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Monday, 30 August 2021
Page: 98

Mr DRUM (NichollsChief Nationals Whip) (19:35): [by video link] COVID has thrown up many challenges for Australian citizens and also for people right around the world. All of these challenges, I suppose, are relative, especially when you look at how so many other countries have had to deal with all the troubles that they've have had. But right now, on the Australian scale of disruption and damage, there is no city in Australia that has had to deal with more than what Shepparton has faced over the past eight days. The city, with around 50,000 to 60,000 people, has had up to one-third of its entire population tied up in a 14-day isolation lockdown. It has been quite extreme.

This came around by having so many of our largest school campuses in Shepparton becoming tier 1 exposure sites. This sent approximately 800 students from each of these campuses home to isolate for 14 days, but it also literally meant that 3½ thousand family members of those 800 students were also sent home to isolate at the same time. As each of our major schools became tier 1 exposure sites, thousands and thousands of families were sent home to isolate, and, as thousands of people turned up to get tested from last Sunday through to Monday, we had nurses and health professionals on the testing crews told to leave their spots on those crews to go home to isolate. This immediately led to people, who were lined up in cars last weekend to get tested, taking up to seven hours to achieve those tests.

We need to send a big thankyou to groups such as the Australian Defence Force, who sent medicos into Shepparton to help get those testing crews back up to speed. We had health professionals coming in from Bendigo, from Geelong, from Wodonga and from Melbourne to assist, and we send a big thankyou to all of those workers for coming into Shepparton to help us with that work.

We've also had to find a way to feed people who are unable to get to the supermarkets. We've had to find a way for supermarkets that were shut down—how are they going to be able to maintain their click-and-collect stores? They were able to come up with a system where supermarkets from surrounding towns—Echuca, Kyabram, Euroa, Seymour—were able to make click-and-collect trips into Shepparton to help out.

We have also had to call on a range of people who haven't just stepped up in the last few days, but effectively work in this space each and every day of the year—and I go straight to Azem and Jeihan. They run Lutfiyes kebab shop in Shepparton, but they also run People Supporting People. They run barbecues to feed the homeless. They have their own feedlot out the back of their cafe where they have breakfast available for anybody who needs it each and every day of the year. They have stepped up to make literally hundreds and hundreds of meals, and I want to thank Azem and Jeihan for the work that they do.

Jeremy Rensford, Jan Phillips, Kate Smith and their team over at Foodshare have done amazing work in making thousands and thousands of food and care packages available for the people who need that type of assistance. To Lisa McKenzie and her team, thank you again. Red Cross have sent so many volunteers out into the Goulburn Valley to assist and help feed these people who have had no other option but to accept this charity. People would know Shepparton as being an incredible producer of food and food-processing, with SPC and Campbell Soup Company and Unilever. We have fruit and food. We have thousands and thousands of people employed in the food production centres, and those industries have been crippled, so it has been very, very testing.

I also need to thank the City of Greater Shepparton. Kim O'Keeffe, the mayor, and especially Rob Priestley, the deputy mayor, have done an amazing amount of work in advocating for the specific needs that this great city has had over the last couple of days, as has the Committee for Greater Shepparton CEO, Sam Birrell, also an amazing leader. Currently, some of the schools which were originally classified as tier 1 exposure sites have been downgraded to tier 2. This has meant that in the last couple of days thousands and thousands of people have been able to go back to work. We are certainly hoping that this trend continues over the next few days. (Time expired)