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Andrews Govt stands condemned for Covid Inaction

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Legislative Assembly 6 October 2021

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (12:53): I am delighted to join this debate on this matter of public importance proposed by the Member for Caulfield because we are rapidly becoming the most locked down city in the world, as the motion notes.

By the end of this week, we will have been locked down for more than 250 days, and that is certainly a record that we have never aspired to in this state. We are record breaking in many ways, but we did not wish to break this record.

On this government’s watch, as the Member for Eildon and I am sure others have said, we have gone from the world’s most livable city to the world’s most locked down city. For 248 days as of today we have been locked down. By the end of the month, if the road map holds—and given the record of the Premier, given the record of the cabinet, that is a big ‘if’— we will have been locked down for 267 days.

Now, that is a denial of basic human rights, but it is not just a denial of basic human rights. It has come at a huge cost to this state and to this community—the cost in terms of lives destroyed, the cost in terms of businesses that have been trashed, the avalanche of mental health problems that I have seen through my electorate office and I know every member of this house will have seen through their electorate office, and the tail on that, the cost on that, is just going to be enormous.

We have also seen, anecdotally at least, an avalanche of family violence, and the cost of that, again, is going to be huge.

We know the cost in terms of lives is currently 888, but we do not know what the true cost, the total cost, is, because of this government’s determination to keep the community locked down, to keep us locked up.

The mental health costs, the lives destroyed, the businesses crashed—the cost is going to be absolutely huge.

Now, we have heard constant comparisons throughout the period of the pandemic with overseas constituencies. I am not going to go through that list today. We have heard themagain and again and again.

But the fact is the only true figures that are relevant are the comparisons with other states of this commonwealth, and the fact is that of the 1378 deaths we have had in Australia 888 so far have occurred in Victoria—almost two-thirds of the deaths from this pandemic have occurred in Victoria.

Now, the Premier says he does not want us to be New South Wales, but frankly, from where I am standing, that comparison is looking pretty damn good.

If you look at it, yes, they have had more cases—66 000 against 45 500—but beyond that they have 9165 active cases, against 14 410, less than half the days of lockdown and about half the deaths.

So why do we not want to be New South Wales, because they are doing a damn sight better job than the government is in Victoria.

Others have talked about transparency. The Member for Mount Waverley talked about the health advice. The fact is we have asked again and again and again and again for transparency on the health advice. You do not get it.

Why? Because there is clearly political interference in terms of the translation of the health advice to the manner in which the lockdown has been conducted, and there can be no better indicator of that than looking at who is locked down and who is not, relative to the rate of infection.

As of yesterday’s figures, the Mornington Peninsula had an infection rate of 41.2. We are locked down.

Latrobe city, now open, has an infection rate of 88.7, more than twice the rate; Macedon Ranges, 81.6; Warrnambool, 59.7; Gannawarra has few cases, okay, but 57.3; Colac Otway, 55.6; Ararat, 50.7—none of those municipalities are locked down, but the Mornington Peninsula is.

Do not tell me the restrictions are based on health advice, because they clearly are not, and if they are, then the health advice is completely off base. I prefer the former explanation.

I did want to just refer to a couple of emails that I have had from constituents, people who run businesses.

The first is from a builder, and he says:

I currently directly employ 13 people and many more indirectly … And this is before the last construction halt. We are about to sign a contract for a project on Phillip Island that represents 25% of our turnover for the next 12 months … Me or my employees will not be able to attend the site as it is regional.

So it is a big slice of his business for the next 12 months. He and his employees at the moment cannot attend that site. He goes on to say:

… how are we meant to plan for the future or even operate our businesses with such ridiculous restrictions. When will this madness end …

Another small business person who runs a remedial massage and myotherapy business says:

… we are not part of a category that receives the extra $5000 continuity fund

In other words, they are on their own.

The last 2 lockdowns have cost me personally $14,000 after government grants … I … have told my landlord I just do not have any money left in my account. I am not sure how I will pay the upcoming bills at all.

That is a terrible situation. We have a government that has refused to recognise the human costs of its actions. We have a government that has refused to recognise the genuine impact on the Victorian community.

We have got a government that has refused to recognise and consider alternative approaches. And why would you not consider an alternative approach when this one has so clearly failed?

So they stand condemned, in my view, for the price that all Victorians have been caused to pay, they stand condemned for their gross negligence in administering and “looking after” Victoria throughout this pandemic, they stand condemned for their total failure to deal with this pandemic appropriately and they certainly should be condemned as is suggested in this motion.

Business interrupted under resolution of house of 5 October.