29 November 2021

Questions without notice: Take note of answers

I can assure the Senate that in my home state of Victoria we’re already starting to build one facility, thanks to the state government applying a lot of pressure on the feds to cough up some of the costs towards the $250-million facility. That wasn’t because the Coalition, the federal government, decided one day that they were going to build quarantine facilities around the country; it was led not just by Victoria but by Queensland, Western Australia and even the Northern Territory governments demanding that the Commonwealth take responsibility for what it should be ensuring, that every Australian and every non-citizen who comes to this country go through some form of quarantine. That was a debate that we had 12 months ago.

As things have developed, I know that Queensland, Victoria and WA are all very keen. In my home state of Victoria we’re continuing to build the quarantine facility at Mickleham, right next to our airport in Tullamarine. But a government needs to ensure—like this Government, it has a responsibility—that it does everything it can to avoid any further outbreaks of this deadly disease. A responsible government would be doing everything it could to mitigate the risks from future pandemics. In ensuring that you mitigate those risks building quarantine facilities is just one of many things that this Government should be doing—one of many. But we know that this Government, the Morrison-Joyce Coalition Government, is allergic to responsibility. As I mentioned earlier, quarantine is a Commonwealth responsibility under the federal Constitution. So why hasn’t the coalition built dedicated quarantine facilities? Why is it being led by the various state and territory governments around the nation? Almost two years into this pandemic what we do know is that hotels aren’t built for quarantine. That is why we need quarantine facilities. The Morrison-Joyce Government has to build fit-for-purpose quarantine facilities right around the country—not just picking and choosing states or territories. There needs to be a national plan and that’s what federal Labor, under the leadership of Anthony Albanese, has been calling on Mr Morrison and his Government to do for some time now. Labor has a plan.

This Government’s failure on quarantine is also shown, as we’ve heard from other speakers, with the slow vaccine rollout, which I won’t go into great detail on. But it has done a terrible job and that is the point that Labor senators have been making today: that this Government has done a terrible job not just in the rollout of the vaccine but also in building quarantine facilities over the last 18 months. How much more do Australians have to suffer under this Government? How much more do they have to wait for this Government to finally get on and do its job? How many more lessons do they need to learn from all their mistakes? How many more outbreaks do we need to ensure that this Government finally understands that we need an adequate national quarantine system?

This new Omicron variant is a reminder of the pandemic. It is a reminder that this pandemic is still real. Despite a number of the restrictions being lifted right around the country, it does threaten our country. It threatens our economy because it threatens the working lives of men and women—people right around this country. For us to futureproof our economy it is important that we start to build these facilities everywhere. There are thousands of jobs to construct these facilities, thousands of jobs supporting local communities. But the Morrison Government fails to listen to what the opposition has put forward in terms of its credible plan to protect Australia now and into the future.