The Federal Government has Abandoned Victorians, Again

House of Representatives 03/06/2021

Mr KHALIL (Wills) (16:10): Victorians are doing it really tough under this lockdown. I and many of my Victorian colleagues are heading back to Melbourne tonight. I’ll be kicking the footy with the kids, taking very long walks, playing board games and doing all the things that Victorians are going to do to get through this lockdown. But we all know there is a huge mental health impact on all Victorians as we go through this lockdown.

I want to say in this place that Victorians are Australians, too. Victorians need a Prime Minister that doesn’t have to be forced, pushed and cajoled into providing support, whose first instinct is not to abandon Victorians but to come immediately to their assistance. Victorians need a Prime Minister who will take responsibility willingly, not shirk responsibility shamefully. Victorians need a Treasurer who is not mean-spiritedly refusing, initially, to provide any emergency funding for small businesses and workers in Victoria. As I’m sure my colleagues do, I welcome the announcement of support made just now by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, but why did it take them a week? Why did it take the state government, the federal Labor opposition and the people arguing and begging for them to step up to push them into a position they should have taken immediately of their own accord? If Team Australia means anything to them, surely it means providing support to fellow Australians in Victoria, not arguing against it for an entire week?

But we don’t have such leadership. We have a Prime Minister whose first instinct is to pick a fight, to play politics, to see where the politics takes him, to wander wherever the political winds blow and then, and only then, be forced into the right position—not because he cares but because he realises he has to cover his political tracks. Those opposite have to spend taxpayer dollars to patch over their political problems, not because it’s an investment in the economy or the future of this nation or that it’s the right thing to do. Nowhere is this clearer than when you look at the government’s two fundamental responsibilities, which they continue to shirk: federal quarantine and the vaccine rollout.

On quarantine: it’s actually in section 51 of our Constitution. It’s their responsibility. From the beginning of this crisis, there was an expectation that the federal government would come up with the resources, the planning and the policy to set up federal quarantine facilities that are fit for purpose. They have not done so. This goes beyond shirking responsibility. This is an egregious abdication of responsibility to the nation. The federal government could have set up safer quarantine facilities like Howard Springs in the Northern Territory. Look at the stats: Howard Springs, zero outbreaks; hotel quarantine, 21.

On vaccines: I said last year—and I wasn’t alone—we need to have contingencies in place. Buy six or seven vaccines. Get the supply right. Sign the contracts. If they all work, that’s great, fantastic; we’ve got a surplus. We can help our Pacific neighbours with a surplus. We can be leaders in the region. But it was pretty clear-cut that not all of them would work. We knew that. When those opposite did start to take responsibility for the rollout, they just stuffed it up. I can only describe it as incompetence. They told us four million Australians would be vaccinated by 1 April. They missed their target by 3.4 million.

This MPI says that the government have no plan for the nation. But it’s so much more than that. They have no vision. They have no care. They have no commitment beyond saving their own political skins. That’s all they care about. When they do spend and make commitments, like they did today, it’s to cover up a political problem. Australians deserve better than this mob. A federal Labor government will build dedicated quarantine facilities in every state and territory, fix the vaccine rollout, invest in manufacturing mRNA vaccines like Pfizer in Australia, and start a mass public information campaign, because we actually care for the people that we represent. Australians deserve better than this mob.