24 August 2021

Questions without notice: Take note of answers

[by video link] Australians are typically known for being a rather easygoing lot. We’re not ones to expect a great deal. We’re relaxed and, I think it would be fair to say, reasonably forgiving types. Given these generally low expectations from Australians for most things, it is really quite something to see the level of disappointment currently in the community, disappointment especially with those opposite and their ability—or rather their inability—to get on with the job and deliver the things that matter to working families.

At the beginning of this year we knew that the government had two jobs. The first was to deliver the vaccine rollout and the second was to deliver a national quarantine system. Those opposite would like to talk about how great they are at this moment, but, nine months later, what we are seeing is the government playing catch-up, to be frank. They have had the whole of this year and the one previously.

One would have thought that the government would throw absolutely everything at these tasks. One would have thought that the government would understand just how important it is for them just to get it right and get those jabs in arms and have Australians overseas back home with their loved ones. And yet here we are with still some of the lowest vaccination rates in the developed world and still no effective quarantine system for returning Australians.

As much as those opposite would like to ignore it, the Prime Minister and his government made some promises to the Australian people. We remember those promises, and so do those in our community. The Coalition promised that stranded Australians would be home by Christmas—last Christmas that is. The Coalition promised that, in the race to get vaccinated, Australians were at the front of the queue and they would be the first ones in the line to get the jabs they needed in order to get our nation and our economy back on track. But what we know now is that both these promises have been broken.

Christmas came and it went, and still tens of thousands of Australians remain stranded overseas, separated from family and friends—mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, torn apart because of this government’s failure. Now, eight months on from the commitment, still here we are with loved ones torn away from their homeland because of this government’s failure to deliver a national quarantine system.

And here we still are, over 12 months on, with Australians waiting and waiting for the jabs that they desperately need. It is good to see finally the government playing catch-up, but we’re having to also rely on vaccines from overseas countries, because we took it too slow to get our orders in with various vaccination companies. We have half a nation that is currently under lockdown—our two biggest cities in Australia and even our national capital. Residents of Sydney and Melbourne are living under curfew conditions, all because of the Coalition’s failure.

If Australians had had access to the jabs that they needed, we wouldn’t be in this mess. That’s just the fact of it. If Australia had actually been at the front of the queue, as was promised, we wouldn’t be in this situation. It has been absolutely clear that the only thing this government deals in is false hope. It certainly isn’t outcomes, the result of orientated groups of individuals.

My question to the federal government is simply this: how much longer do we all need to wait here until you stop buck-passing to the states and address the Commonwealth’s failures and the Commonwealth’s responsibilities under the Constitution? How much longer will working families be facing the uncertainty of rolling lockdowns before you’ll get the jabs you promised rolling out into their neighbourhoods? How much longer will this take?

These are not questions asked by me but questions that come to my office every single day from people who can’t get work, people who are desperate to get out there and earn a living. These are questions far too important to ignore. They’re too important for you to continue to buck-pass on. I urge the government to step up to the plate, make good on your broken promises and do the job that you were elected to do.