Matter of Public Importance

When I received from the procedure office today’s matter of public importance (MPI), I expected to hear exactly what I have been hearing, and that is blame-shifting, because that is what we have seen through this whole pandemic—blame-shifting and absolutely appalling politics. And before the member for South Barwon leaves and disrespectfully bows—yes, he is too weak to hear what I have got to say. We are in the middle of a pandemic, and we have done everything to try and work with this government. And for him to stand there and say that we have given oxygen and air to the anti-vaxxers is appalling. It is absolutely appalling. We have only a certain number of tools, and one of those tools is the vaccine. That was low, and that was disgusting—gutter politics. If I hear one more time that I am getting briefings and that you guys want to work with us and we are all in this together, I will remember exactly that example, because it is only one of many.

But I am going to get back to this MPI and call out, first of all, the blame-shifting. I am going to call that out by putting some facts on the table. On 30 June Pfizer wrote to the federal Minister for Health to commence formal discussions. The Australian government moved immediately to formal negotiations, with the first step being to agree to negotiate a confidentiality disclosure agreement.

Mr Hunt said the reference from Pfizer to “supply millions of vaccine doses by the end of 2020” referred to the company’s global supply. “As Pfizer has made clear, no earlier doses were available to Australia,” he said.

“The Australian government entered into an advanced purchase agreement (APA) with Pfizer for the purchase of their Covid-19 vaccine as soon as possible, whilst ensuring safe and effective vaccines for Australians based on the medical advice.”

That is the Pfizer story.

Now, let us get to the AstraZeneca story. AstraZeneca has been available. It is an Oxford University designed vaccine manufactured here in Melbourne. We heard silence, and when it was not silence from the government of Victoria around AstraZeneca, we heard demonising. This drug has gone through very, very robust processes and was approved, and I had it as a demonstration of leadership way back in June and had my second dose a while ago now too, because we needed to show leadership. That is why that gutter politics is so disgusting, because it is on us to give confidence to the community. This government had every opportunity, all the airtime available to them, to tell the community that they needed to get out and get vaccinated and that AstraZeneca is safe. You have more risk of dying from a clot in an operation from post-op procedures. Every time you go for an operation you have got more chance of dying of a clot than you have taking AstraZeneca. Every time you jump on an aeroplane and fly around the world—which we cannot do anymore but we used to—you have more chance of getting deep vein thrombosis than you do from AstraZeneca. Every girl who is on a contraceptive pill—and there are thousands of them—also has more risk. You actually have more risk of getting hit by lightning than getting a clot from AstraZeneca.

I might add: if we were not demonising it and this government across from me, the state Labor government, had been investing in a campaign that gave confidence, we would have been telling the community that if you do have a thumping headache—and I am not talking about a headache, I am talking about a ripper of a headache—you go straight to the hospital and you use anticoagulants, which actually dissolve clots. That is the confidence that people needed to hear, and that is why we have shown leadership. Have you had the AstraZeneca vaccine—two shots? I have had it, and that is showing leadership. I promoted it in my social media and wherever I could because that is the tool we have had. This government wanted to keep us in lockdown because it likes the power. It had tools and it would not use them: rapid antigen testing, another tool. Why is the whole world using it but us? I do not know. Maybe you like the control that you have got by having lockdown after lockdown.

A member interjected.

Ms Britnell:  Well, explain that to the man in Portland who just rang me and said, ‘I can have 10 people tonight but I can’t make a dollar out of that, and I can’t sell my car because I can’t get anyone to come and have a look at it because you can only go so far. I can’t sell my house. How can I even help myself?’. You tell him that you were not prepared to actually put a campaign out there and promote the tools we have got, such as the vaccines that were available in May. In Melbourne we were manufacturing a million vaccine doses a week. Because this government, the Andrews Labor government, did not promote it, did not develop a campaign, did not build that trust in the community, the manufacturer had to stop producing as much and we all started saying Pfizer was the only option. Then you try and claim that the federal government did not actually do their job. Well, you are wrong.

I will call out another one. When the member for Murray Plains talked about hotel quarantine, the abhorrent roaring from the other side was saying, ‘Oh, well, look at the constitution. It was Morrison’s responsibility’. Hello? The Premier came back from national cabinet and determined one thing: ‘I am going to use security guards’, he said. He used bouncers to set up a hotel quarantine system when it is actually a role for health professionals. Cross-infection is something nurses know about, doctors know about and most health professionals know about. I am pretty damned sure every time I have been to a pub the security guard has not had any idea about that.

Look, here we are again: we are talking about the CALD community not having enough vaccinations in the community so their rates are really low. This time 12 months ago we heard that there had not been enough work done in the CALD community on language, on putting leaders in place and on making sure they had confidence and an understanding of the importance for them to stay at home, because they did not understand. So the government said, ‘Right, we’ll get out and do that’. Well, here we are again hearing the exact same thing on vaccinations. That should have been the first thing that was done back in May and June when we had AstraZeneca. We were actually awash with AstraZeneca in Victoria. So this rubbish I am hearing about our federal government not doing their job—I am sorry, it was the state government who left that absolute void in the confidence that they should have instilled in our community.

I also think that this government have just worked on what they want to say rather than what they need to do. They want to keep the community in the palm of their hand, frightened and terrified, using a sledgehammer approach with lockdowns. We cannot actually know whether if we had an approach that was not as severe we would be in the same situation, because we have used a nuclear attack approach. We do not know that, but what we do know is the effect on my children, on your children, on the year 12s, on the preppies, on all our kids and on our community. Now we are heading into a situation where we going to be overrun in our hospitals with cases because we have not prepared. Are you kidding me? Sixteen thousand health professionals in March 2020 put their names down to say, ‘I’m here to help’. I got an email saying, ‘Thanks for your offer’. I have had nothing since. I tell you now: I have given thousands of injections. I have swabbed so many swabs in my life it is not funny. So if you think we are not ready, well, get those 16 000 people and find out what their capabilities are and get ready.

Stop saying we are going to be overrun when there are people who have offered to help. We have been saying for the whole 18 months, ‘We will help’. The government put some sessions on in the Parliament when we started hearing about this disease, right at the start. The member for Brunswick and I and the Shadow Minister for Health were going because we are interested in health, and then the minute lockdown started and you guys panicked—you have never actually offered us any help to help our communities. Our communities need knowledge. We are here to give them that knowledge.

You tell me every time I hear the Premier say there is health advice—okay, well, I will tell you what health advice looks like. It looks like, stop saying, ‘The health advice says’, and start giving respect to the communities of Victoria and give them the workings out that actually help the health team come to the conclusion that we need to do certain things. Like my old maths teacher used to say, ‘Show me the workings out that got you to the answer that you have arrived at’. Do not just tell me that you came up with whatever figure; show me the workings out. That is the health advice we have been asking for. Do not just keep saying at the table, ‘We’ve got health advice’. Well, the community of Victoria are intelligent. They deserve knowledge. Give them the respect and start telling people why their kids could not go to a playground. Where is the evidence? One week, a superspreader; the next week, not at all. We are on to you. You are absolutely coming unstuck.

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