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Tuesday, 20 October 2020
Page: 44


Mr ZIMMERMAN (North Sydney) (16:08): This pandemic is a crisis that's affected every part of our country and, in some way, every person in our country. It is one of those events, like the Spanish flu, the Great Depression or the two world wars, that this generation of Australians will remember with dread for the rest of their lives. Today I particularly think about those incredible year 12 students who, with such great fortitude, have gone through one of the most difficult years of schooling and who started, in my state, their HSC today. I know that these are events they'll live with not just this year but for several years to come, events they'll talk about for the rest of their lives.

It is a credit to all Australians, including in my own community, that as a nation, despite the impacts that so many in our community have faced, we have done better than most other countries in the world. We've done better because governments have come together, communities have come together, our health workers have come together and our researchers have come together. In fact, all Australians have united behind the common cause of trying to defeat the effects of this pandemic.

It is therefore extraordinary that the opposition come into this parliament today and question the priorities of the federal government during the last six months. I wonder which one of those priorities they think we've got wrong. Has it been the support we've provided to our health system, which has been so vital to protecting lives? Is it the priority we gave to cushioning the economic blow of this pandemic, which we have done through all of the actions that we have taken, as a government, over the last six months? Or is it the priority we are giving to rebuilding and recovering, providing hope for those people who've lost their jobs? Are they the priorities those opposite are questioning today? Those three priorities, more than anything else, have been squarely at the heart of everything the federal team, led by our Prime Minister, who's worked day and night to help Australians, has been doing over the last six months.

You can only ask why the opposition would raise an MPI like this. But it's not a surprise, really. One of the great lies of the last six months that we've seen emanate from the other side is that the opposition wanted to be a constructive part of the team which has been trying to protect Australia from the pandemic. Whilst they talk about being constructive, we know that every single action the opposition have taken over the last six months has been nothing short of carping criticism, which has not helped but in fact harmed and, in many cases, instilled fear in Australians. For that, we can only wonder why.

I suspect that, in some ways, it's because the Leader of the Opposition is still in a fit of pique because he wasn't part of the national cabinet, which brought together heads of government. Funnily enough, you actually have to be a head of government to be part of a national cabinet of heads of government. That fact doesn't seem to have struck him. But it is interesting to think about what the Leader of the Opposition's contribution would have been if he'd been a member of the national cabinet. We've had some indication of what that might have been like, because we saw some of his priorities in the early days. I remember so vividly the great brainwave we had from the Leader of the Opposition in June, no doubt determined to achieve immortality. He said that a priority for the Australian government, in the middle of a national pandemic and economic crisis, should be—wait for it—the creation of a national drivers licence. No doubt he was hoping that, like the go card, the myki, the Opal or the SmartRider, this would be a national drivers licence that had a name. No doubt he was hoping it would be called 'the Albo' so that, for ever and a day, every Australian, when they weren't worried about having Labor's hands in their pockets and in their wallets, would know that there'd be an Albo in their wallets and purses. That's the type of contribution that we have seen over the last six months.

I want to touch on what our priorities actually have been. We've been protecting the health of Australians, putting $16 billion into research and making sure we have options for a vaccine. There's the work we've done to secure PPE supplies for our health workers, the agreements with the states to make sure that our hospital systems could hope, and the advice of the experts, which has been guiding us through this. These have all been hallmarks of our successful management of the pandemic.

In addition to the health crisis, we've obviously been addressing the economic crisis. We've done that in every action that this federal government has taken. There are 3½ million workers that have survived this because of JobKeeper. There's the support to businesses and there's the budget, handed down at the beginning of the month, which is all about the rebuilding process. These are the priorities of this government. They're priorities that are respected and admired by the Australian population, and for good reason. (Time expired)