June 02, 2021

Today I provide an update on the Commonwealth's rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in the Shortland electorate—or, I should say, rather, the lack of a rollout, as my office continues to be inundated with calls from concerned constituents, some elderly and some in the 1a category, who've not been able to be vaccinated. The Liberals love to talk about deregulation and cutting red tape; however, the example I'm about to give of a medical practice being unable to begin giving out a vaccine is unfortunately worthy of a Yes Minister episode. Lake Macquarie Medical Centre is a few blocks from my electorate office. They lodged their expression of interest in delivering the vaccine in January and are still waiting for a site registration number. Today is 2 June. It has taken nearly six months to obtain a registration number.

I acknowledge that the practice did advise the Department of Health of a short deferral in order to provide their staff with the training required to administer the vaccine—a reasonable and necessary step—but they have since been continually trying to get this very significant registration number in order to begin their vaccination program. After they came to my office, inquiries were made of the minister's office. They referred us to the Vaccine Operations Centre, who provided advice that if the practice had registered an expression of interest then a registration number should be easy to obtain. The operation centre then had difficulty with this and so referred the centre on to the primary health network. This was just after my office became involved.

The medical centre did the right thing in January in registering their interest. Because they also did the right thing in training their staff, they've been faced with a wall of red tape and ridiculous bureaucracy. A medical centre not being able to administer the vaccine is a big thing in any community, but in the electorate of Shortland, the sixth-oldest community in the country, it is huge, and it's just not right. Vulnerable elderly people are unable to access the vaccine because of impediments put up by this government. There are only two practices registered in the Belmont area. There are almost 15,000 people and only two practices.

Never mind that the Morrison government has significantly contributed to vaccine hesitancy because of the stupid and risky statements of the Minister of Health; their health administration is actually preventing medical practices from vaccinating people and is stopping people who want to be vaccinated from doing so. As a result, they give up trying. One elderly gentleman in his 80s rang my office absolutely bewildered just last Friday. He's obviously in category 1a. His GP told him when he saw him last week that he might have more vaccine at the end of June. This is a man who wants to be vaccinated and who should have been vaccinated months ago. This government's incompetence is stopping him and many others from being able to do so. This government refuses to acknowledge that we are in a race to get every single Australian vaccinated and that it's the health of every single Australian that's being endangered by this incompetence and recklessness.