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Border Controls

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Tags: COVID-19, Health

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Deputy Speaker, it has been seven weeks since we have been in this Chamber and much has changed in Australia in relation to where we are with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The situation that has established in Victoria is so serious, not only for Victoria but the implications are clearly being felt in New South Wales, in Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and here in Tasmania.

The Premier was on the cusp of announcing border arrangements that would have seen Tasmanians being able to travel to the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia. Public Health advice correctly made the decision to hold off on that. We saw the enormous increase in cases in Victoria and indeed spread across into South Australia. It was prescient to look ahead and understand the course of this virus.

We are also seeing in New Zealand the difficulty of maintaining a whole population who were living something like 100 days without a case of coronavirus and people were trading and living life without restrictions. Commerce was happening, school was happening, holidays were happening internally within New Zealand. We only have to see that now it has been just a mere week or so and they have 78 cases, with nine in the last 24 hours, as I understand. They still do not understand the source of that outbreak. They still do not have a real grip on what has happened.

This shows us that this virus is incredibly sneaky and capable of moving. Someone described it to me like if put a bit of glitter on yourself and then track the glitter as it falls off you and exchange that with other people in a room and move into other parts of the house you will see where the glitter ends up. Despite the fact you might not have touched anything, it ends up on other people, it ends up on surfaces, it ends up everywhere.

What we have to do is twofold. We have to do everything we can according to the Public Health advice to keep the restrictions in place that will enable the fine balance between jobs being able to be continued, students to be able to go to school and interactions in the community and yet protect ourselves and the people we love and to preventably save lives in Tasmania, because we will be in this situation for it seems at least another 18 months.

Tasmanians have sacrificed so much and have been prepared to do that. They have put a lot of trust in the Premier's directions and the decisions that have been made by him and the fact that he has listened to Public Health. We commend the Premier for his continued listening to the Director of Public Health and for taking the advice of epidemiologists and public health experts about the hard decisions that have been made in Tasmania.

We are concerned at what happened with the Crowne Plaza opening when that was brought to the attention of the media and then subsequently other people. The Greens put a Right to Information request in on the back of media reporting when Steve Old, the head of Tasmanian Hospitality Association, applauded and thanked Tim Baker, the secretary of DPIPWE, for his support in getting workers to finish the Crowne Plaza. There has been a huge amount of public discussion and reasonable questions asked about what sorts of exemptions have been provided and on what basis. We seem to have a situation where the Premier could not give a good answer to the Leader of the Tasmanian Greens' question in parliament this morning in question time about these terms 'essential worker', 'essential traveller' and 'compassionate leave'.

These are important distinctions for Tasmanians to understand because the sacrifices are enormous. When children cannot attend the funeral of a parent or the funeral of a sibling, that grief of not being able to have closure will stay with that person and that family for the rest of their life in some form. There is no doubt about that. These are important human experiences and sharing them with other people helps us move through and understand the loss and the grief of a friend, a loved one, a parent, a child.

What we have is a situation where it seems a decision was made to bring in not just workers but later we found that the managing director of a firm who wanted to come to the launch of the Crowne Plaza, Mr Roger Powell, was given an exemption to do that. The Greens' RTI uncovered the fact that the secretary had a chat to Steve Old and said yes, he would help out a mate. A mate asked a mate to do a favour and an exemption was made for a person, to which Tasmanians reasonably ask on what basis is this an essential job? On what basis is this essential work? We think there is a greater emphasis being placed on work rather than personal issues. If you have a person who heads a company who is there for a launch only, there is no work involved in that. That is not essential. We want to understand how strict the criteria are and it is time to have an audit undertaken of these matters so that people can be confident that it is all impartial.