrison didn't arrange the supply of vaccines that we needed, when we needed them, pharmacists were pushed back several months from their entry into the vaccine rollout effort, and that's why Australia had the slowest vaccine rollout in the developed world.
So, it's been great to talk with Nick here at Alive Pharmacy in Cairns about the speed with which they're able to roll out, not just the AstraZeneca vaccine but the Moderna vaccine, which is finally available in Australia. It only became available in Australia in September. In North America, Americans and Canadians were receiving Moderna last year. In Europe, early this year, as early as February, in the UK they were able to switch to Moderna in April, when AstraZeneca issues arose.
But here, because Scott Morrison was so slow to sit down with Moderna, Australians have not had access to the state-of-the-art mRNA vaccine until very late in the stages of this disastrous third wave.
Can I finally say as well, that right through this visit from Cairns, we've been reminded of the key tests that Scott Morrison faces in the next stage of the National Cabinet plan. The lifting of the lockdowns in the southern states and eventually the opening of international and state borders throughout Australia, and he's simply not doing enough to protect vulnerable populations. We can't have any group left behind in this vaccine effort, but still 30 per cent fewer Indigenous Australians have received their full vaccination compared to the national average. Still 1 in 3 Australians living in disability residential facilities are not fully vaccinated in spite of a promise from Scott Morrison that they would be fully vaccinated before Easter, which was months and months ago.
And finally, can I say we still have complete radio silence from Scott Morrison about what he is going to do to make sure that our hospitals stay safe and strong as case numbers inevitably rise over coming months. Every single state government Labor and Liberal alike, has called on the Prime Minister to sit down with them and work cooperatively and constructively to reinforce our hospital system. Clinicians are calling for it, the AMA is calling for it, nurses are calling for it. What we know is that business-as-usual in hospitals is simply is not going to cut it in a once-in-a-century pandemic. Instead of picking political fights with state governments, Scott Morrison now needs to sit down with them and strengthen our hospitals.
NITA GREEN, SENATOR FOR QUEENSLAND: Thank you, Mark. I just have some local comments to make about the current debate around net zero and I'm sure Mark can answer any further questions you have or might want to jump in, but we've seen overnight that reports that Mr. Warren Entsch will be heading to the Glasgow climate summit. Let's be really clear about this, over the last eight years, this Government, the Government that Mr. Entsch is a member of, has done nothing on climate change. And still to this day, right now, they have not committed to net zero emissions, but what has changed is there is an election on the horizon and all of a sudden you've seen politics and headlines from Mr Entsch and Scott Morrison when it comes to this very important commitment for our region. The question is, where has Warren been over the last 8 years? Where was Warren when his party was talking about winding back Reef regulations, water quality regulations, that are so desperately needed to protect the Great Barrier Reef?
And I'm not talking about historical opposition to these regulations, Susan McDonald, a Senator for Queensland in the same party as Warren Entsch, said recently that the regulations were unnecessary and overreach. She said she would support a drastic scaling back of the regime, that was just a couple of months ago. Where was Warren when this was happening? Where was Warren Entsch when his Minister, Keith Pitt, vetoed a wind farm just down the road that would have created 250 jobs in renewable energy because it was against Scott Morrison’s energy policy?
That is exactly what they said. They couldn't back the wind farm because it was against their own policy. And where was Warren Entsch when members of his own government, like Matt Canavan, George Christiansen, Gerard Rennick, were opposing net zero and talking about the fact that nothing needed to be done to protect our community? I can tell you where he was. He was sitting right next to them in Parliament, right beside them, and voting exactly the same way as these people. So, you can forgive the community here in Cairns for feeling like this Member of Parliament is taking them for fools today by pretending that suddenly an election is coming, and he cares about climate change.
He doesn't need to go to Glasgow to stand up for the Great Barrier Reef. What he needs to do is stand up in Parliament and stand up against these people in his own Government. What he needs to do today is explain what he's been doing over the last eight years and why now, all of a sudden. What Mr Entsch needs to do today is explain where he’s been for the last eight years and why his Government has taken no action on climate change and why still today, right now, they do not have a position on net zero.
I know that this community supports this policy and that's why Mr Entsch has changed his mind today. But we also know that the last eight years speaks volumes. If this community, if this country wants to do something about climate change, wants real action on climate change, then what we need to do is vote out Scott Morrison at the next election, and that means voting out Mr Entsch because he has supported Scott Morrison for the last eight years and it is time for us to stop supporting this Government. They can make a last-minute change if they want to, but going to Glasgow, getting headlines is not enough to undo the inaction of the last eight years. Thanks.
JOURNALIST: Senator, would you describe it as a publicity stunt? Do you think him going to Glasgow (inaudible)
GREEN: It's absolutely a publicity stunt from Warren Entsch who has done nothing over the last eight years. He can go to Glasgow, but what is he going to tell them that he has done? What can he point to? And I'm very keen for this Government and this Member of Parliament not to take the credit of hard-working scientists who've been working at AIMS, working at CSIRO, those people have been working on the Reef in spite of this Government. Those hard-working members of our community who have advocated for the Reef have done that in spite of Mr Entsch and Scott Morrison - getting in there and actually taking action on climate change.
So he might want to take credit for the hard work of people who've been advocating for this, but all of a sudden now he wants to head to Glasgow and pretend that the last eight years didn't happen. People in this community know better than that, they know that he has voted alongside George Christensen and Matt Canavan and all of these people the whole time and not said anything when they have said that we don't need net zero, that it won't do anything. Those jobs that we lost, that we could have, lost at the wind farm in Far North Queensland, Mr Entsch said nothing when that happened.
So, it's all well and good for him to say stuff now, to go out to Glasgow, maybe make a presentation, but it's nonsense. He's a fraud, he's a phoney and people in this electorate know that and they will vote him out at the next election because of this.
JOURNALIST: Can you run with that as well, the response to Warren Entsch’s plans to go to Glasgow?
BUTLER: The global community doesn't want to hear from an obscure backbencher, they want to hear from the nation's Prime Minister. Australia has been out of step on climate change for the eight long years of this Government. We're becoming a pariah nation. The only nation in the developed world that hasn't committed to net zero emissions. That the Prime Minister's own political brethren and sisters in other countries like Boris Johnson, Angela Merkel before her retirement, and other conservative leaders around the world, have been pleading with Australia for years to adopt a stronger more realistic position on climate change.
And frankly, the Government sending Warren Entsch to this conference, this critically important conference being attended by the US President, by the UK Prime Minister and other global leaders, is frankly a joke. Scott Morrison needs to attend this conference and he needs to explain to the world’s leaders what Australia is doing to get into step with a global momentum around climate change.
JOURNALIST: Just on some of the other topics, the National Children's Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategies found that successive governments have failed to provide equitable and timely access to mental health services for children. What's your reaction to that and would a Labor Government support some of the recommendations that have come out of this?
BUTLER: We've sought a briefing, which I understand will be given over the coming 24 hours or so, on this strategy. I've been saying for some time now that clinicians across the country, and parents, are deeply concerned about the mental health impacts of the pandemic, including on under 12-year-olds. I think everyone understands that we don't yet have fit for purpose models of care for children under 12 experiencing mental health difficulties. We've certainly improved over the last decade or two, with models of care for teenagers, but there is, I agree, work to be done in making sure that the mental health of under 12s is properly supported. We know that unlike any other serious chronic condition, mental illness emerges in young age. We know that as much as half of mental illness that someone might experience in their lifetime will have emerged before you reach adolescence, two-thirds before the time you reach 21.
We must have models of care that are fit for purpose for young people, and if the Government is proposing some reforms in that area, I would be very interested in working with them on that.
JOURNALIST: But would a Labor Government formally commit to supporting the recommendations that come out of this?
BUTLER: As I've said, we've only read the newspaper reports about it this morning. We've asked for a formal briefing. Obviously, I've indicated that we're very keen to see the country do more for the mental health of children under 12, but I'm not going to provide a definitive response to a strategy I haven't yet been fully briefed on.
JOURNALIST: So another topic, does Anthony Byrne have a place in Labor’s Party room given his admissions to the IBAC yesterday about branch stacking?
BUTLER: The Labor Leader has already addressed this in great detail. As has been the case across the political spectrum and in most of the media now, while hearings are still underway, it's obviously inappropriate to comment on evidence that is not yet completed. But I think we are all deeply concerned about the evidence that has emerged in the IBAC hearing. Frankly, we've all been deeply concerned about evidence that emerged from the investigation by the Channel 9 newspapers into both the Liberal Party and the Labor Party down in Victoria and that's why Anthony Albanese and Daniel Andrews acted immediately to have the National Executive of the ALP intervene fully in the Victorian branch, appoint administrators and clean the membership system up, down there. All of this just reinforces the importance of putting in place a strong anti-corruption commission at a Federal level.
JOURNALIST: How endemic is this kind of behaviour in federal politics?
BUTLER: Across the political spectrum, it was recognised that something was wrong down in Victoria. Now, we in the Labor Party acted on that immediately. The Leader of the Victorian Labor Party Daniel Andrews and the Federal Labor Leader Anthony Albanese acted to make sure the National Executive intervened, took over the Victorian branch, appointed administrators in the form of Steven Bracks and Jenny Macklin, two very widely respected members of Labor Party, longstanding, to clean up the Victorian branch.
Now frankly, the Liberal Party didn't do the same when very similar allegations emerged in the Channel 9 newspaper investigation into Liberal Party in Victoria. So, when these allegations were aired, the Labor Party acted immediately, because when these sorts of things do come to life, they need to be dealt with and they need to be dealt with firmly and promptly.
FAITH: I just wanted to add too, in Far North Queensland, in my community, we know, and I know, that the environment is a key issue for the majority of people and I know that because I spent the last Federal election out in the community and I was hearing that. And again, three years later, we're still hearing exactly the same thing, the environment. Whether they’re 19 years old or 90 years old. The environment is a key issue, it's so important, and yet we have a Government that is clearly not interested in listening to what the majority of Australians are saying and I just want to say that going into this next Federal election, if the environment is something that you're passionate about and you think that you need a Government that is going to do a damn lot more than what's being done now and actually treat climate change like it is real then you need to think about voting out the current Government.