The Morrison Government: a government in name only

Ms WELLS (Lilley) (12:07): I thank the member for Riverina for his forbearance, for us, as to the commotion on our side of the House.

In November last year, the Prime Minister announced his desire to get out of people's lives. Now, the Prime Minister isn't known for following through on his promises to Australians, but I must hand it to him: in this case, he really delivered. Over the following months, as the omicron surge swept through the country, the Morrison government was a government in name only. During the most difficult time of this pandemic in Australia, the Prime Minister was absent once again. National supply chains collapsed; supermarket shelves were empty.

In my electorate of Lilley, people were lining up in their cars for a PCR test before dawn at the Boondall entertainment centre, from 4 am. They drove from chemist to chemist in vain, looking for RAT kits. Retail workers copped daily abuse from frustrated shoppers. Families could not see their loved ones in aged care because of outbreaks in nursing homes, and aged-care nurses were burnt out and exhausted. While all this was happening, the Prime Minister's most valuable contribution to the public health crisis was to redefine 'close contact'—as if COVID was ruled by semantics.

The Morrison government claims that no-one could have known the challenges that a new variant would bring, but here is a list of people who in fact did know the challenges that a new variant would bring. The federal government's own health officials warned that widespread community transmission would see PCR testing sites overwhelmed and urged the federal government in February 2021 to adopt rapid antigen test kits to alleviate pressure on the system. Public health specialists briefed members of the federal government in August that PCR testing facilities would not be able to cope with rising case numbers. The Australian Medical Association warned senior executives in the federal health department in September 2021 of the need to develop a strategy to procure rapid antigen tests, as did the Doherty Institute, which provided the federal government's own commissioned modelling.

While health industry bodies, hospitals, epidemiologists, GPs, aged-care providers, unions, and state and territory premiers beseeched the federal government to provide more masks and PPE, to build capacity for testing and to launch public information campaigns, the Prime Minister buried his head in the warm Hawaiian sand. For this Prime Minister every problem is someone else's fault and every crisis is someone else's responsibility. The Prime Minister tipped international border quarantine onto the states. He blamed the vaccine 'strollout' on international supply shortages, although every other country in the OECD seemed to manage. He failed to procure enough RAT kits because he was too busy fixing the vaccine rollout. Instead of taking responsibility, he reportedly commandeered stock from businessowners and from Queensland Rail. He lets members of his own party dog whistle to antivaxxers in the parliament and on social media, hiding behind freedom of speech so he can harvest a few preference votes. At every turn the Prime Minister has pitted the states against each other, politicised lockdowns and border closures and watched on with glee as the premiers, who were forced to make tough decisions, took the heat for his failings.

The Prime Minister thinks it's time for the government to get out of Australians' lives, and I agree. It's time that this coalition government got out of Australians' lives. Call the election. Let Australians elect a government which is ready to lead and has the will and the plan to build a better future for our nation.

I would like to use my remaining time, Mr Deputy Speaker, with your forbearance and my special thanks to the clerks, to share with the chamber an email I received from a Lilley allied health business owner. She wrote:

Dear Anika

I'm a small allied health business owner in Sandgate and I currently employ five full-time staff.

We knew that Queensland borders would be opening and that there would be more COVID cases in our community.

I bought last year N95 masks, RATs, face shields for my staff and extra masks for clients too. However, since the government has let it rip the cases have been so much higher than any of us anticipated.

The majority of our clients are unvaccinated because they are young or because they haven't had a support worker or someone to take them to get vaccinated.

I have spent nearly $2,000 on PPE in the last two months, which is a lot for a small business, and most of it hasn't even arrived yet.

With all of the cancellations due to COVID we are also operating at a quarter of our usual capacity. We cannot pass these costs on to clients, as the far majority are NDIS or Medicare funded and they cannot afford additional costs outside of what their funding covers.

We need your help. Allied health services working within the disability sector with vulnerable populations should have access to adequate PPE and RATs for the safety of our clients.

I wanted to share that message because, when the Prime Minister says it's time to live with COVID and time for the government to get out of people's lives, this is what happens—vulnerable people suffer. I for one think that vulnerable Australians have suffered enough. It is time for the government to call the election so we can get on with a new government that can deliver for working-class Australians and people in need.