Mark Dreyfus MP

Member for Isaacs
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New Quarantine Facility in Victoria

23 June 2021

The Morrison Government had two jobs and it has failed at them both.

It had a job of getting quarantine right. It is a Constitutional responsibility of the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth has ducked that responsibility from the get go in this pandemic.

MARK DREYFUS
SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL
SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
MEMBER FOR ISAACS

 New Quarantine Facility in Victoria

23 JUNE 2021

The Morrison Government had two jobs and it has failed at them both.

It had a job of getting quarantine right. It is a Constitutional responsibility of the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth has ducked that responsibility from the get go in this pandemic.

The other job that it has failed to get right is the vaccine rollout. But right here now I'm going to speak about a quarantine because the exemption of this project from ordinary requirements of this Parliament and ordinary requirements that it go before the Public Works Committee is only needed because the Morrison Government failed to get on to this last year.

We've known for 12 months, that hotel quarantine is grossly inadequate, that hotel quarantine is a temporary fix, that hotel quarantine is not the perfect solution - far from it - that hotel quarantine is not even an adequate solution.

We've had 24 outbreaks from hotel quarantine, think about that 24 outbreaks, each of them capable of giving rise to a massive spread of this deadly disease across our country. And it's only by good luck, good management by state premiers and the immense cooperative behaviour of Australians that has prevented those 24 outbreaks from home from the inadequate hotel quarantine arrangements that we've got. That has saved us from the recurrence of the deaths that we had across our country, particularly in aged care.

In the middle of last year the Government commissioned a report from an eminent former Secretary of the Commonwealth Health Department to tell the Commonwealth Government what needed to be done for quarantine in Australia. And what did we get? We got a report from this eminent former Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Health that told the Commonwealth of Australia that they needed to build dedicated quarantine facilities.

It's not like this was a new idea for the Commonwealth of Australia. Australians are deeply familiar in every capital city with the Commonwealth-run facilities that are now museums - think North Head in Sydney or Point Nepean in Victoria - where the Commonwealth used to have its own dedicated facilities for infectious diseases. It doesn't now because we've resolved other arrangements to deal with infectious diseases. But this pandemic is presenting us with a challenge that the Morrison Government has utterly failed to meet. It's continuing to fail to meet it. It thumbed its nose at Victoria's proposals when they were first made.

We still haven't got exactly clear what it is that the Commonwealth wants to do. It took months to get to the position that it's announcing here today that it wants to go ahead with a joint venture with Victoria to build a dedicated quarantine facility in Victoria. It should have been doing this last October. We've known since last October, when the report was delivered to the Commonwealth Government that the report that it commissioned, that a Howard Springs-style facility is what is required. There hasn't been a single escape of this deadly virus from Howard Springs. There hasn't been an outbreak from Howard Springs. There has been an outbreak from every part of the hotel quarantine system. Victoria had to go back into lockdown because of someone leaving hotel quarantine in South Australia and spreading the virus throughout Melbourne, which happily, again, we've managed to get on to, but it's a disgrace.

It is a disgrace that the Morrison Government has squibbed its responsibilities, ducked its responsibilities, run away from its responsibilities. You've only got to think about the disgraceful performance of the Prime Minister going right back to the bushfires. "I don't hold a hose mate". That is Scott Morrison. "I don't hold a hose mate.

You've only got to look at the Prime Minister's behaviour since he became Prime Minister. This Prime Minister ducks responsibility. This Prime Minister, who says "I don't hold a hose mate", this is his excuse for going on holiday during a polling bushfires besetting our country, and ever since the pandemic started, he hasn't wanted to take responsibility and he hasn't taken responsibility and he's still not taking responsibility. Every time something bad happens off he pushes everything to the States. He's not grappling with what now needs to happen. We know what needs to happen on quarantine. We know that we need to have a dedicated facility in every state.

Of course, it's something that's pleasing to Victorians to think that the Government, the Commonwealth Government has finally, finally, after repeated entreaties from the Victorian Government accepted its responsibility for national quarantine. It's very good that we are to get a facility in Victoria. But what about South Australia? What about Western Australia? What about Queensland? What about New South Wales? And where is the expansion in the Northern Territory apparently proceeding very slowly. We need to have a quarantine facility. In every state, we need to have national responsibility for quarantine. We need to have national standards for quarantine and that's because, sadly, this pandemic isn't going away. It's not going away.

And I just finish by saying the vaccination rollout needs to speed up. It needs to speed up. We don't just need national quarantine facilities, we don't just need the Government, the Commonwealth Government, the Morrison Government accepting its responsibility for quarantine. What we actually need is taking responsibility for the vaccination rollout as well, making sure that unlike the rest of the developed world, which has gone on with vaccinating its population the Australian population can be protected too.

It's pathetic 3% of our population has been vaccinated. In the United States it 50% fully vaccinated and 70% who've had their first jab. Similar numbers in Britain, much higher numbers in Israel, and you could go on. We're at about 100 in the world on vaccination. It's a pathetic effort.

The Government, the Morrison Government has failed in both the jobs that it had this year. It's failed at national quarantine and it's failed at vaccination.

ENDS