Grievance Debate

Federation Chamber
15 February 2022

I'm proud to represent an electorate that is amongst the most multicultural in this country. Sixty-thousand of the people who live in the Oxley electorate were born overseas, and we have the highest number of people with Vietnamese heritage anywhere in Queensland. The very best of cultures from every corner of the globe come together to make our community great.

Later this month we will mark International Mother Language Day, a day to highlight the importance of cultural and linguistic diversity and remember the role they play in building sustainable societies. Across my electorate we celebrate many languages: Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tongan, Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, Greek and Italian—just to name a few. By preserving their mother languages, the people in my community are fostering peace and respect and passing down their proud and rich family histories to their children. We are creating a society where differences in culture and language are celebrated as important and irreplaceable parts of the fabric of Australian life.

I want to thank members of the community who are doing important work to keep diversity alive, including my friend Dr Jishu Gupta, from the local Bangladeshi community, who works year after year to raise awareness about the loss of mother languages. I'm proud that in my electorate members of the community tell the Australian story in diverse languages, celebrating where they've come from to become part of this country's bright future.

While there is much to celebrate in the electorate of Oxley, I must also use this opportunity in the parliament to express my increasing concern for the aged-care residents that I represent. This government's persistent incompetence means that the same mistakes are being repeated again and again. From the initial botched vaccination rollout to the botched booster rollout, we are stuck in a cycle of acting far too late. Thousands of booster clinics were rolled out in aged-care homes across the country, but they didn't vaccinate staff at the same time as they vaccinated residents. This is a shocking missed opportunity indicative of this government's entire response to the pandemic.

Let's not forget the issues that plagued the initial rollout of vaccines in aged care. The deadline to full vaccinate all residents and staff by Easter 2021 was missed by six months. Vaccine clinics routinely missed residents and did not vaccinate staff. Vaccine clinics were routinely cancelled or delayed. There was no plan by the government to assist workers to get vaccinated outside of work. Now, with boosters, we're seeing similar chaos. The deadline to give boosters to residents by 31 January 2022 was missed and still hasn't been achieved, with up to 60,000 residents still unprotected. Vaccine clinics have been missing residents and not vaccinating staff. There's been no plan to get the boosters into people's arms. The booster mandate for work has been announced months too late despite being recognised as inevitable by providers.

These are mistakes that our aged-care residents simply cannot afford. Frail older Australians have paid an extreme price for the government's incompetence, with prolonged lockdowns, isolation from loved ones and, tragically, over 681 deaths in 2022 alone. That's 681 deaths this year, and we're in the second week of February. Older Australians built this country. They and their families deserve so much better than this. They deserve better than a government whose arrogance prevents them learning from their own mistakes.

We know that mistakes are part of life—everyone makes them—but we must learn from them. We're now entering our third year of a pandemic, and the Prime Minister still stubbornly refuses to learn from his mistakes. He never takes responsibility. The Black Summer bushfires, the vaccine rollout, the booster rollout, rapid antigen tests—all were opportunities for the Prime Minister to step up and show leadership and take responsibility. Yet tonight of all night, when we should be debating aged care, should be debating RATs, should be debating what we can do to help Australia, what is this government focused on? What is this Prime Minister focused on? Sacking yet another minister of this government, but not telling the minister he's going to be sacked.

How do we know about this? A leak from the government, the third serious leak. We saw criminal leaks from the government last week. This leak is not from the Labor Party; it's not from the Opposition—this is from the government's own side. This is from people sitting around the inner sanctum of the Prime Minister, sitting in the cabinet, not worried about how we can deliver rapid antigen tests to Australians in need, not worried about people in aged-care residential facilities, not worrying about securing work, not worrying about being able to see a GP. They are completely and utterly focused on themselves, completely and utterly worried about their own jobs, not worried about the jobs of other Australians.

Well, it is enough. Enough is enough from this government: stop focusing on yourselves, stop talking about yourselves, and start working for the Australian community. We know that this government is only interested in a couple of things in the dying days of this term of parliament: trying to wedge the Opposition and trying to run scare campaigns. There's no legislation on the agenda this week, and tonight we're seeing leaks from the government about a hit on another minister, the Minister for Education and Youth. He's been on leave for three months and he was a pretty ordinary minister to start with. This is the same minister that delivered car park rorts, then became the education minister and now is being rolled out of the cabinet again. On it goes and on it goes. It is simply unacceptable.

My community have had a gutful of this government being so completely and utterly focused on themselves that Australians are paying the price for this incompetence. We know that RATs are not available to people who them. The Prime Minister used one of his favourite excuses and said it's up to the states to source RATs. This is ridiculous. It's absolutely the Prime Minister's responsibilities. Labor believes that RATs should be free and accessible for all Australians. PCR test are free for everyone through Medicare, so why aren't RATs? Nobody should be denied a test because they can't afford one. This is the right approach from a health and economic perspective. The economy doesn't work if people can't go to work, and in the midst of a pandemic many people simply can't go to work if they can't get a test. The government and the Prime Minister were warned about this. They were told that this was going to happen, and so the arrogance of this Prime Minister is astounding.

He never listens, never owns up to his mistakes. We know he doesn't hold a hose unless he's shampooing someone's hair. We know that time and time again he's ducking for cover. Now he's ducking for cover because of what his own cabinet ministers, the people who know him best, are saying. I won't even get started on the text messages; we know the current Deputy Prime Minister, when he was not the Deputy Prime Minister, said that the Prime Minister couldn't be trusted. In fact, he said he could never trust him, but then we know that the current Deputy Prime Minister, when he came back after knifing the former Deputy Prime Minister, said, 'Well, I didn't really know him that well, and that's why I sent that text.' He didn't deny the text, just said he didn't know him well at the time. That's despite the fact that when he was the Deputy Prime Minister, the current Prime Minister was the Treasurer.

Does anyone on the other side of the chamber think about how ridiculous this all sounds, just how stupid the government looks? It is so embarrassing to be a member of parliament when we're seeing this behaviour from members of parliament on the other side, the so-called government, when they're not protesting outside the front of this building with the wack jobs from the anti-vaxxers or lining up to encourage them while they're protesting outside vaccination clinics. Of course, no-one pulls them into line—freedom of speech, we can't have any of that! This goes to what is wrong with this government. They are completely and utterly focused on themselves. All of them are worried about their own jobs, not worried about the jobs of Australians.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is a prime minister who does too little too late. This is not about 20/20 hindsight. Throughout this pandemic Labor has been time and time again urging the Prime Minister to listen to expert advice, but time and time again our calls have fallen on deaf ears. But we will not stop trying. We won't stop calling this government out to do more to protect aged-care residents. We won't stop calling out this government to do more to deliver rapid antigen tests to those who need them. More importantly, we want a government that will lead, not focus on themselves.