Thursday, 14 October 2021 HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY Page 7853 – 7862
Ms BEDFORD (Florey) (11:01): I move my motion in an amended form:
That this house establish a select committee to inquire into, assist and report upon the state government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the management, implementation, policies, procedures, representation, consultation and operations of all agencies of the government engaged in that response, with particular regard to the following:
(a) the management of COVID-19 outbreaks and clusters, including recent clusters;
(b) COVID-19 restrictions, border controls and all cross-border issues;
(c) the effectiveness, consistency and clarity of public communications relating to the government’s COVID-19 response;
(d) the operation and establishment of medi-hotels and other processes for quarantine and selfisolation;
(e) the operation of the Emergency Management Act 2004, the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act 2020 and related legislation;
(f) the role and performance of the COVID-19 Transition Committee and the responsibility of ministers and portfolio agencies;
(g) engagement with, and impacts on, key stakeholders relating to the government’s COVID-19 response, including:
(i) regional communities;
(ii) multicultural communities;
(iii) business, agricultural, resources and export sectors;
(iv) the broader South Australian community; and
(h) any other relevant matter relating to the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We are just adding the one extra word, ‘assist’, at the very beginning. I thought it was really importantto add the extra word because what we are trying to be here is not be a problem to anyone but, rather, an adjunct, an extra pair of hands and eyes, as we move through these new times before us. As South Australians, we can sometimes be very hard on ourselves, particularly when we are the constant target of unfunny quips from the rest of the country and perhaps much wider, more often, and it can be very draining at times.
However, I firmly believe South Australia can be at the forefront of COVID and the COVID response. Particularly as a member of parliament, I would like to be involved and aware of what is going on, rather than waiting for media releases—not that that is necessarily an issue, because I know everyone in South Australia health is doing their very best, as is everybody in government. I think we can be an extra set of helpful people, particularly because parliament does committee work so well, and we can actually do something to assist in the forthcoming period of time.
Most of this year, I think South Australians have come to a new-found respect for and appreciation of this little corner of the country we call home as the effects of the pandemic and recession and instability more widely have rippled around the world in repeated waves. It is fair to say South Australians have been very proud of our public authorities, our health system and the way everyone has worked as hard as possible to get ahead of the curve.
The statistics speak for themselves: only four people have died from COVID-19 in South Australia since the pandemic commenced, and as at 11 October there have only been 913 cases. The government was quick to accept advice and focus on testing, and by mid-2020 we were already talking about the post-pandemic recovery and transition process. At this point, I must mention the extraordinary contribution of SA Pathology and all the testing staff at all the centres, who have worked under enormous pressure. I do not know how they did it, but we are so grateful to them for everything they did.
The Premier set up the Transition Committee, which over time has morphed into a very powerful group. The confidence of the public, though, is being tested by recent events such as the large number of people at the border waiting to come back into South Australia. In November 2020, a number of cases of local transmission of COVID-19 were identified, and a six-day turned three-day statewide lockdown was entered into. That was the Parafield cluster.
This was the genesis of my thinking around this committee. Seeing lines of people for 10 hours in the sun trying to get a COVID test, I just thought there must be some better way of doing things. At that time, some of my colleagues here may recall I tried to get that committee established through a suspension of standing orders, which was lost on a tied vote here in the house.
What started in Parafield as a few cases grew very quickly as contact tracing sprang into action and multiple locations across the metropolitan area were identified. By Sunday 15 November 2020, South Australia was in that six-day lockdown, which was a community pause. The lockdown ended early on 20 November because an individual had been found not to have been totally honest with contact tracers. We now know this was not an isolated case.
People involved in contact tracing are doing their very best to get the evidence and information they need from people who do not always understand or remember everything they have done. In itself, that is a problem, as some individuals, as did this particular person, have English as a second language, accentuating the barriers they have to overcome to make sure the contact tracing works as well as it can.
Then we heard about a student from Flinders University who was accused of breaking quarantine before that was exposed as being incorrect and an apology was duly made. Both this Flinders person and the earlier pizza person of the Parafield cluster were subjected to significant public abuse, creating obvious concerns. I do not want to dwell too much on the rest of all of that, but I think the next important fact in my thinking around all this was in July 2021 when the Modbury cluster was identified, causing a second seven-day statewide lockdown.
An 81-year-old man presented to Modbury Hospital on Sunday 18 July with respiratory systems and tested positive to the virus. The man and his daughter travelled from Buenos Aires. They stayed 14 days in a New South Wales hospital and returned to South Australia, being spared a 14-day quarantine period, which is normal and there is nothing untoward about all of that. But by Wednesday 21 July, South Australia had entered its first day of a lockdown, and a major hotspot, The Greek on Halifax, was identified. By the afternoon, the state had recorded six cases.
The Modbury cluster itself totalled 22 cases, none of them in Modbury, which has to be an absolute miracle because the man had walked around shopping centres, Service SA offices and the local council chambers, where I had actually attended half an hour before he arrived. The entire Modbury Hospital emergency department was locked down and 70 staff were taken out of the frontline. I still do not understand that. However, that is a sideline.
More recently, the major restrictions to the Mount Gambier area were sparked when a mother of four returned home from regional Victoria. I want to also highlight again my profound and deep concern for those who are impacted by this pandemic, but I am also very troubled to learn her car was torched and her house almost lost. That is an issue for me.
It is a truism that this recession has impacted on the poorest members of our society: those who earn a living in precarious casualised work with lower rates of pay, those who are dependent on social security and those who are vulnerable. In my electorate, economic pressures are already running deep and we are seeing elevated demand for emergency relief such as food parcels. I can only again thank those people who have been involved with distributing those throughout the community.
We know vaccination rates are important to what we need to do. We have seen a great response to vaccination after a bit of a tricky start, and we certainly need to do more about all of that. I know we can help with some of the information we have had from our community members, who are ultimately the people at the end of this process. They have come to me, as I am sure they have to all our members, with lots of information about ways we can do things much better and get ahead of the curve.
I will not hold the house any further. There is lots more I am sure all of you want to say to all this. I hope I can count on everyone’s assistance to move this forward so that we can be part of the solutions around this and really get ahead and be part of the best practice here in Australia in this very tricky period ahead of us, which I know we all want to see work as well as it can for our people and for the state.
The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER (Morialta—Minister for Education) (11:10): The member for Florey has brought a motion to establish a select committee to inquire into and report on the state government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. She subsequently has sought to have the house consider an amendment, which we will consider in due course. That amendment would also suggest that the committee would assist, and I will get to that.
The basis of the select committee is to look at the management, implementation, policies, procedures, representation, consultation, and operations of all agencies in government. It is a broad scope and now the member for Florey has also added to the terms of reference, that the committee is to assist in that response.
To that end, I note the member for Florey concluded her remarks by saying that we can all be part of the solutions, or at least I suppose those who are to be appointed to the proposed select committee. She identifies that she has had community members make suggestions, which of course is welcome, and there is nothing preventing those suggestions from being brought to the attention of the house or to ministers or to agencies at any time. I look forward to the member explaining in her response in due course why a select committee is necessary to do that.
The member thought that a select committee would be useful because it would provide ‘an extra set of helpful people’, I think were her words, to assist in the response. All of this is, of course, most worthy. My response is that I am looking forward to hearing the discussion about this motion to assist me to form a view clearly as to the merits of the proposed committee and how it would benefit.
There have been a range of parliamentary engagements with agencies looking at the COVID response. There was a celebrated case last year—or I should say whatever is the opposite of celebrated—when the Chief Public Health Officer at the height of the evolving crisis in the first half of last year was brought before a parliamentary committee, I think a Legislative Council committee, and was kept waiting for a period of time to give evidence, having asked to have her evidence brought forward early because, of course, it was at the most urgent time. She was left waiting in the corridor for a period of time and then eventually was not able to present because the committee of the Legislative Council, chaired by the Labor Party I believe, felt they had more urgent business than the Chief Public Health Officer’s approach to the pandemic.
Of course, another committee has been established that has provided good information to the people of South Australia and has had a useful accountability measure, which many people have appreciated, into the government’s response to COVID. This parliament has many questions that are presented from time to time about the coronavirus response. I do not think there has been a situation in public policy over my lifetime—I stand to be corrected—where the Premier, the health minister, other ministers, chief public health officers and police commissioners have made themselves available to the community on certainly a very regular basis, and at times on a daily basis, to provide information.
However, more information is sought and as Minister for Education, well within the scope of the motion we are looking to find information and report upon information. Whether the committee is established or not, clearly there is a desire for more information. I am happy to provide it about my department’s response to COVID and some of the work that we have been doing.
First, in relation to current settings, I bring the house up to date that school and preschool operations are largely business as usual at present, with important ongoing COVID-safe measures in place. That includes at the moment. We of course hope that the advice will enable us to relieve some of these restrictions sooner rather than later, but the health advice certainly requires us at the moment to have face mask wearing for adults while indoors, except when teaching or engaging with students in our schools. Face mask wearing is also required for students in year 8 and above while indoors. Obviously, there are exemptions to all these categories as appropriate, as there are elsewhere in health settings.
Regretfully, we are still seeking that access to school and preschool grounds be minimised wherever possible to urgent service provision, and adults on site must continue to physically distance wherever and whenever possible, including at pick-up and drop-off times. This is not always easy, but there are also of course site-specific considerations and there is no one size fits all that is relevant for all circumstances.
The circumstances of Scott Creek Primary School and Port Neill Primary School, where there are nine students and three staff, are quite different from Adelaide High School or Glenunga High School or Reynella East College, where they are approaching 2,000 students and hundreds of staff, so we largely allow the principals to make sensible decisions that apply the broad principles in relation that.
We do understand that there are important points of engagement where we want families to be on site and to be able to participate in things. That has been difficult, having been minimised in the last year and a half, but we trust our principals and our leaders to make the good calls and indeed they have access to Department for Education advice and SA Health advice if in doubt. We have provided over the course of the pandemic additional cleaning opportunities and very strong advice. It is advice that exists anyway but certainly applied to the maximum event that staff and students should stay home if they are unwell, even mildly.
In relation to early childhood settings, where the engagement between adults and children is so important, those mask restrictions do not exist for staff but do exist for parents coming on site. Obviously, while in school settings there is a reduced level of parents coming on site, in early childhood settings that is not feasible. Our focus, of course, is to ensure that the kids get looked after as our absolute priority.
We have dealt with site closure protocols. I think it was the day Professor Spurrier and I undertook a press conference last year to provide advice to the public about what site protocols would be, or within a couple of days, of the first site closure having to happen. In the public system, those protocols have been followed at the Gawler and District College B-12, Elizabeth Vale Primary School, Woodville High School, Roma Mitchell Secondary College, Mawson Lakes Primary School and Preschool, Thebarton, Unley, Kingston, Renmark, Pennington and Henley High School.
Those site closures could have been immensely problematic for communities, yet I am so proud as Minister for Education of the way the department and the school and preschool staff worked so well with their communities, to the point where there was a calm and an understanding. Those communities and those sites and those leaders did an exceptional job and I am very grateful to them. Planning for future outbreaks continues. We of course have had lockdowns, and indeed work has had to be done from home for a period.
We lost some days at the end of term 1 last year for professional development. We lost a couple of days last year during the statewide lockdown and we lost a week this year. The number of days lost in our in-school educational environment were fewer in South Australia than in every other jurisdiction in the country, and our kids have been the beneficiaries of that. They have had the least disruption to their education over the last year and half of pretty much any kids in the world. That is extraordinarily important for their educational development and their wellbeing, for vulnerable children at risk of disengagement from schooling.
There has been disruption, there have been challenges and there are probably some kids we have struggled to get back after the challenges and we would love to get back, but those challenges pale into insignificance compared with some of those faced interstate and overseas.
I take this opportunity to commend all the staff in education and health who have put forward their incredible efforts and resources towards making those educational opportunities available for our kids. It has been a partnership with the government and the people of South Australia: our health workers and officers and the people of South Australia. Following those instructions have given our kids that opportunity.
While these matters are very front of mind for everyone, they continue to be matters for the parliament. It is a matter for the house whether it wishes to establish, as the member for Florey put it, a further set of extra helpful people able to help the state get ahead. I look forward to further arguments on that matter, but we, of course, stand ready to provide the house with information as required every day that we sit.
The SPEAKER: Thank you, Minister for Education. It may assist members for me to read the first sentence of the amended motion so that that amended motion might be kept close in mind:
That this house establish a select committee to inquire into—
and the new word ‘assist’—
assist and report upon the state government’s response—
and thereafter follow the words of the existing motion.
Mr PICTON (Kaurna) (11:21): I will be relatively brief. I do not intend to repeat various commentary in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been on the record in terms of the parliament before. Certainly, we thank and support the incredible work done by Commissioner Grant Stevens as the State Coordinator, and the Chief Public Health Officer, Nicola Spurrier. I do think we have had an exceptionally fantastic response in South Australia, led largely by the fact that the community has stuck together. We have had a constructive relationship, with the opposition being constructive about keeping our state safe.
I do think, though, that it is important for the parliament to play a constructive role, and I certainly welcome the amended form of the motion from the member for Florey in the terms that this motion and this committee would be seeking to assist that response. I note that the member for Morialta was talking about how there is a Legislative Council committee; however, I think that this house could do things better. We are in touch with our local constituents in a way that, frankly, the other place is not.
One way I would draw that to the attention of the house is that I know there are members, particularly in those cross-border areas, who have had to face issues that I do not think any member would have expected or any previous member would have dealt with before in terms of those cross-border issues. For the parliament to have a vehicle where we can assist in helping to raise those issues, to ask particular questions that need to be asked, can only be constructive in terms of helping to address those issues. I thank all those members from whatever political persuasion they are who have had to go through that.
Clearly, members are going through a huge number of applications at the moment from returning South Australians as well, and I dare say that local members of parliament are in touch with those people more than perhaps any other member of the Legislative Council would be in terms of their committee.
Having a vehicle for this house, particularly at a critical time, when we are seeking to open the borders and allow COVID-19 into South Australia, would be constructive for the parliament to do to make sure that we can have the best response possible and to make sure those concerns that we are hearing in our electorates have a voice through the parliament to help make that response even better, so I offer our support in terms of the motion.
Mr BELL (Mount Gambier) (11:23): I rise to indicate that I will be supporting the amended motion and to put on record a few comments. Firstly, I think the government has done an outstanding job in managing the worldwide pandemic. I do not think you could argue with the numbers as they sit at the moment, particularly when you look at the number of deaths around the world. This government’s response has been exemplary and is also leading the world in many respects. That does not mean that there cannot be further improvements and I think that constructive thought and opinion of this house could assist the state government’s response, and certainly that is my intent with this.
I will give a couple of examples of that. One is the amendment to the Emergency Management Act that this house passed a couple of weeks ago. It really highlighted that a large number of people have been waiting for an extraordinary amount of time just to see if they can re-enter South Australia. That was legislated to have a 21-day time line put on it, and I know that has gone a long way to sharpening the focus of SA Health and the communication with people.
In fact, there is now a new portal that is certainly showing progress along the way. In actual fact, it has been opened and it has been looked at by somebody, and it will have a progress bar as to where they are up to. Certainly the biggest complaint that came across my desk was that people were actually applying four, five, 10 times because they did not know whether their first application had been looked at, so I think great improvements have been made in that space.
Another example is briefings for MPs. Certainly the briefing I attended gave a little bit of clarity on SA Health’s plans going forward and it answered a number of questions I had. Also, of course, having a regional representative on the Transition Committee, albeit the intent was to have someone who lived in the regions, preferably from the cross-border regions.
As we come to the next phase of the state government managing this pandemic, it is crucial that we get everybody on board, and that is what I am seeking with my support for this committee. We do not need to be playing political games and speaking political banter in here or in the media generally around the handling of this pandemic. One way you get consensus is by working together, sharing information, and by people having the knowledge and not criticising when in fact everything is being done as is. The times for those discussions are in that committee stage.
I will give you an example of that. I am coming to the mind, even though I moved amendments to the Emergency Management Act, that 2 December is a very critical time for this state and the handling of the pandemic going forward and our response as a state to that. I am becoming increasingly firm in my opinion that to take away the emergency management powers at that time may be a mistake because, as our international and state borders open up, we are going to see an influx of COVID cases in South Australia. You can look at Singapore, you can look at the United Kingdom and you can look anywhere else around the world. As soon as borders open up, more COVID comes into the country and, of course, into our state.
That might be exactly the time that you need the emergency management powers to enact arguments or put in place processes that this parliament may be too slow to respond to. We are going to see increased COVID cases, it is going to have an impact on our health system and we need somebody who can manage that in a very rapid way. Again, that is borne out due to more information coming through.
How we handle those cases will have a direct impact on the viability of many businesses and many industries in South Australia. I can give lots of examples, but we had one case in Mount Gambier and we went into pretty tight restrictions for a period of five days, including the Monday to Friday consecutive.
I am very grateful for the state government’s business support package of $3,000; however, numerous businesses are contacting me, and they are not actually critical of the support package at all. As an example, one business was down $70,000 for the week. They run three separate businesses but under one ABN, so the response is $3,000 per ABN not per business affected, if that makes sense.
Going forward, we need to know how to manage much higher COVID cases in South Australia without unduly destroying businesses and the economy, and I think that is where this committee could be of assistance to the government. We need a more sophisticated response than just snap lockdowns and very tight restrictions because at the end of this we still need an economy and people to be employed going forward.
It does affect people’s mental health. It will have a greater impact, and I think that the member for Florey made a very good point on ABC radio this morning, when she said that it is okay to have an increased number of beds for COVID-related patients, but if those are coming at the expense of mental health beds you are really robbing Peter to pay Paul, and it is an important point to consider.
I know of many, many businesses that had a very stark downturn in their trade, and we need to have systems going forward that can handle higher caseloads and manage it, and I think the committee could assist in that area.
The number of days it takes for people to be informed about whether they can re-enter the state is still a concern, and I have a number of people waiting over 35 days now. There needs to be some clarity around what the 21 days actually means and whether there are any remedies after that 21 days, because it is a legislative requirement now.
SA Health needs more resources to process applications. Could the current system actually be improved? If you have a place where you can self-isolate for the 14 days, be double vaccinatedand have a negative COVID test, there could be a more fast-track approach for those who can provide that type of assurance to the state government and ultimately to the people of South Australia. Those options should be looked at.
There are a range of things. I see this as a supportive mechanism, where some of these things can be fleshed out. On radio again, the health minister said that there are 8,000 applications for people desiring to re-enter the state. I wonder what other opportunities there are, apart from greater resources, that we could fast-track, and of course information sharing is vitally important. With those words, I commend the motion to the house.
The Hon. G.G. BROCK (Frome) (11:34): I also would like to support the member for Florey’s request for a select committee to look at COVID-19. First up, can I say straight from the start that if this gets up—and I hope it does—this is no reflection on where we have been or what we have done to date. We have to make that quite clear.
As the member for Mount Gambier indicated, the people of South Australia have done a fantastic job. Our frontline workers have done a fantastic job, and they are under a lot of stress out there. We only have to look at the results so far in South Australia—we have been very, very lucky. I say ‘lucky’, but I think it is more that the community and the general public have adhered to everything that has been asked of them throughout the course of this pandemic over the last 18 months or two years.
I think that this is an opportunity—like anything, we go along and we do things in our general lives, but it is a time when we need to reflect on how we have been doing it and can we do better. From what I read in the member for Florey’s notice of motion, it is to review the opportunities and we can improve it. As the member for Mount Gambier and other members have indicated—and I state this publicly out there—we have not seen the worst at this particular point.
We look at New South Wales, and my thoughts and consideration are for those people. Also, what is happening in Victoria at the moment is absolutely heartbreaking, and you only had to listen to the person on ABC radio this morning who had been across to the ACT to attend the funerals of his sister and the newborn baby who died as a result of that lady’s passing. That is traumatic.
We need to look at all the opportunities. Whilst we need to make certain that we have everything in place here in South Australia, my concern is also the regional areas. We have had to abide by all the restrictions that have been done on a statewide basis, and I agree with that. The member for Mount Gambier indicated that a lot of our businesses out there have really suffered financially, not only their own business and the loans they have to pay back but also the workers themselves have had their hours drastically reduced in certain areas. I only have to look at some of my people in accommodation and hospitality: they are down a fair bit, although I do not know the exact amounts.
This notice of motion by the member for Florey asks us to have a look at the opportunity and at how we can better what we have been doing so far. We have had recent briefings for all the MPs. I get phone calls in my electorate, even though it is well and truly away from the borders, and I sympathise with the member for MacKillop and the member for Mount Gambier for the number of people they must be getting requesting to come back into South Australia, specifically workers going from one side of the borders to the other side of the borders.
The member for Mount Gambier put some amendments to the Emergency Management Act just recently regarding the opportunity to have a regional person on the Transition Committee. The government then put what they call a regional person on there, somebody from PIRSA. That person is a fantastic person and a great worker, but I would rather have seen an actual regionally based person on the committee to specifically address some of the issues that are coming in from the close border sections of the South-East of the state.
I know there may be other speakers, and I know the member for Florey wants to close it off, but one of the things going forward is the impact on the health and wellbeing of some of our young kids and also the general public. So far, we have been insulated against some of the financial issues and other stuff because we really have not had it in South Australia at this stage.
Nicola Spurrier has done a fantastic job, as has Grant Stevens, but I have to pay tribute and give credit to the people of South Australia for doing everything possible to ensure that we reduce that opportunity. People say, ‘Well, the government has done terrific,’ and the government has done terrific, but let’s also acknowledge the people and some of the suggestions coming from government, and part of this could be improving and suggesting better ways of doing it.
The impact on the mental health and wellbeing of our communities is my real concern. I see that happening a fair bit already in students. They see their parents being very stressed in various ways, because of their employment or their lack of employment, and that comes back to the young kids. I would hope that, when this select committee gets up, they are some of the things we can look at to ensure not only that we have enough funds in the budget for this but that we also have the bodies on the ground and staff for people to talk to and to make sure we can get through this.
I hope I do not see another pandemic like this in my lifetime—and I want to be here for a long, long time. We have done extremely well. I implore everybody here to vote for this motion for a select committee to look at not only how we have handled it but how we can go forward and better manage all the potential opportunities.
The SPEAKER: Member for Florey.
Mr PEDERICK: Mr Speaker—
The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER: Point of order, sir.
The SPEAKER: Minister for Education.
The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER: The member for Hammond was clearly on his feet. It is the tradition of the Speaker in any case to point out that when a member rises who would close the debate that it is drawn to the attention of the house and a member who has not yet contributed is given the opportunity. Notwithstanding that, the member for Hammond was on his feet.
The SPEAKER: I sought an indication from the member for Hammond earlier as to whether he wished to speak and I was not clear as to whether there was a response but, nevertheless—
Mr Pederick: No, you haven’t sought that.
The SPEAKER: I tried to signal to the member for Hammond, but perhaps the signal was not seen.
Mr Pederick: So are we right, sir?
The SPEAKER: The member for Hammond.
Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (11:40): Thank you, Mr Speaker. I rise to speak on this select committee into the management of COVID-19. In the first instance, I am just so thankful that I live in this state in this great country—in this great state—with respect to this global pandemic. The last global pandemic was over 100 years ago, with the Spanish flu. It was straight after World War I, when tens of millions of people died. I believe at least 60 million people died because of the effects of the outbreak of war across the world. Directly after World War I we had the Spanish flu outbreak, when 500 million people across the world caught it and 10 per cent of those died: 50 million people died from the Spanish flu.
In Sydney, travellers coming back from overseas were quarantined in health facilities on Sydney Harbour, so the management of these things is not completely new, but we have made a lot of advances. Simple things like handwashing, social distancing, covering your mouth and wearing masks were all things employed over 100 years ago after the onset of the Spanish flu, which killed 50 million people.
In the first instance, I would like to thank the people in Health who have done an amazing job not just here in South Australia but also across the world in fast-tracking the development of vaccines. Multiple vaccines have been developed right across the world. We know there is one in China, and developments have come out of this country, the USA, England and elsewhere in the global fight against COVID-19. I applaud everyone who has been involved in that fight.
While it is right for people to have their position, what does distress me is the anti-vax movement and their religious zealotry, that they follow on Facebook for things that they believe in. I found it fascinating when the first word came out that ivermectin was going to be the drug of choice to beat COVID-19.
When ivermectin first came out in the mid-1980s, I was working in Western Australia on farms for a little while. I had been over there for a rural youth exchange as well around that time. It was a significant milestone in developing a sheep drench for worms and itch mite. It was a great thing to break the cycle and a great rotating sheep drench so that you did not have sheep becoming immune to the effects of drench so that it did not work. It was a great thing, so it was with some bemusement, I should say, that people have peddled this. I do note that ivermectin does come in a human tablet form—in the brief time that I did google the use of it—but it does interest me that people would rather trust that than the science of vaccines.
As we have seen, and as advertised by the great Professor Nicola Spurrier, these vaccines that we have currently were developed just like any other vaccine in the world. It is just that they have been fast-tracked, and rightly so. Of course they have been fast-tracked. A great wealth of time and effort has been put into developing those vaccines. Talking about wealth, the amount of money that governments have been spending, especially here in Australia in our circumstances—the federal government, our state government, the Marshall Liberal government—to make sure that those vaccines can get into arms so that we can get to that 80 per cent double vaccination rate, and a lot higher would be the aim, is considerable.
I must say I held back a bit on getting vaccinated because I thought we should let other community members, those more vulnerable, have more access to vaccines, but as more vaccines rolled in that eased up a bit. The thing that really triggered me was the Delta variant. We have seen that come across the borders. Before I speak about the trucking industry, I just want to applaud truckies, as I have done on the CB radio occasionally as I talk to them going down the road, for the work they are doing in trying times carting freight around this state and this nation. I have heard about truck drivers who have had infected noses from the number of swabs they have had to have to keep their jobs and keep on trucking, basically.
I applaud the staff right around the state and especially those at Tailem Bend, where it is not just a testing station but now a vaccination clinic that people can access, especially now that truck drivers are required to be vaccinated. I really do applaud their work, and long may it keep going to keep this state and this country functioning.
I also want to applaud the work that has been done in contact tracing. We have had exposure points located in my electorate at Pinnaroo and Tailem Bend and across the state. It has been due to the magnificent work of those contact tracers that we have not seen major outbreaks. I have seen people in my electorate—and there have been plenty impacted, I can tell you—who have isolated at home, done the right thing in home quarantine, had all the testing and we have got through it without a major issue.
This is because of the tight controls. Are the tight controls upsetting? Of course they are. I have talked to students across the border in Victoria, and I know of families that have split, with one parent living in Victoria. I know the heartbreaking story of a mother who, early on in the piece, when she wanted to talk to her daughter, had to sit a metre apart from her on the Victorian-South Australian border and talk. They were not allowed to touch, otherwise she would be arrested.
An honourable member interjecting:
Mr PEDERICK: Yes, it is tough, absolutely, but this is a worldwide pandemic and we do have to keep people safe, and I applaud the initiative that people individually have taken to make sure they can support their loved ones. I want to applaud the work that is happening here because, as has already been identified in contributions, when we do open up, and we will open up, we will see Delta here—and it is not a matter of if but when—and our hospitals will need to be ready. They are being prepared with a $123 million funding boost on top of the other funding, the billions, we are putting into health, the 1,200 extra nurses and everyone else, because who knows what is going to happen.
As I said, there certainly have been issues with border communities. In Murrayville, where my kids have played footy in the Mallee League since they were six—they are now 17 and 20, so I have a pretty fair idea what happens just across the border at Murrayville, about 30 kilometres from Pinnaroo—they had to be excluded from the football finals because of COVID and it upset them to a great degree. It was very tough. But this is the real thing with COVID management.
Of course we would like it to be easier. I applaud the work that Mehdi Doroudi is doing as the regional representative on the Transition Committee in making sure we can work our way out of how we manage COVID and manage the different levels of closures on the border. I want to applaud border communities. I acknowledge there are mental health strains because of how they have worked with this. Whether they be shearing contractors, health workers, teachers or biosecurity workers, I acknowledge everything they do, and I also want to acknowledge all the work that police, Health and our government are doing to make sure that we get through this and get through it appropriately.