August 03, 2021

It's a privilege to follow the Leader of the Opposition and his contribution on this topic that is, really, the most important issue this country faces. I'm going to use my time speaking on the Treasury Laws Amendment (COVID-19 Economic Response No. 2) Bill 2021 to shine a national light on the situation of my constituents on the Central Coast, who are in a lockdown directly because of the incompetence and arrogance of the Morrison government.

Let there be no mistake: my constituents know the reason they are in lockdown. Australians are smart and more than aware that this government had two key jobs this year: to sort out the national quarantine arrangements and to ensure a smooth rollout of the vaccine. It has failed totally on both of those. As a result of that, 30,000 of my constituents in Shortland who live on the Central Coast are now in the sixth week of a lockdown. That's 30,000 constituents who have had their jobs imperilled by this government's incompetence, 30,000 constituents who are having to home-school their kids and 30,000 constituents who have had their health endangered because of this government's incompetence. I want to speak directly to those people today.

Lake Macquarie is the largest saltwater lake in the Southern Hemisphere. For those who live around it, like I do, it's a stunning place and it's a real privilege to live there. I echo the comments from the assistant minister; it is beautiful. But the lake has become a cruel border for many of my constituents. Some of the suburbs in the southern part of the lake, such as Gwandalan and Summerland Point, are in the Central Coast local government area and are therefore subject to the lockdown, while they can see suburbs directly across as little as 500 metres of water who are living lives relatively free from restrictions.

These are suburbs that are literally on the shores of Lake Macquarie, but, because they're in the Central Coast LGA, they join other suburbs, such as Lake Munmorah, San Remo, Doyalson, Buff Point and Budgewoi, that are in lockdown. This is causing huge distress for my constituents and huge confusion. For example, one mother contacted me. Her family lives on the Central Coast, but her child goes to Hunter Sports High, which is in Lake Macquarie. The child can attend school and even train and play football for the school on weekday afternoons but is not able to travel into Lake Macquarie or Newcastle on the weekend for their teams. This is a small example of the two classes of constituents in Shortland at the moment.

But the impact on businesses, quite frankly, doesn't respect that border. The impact on businesses is massive. For example, I heard from my constituents Christine and Greg Smith, who own Charmhaven Newsagency. Christine had to self-isolate for 14 days after serving a close contact. This has put incredible strain on her business as well as on her personal life. Christine has said: 'I have to stay in my bedroom while Greg is home. I prepare my meal before he gets home, then he has to do his meal.' Last week I chatted with Rodney King, who is the owner of the very well-known Hunter business, Kings Coaches. Their business is down a staggering 90 per cent compared to pre-COVID periods. I spoke to Rodney, and he was incredibly brave and honest and forthright, but he is struggling to see a way through for his business, which is a business that does a great service for my community. If you look further north, for example, during the school holidays, my wife and I took our two kids up to Nelson Bay and went on a whale-watching cruise. It was a beautiful day. We got to see many humpbacks breaching in the pristine Pacific Ocean. But we were on a boat that normally takes about 200 people. This is their peak season. Normally there are 200 tourists, mostly from Sydney, on that boat. There would have been 15 on that day. I just can't think of the devastation that that business suffers.

Then there are the repercussions of the vaccine rollout on people's health. I have the privilege of having the Hunter vaccine hub in my electorate at the old Belmont Bunnings site. Just two weeks into its operation, Pfizer vaccines are now being diverted from this hub to western and south-western Sydney for year 12 students. My constituents are generous people, and they obviously don't begrudge the HSC students being vaccinated in the eight most affected lockdown LGAs, but the most basic point is that this diversion need not have happened if the Commonwealth had sourced enough vaccines in the first place. People who have lost their appointments are rightly distressed about it. Deb is an essential worker from Belmont, and she emailed me the following: 'I'm an absolute wreck. I've been on an emotional rollercoaster since receiving a text to cancel my first Pfizer jab at the Belmont mass vax clinic. To say I'm angry is an understatement. To make matters worse, when I get online to try and rebook, I can click right through to December and there are no appointments available. And, to add salt to my wounds, every time I turn the TV on, there is Gladys and the Prime Minister telling me, "Get vaccinated, get vaccinated."' I've also been contacted by Mary-Anne Jennings, the principal of Saint Kevin's Primary School at Cardiff following the redirection. Mary-Anne says, 'My staff are very upset because their appointments have been cancelled; yet, as teachers, we are essential workers.' That's another example of my constituents wanting to do the right thing—in this case, the teaching profession—but they are being held hostage on this government's Pfizer rollout.

To make matters worse, many of the Belmont vaccine appointments were going to people on the Central Coast because, for whatever reason, the New South Wales government does not have a mass vaccination hub on the Central Coast, despite there being 300,000 people locked down there right now. So people on the Central Coast are making appointments and travelling up to Belmont. All their appointments have been cancelled, including those in priority 1a and 1b. Just imagine it! These are the people that this government said should be vaccinated by March. They promised they would be vaccinated by March. They finally get an appointment for a vaccination in August, September or October, and the Liberal state and federal governments are causing their appointments to be cancelled. This is a disgrace. There was a much simpler way.

If they couldn't fix the Pfizer supply, which this government should have done, they should have done what occurred in the UK, which was to double the length between the first Pfizer jab and the second, so that those in the Hunter and Central Coast who were booked in for their first dose wouldn't have had to be cancelled.

My office and I and many volunteers have been ringing constituents in the Central Coast to see how they're going, to just check up on them and to offer assistance. I've been touched by the response. People are incredibly brave and incredibly supportive of the community effort to get through this vaccine rollout. They are loathe to complain and they are grateful for the call, but these people know whose fault this is. They know why we're in this predicament. They hold the Prime Minister directly responsible for them being in the lockdown. One response—in a typical Australian fashion—was, 'Of course, it's a bloody race.'

So I'll finish on this: this is a government that has failed in its two jobs—the vaccine rollout and national quarantine. There have been 28 breaches of national quarantine, causing 11 million Australians to be in lockdown right now. The Australian people know that this federal government has failed them. They are in their sixth week of lockdown in the southern portions of Shortland, as part of the greater Sydney region, because of this government's incompetence. This needs to be fixed urgently.