Ms O'CONNOR question to PREMIER, Mr GUTWEIN
Premier, congratulations. Your Government's epic public health failure has led to more than 10 000 active COVID-19 cases, including 1979 reported overnight and a big jump in hospitalisations to 32. In total, more than 70 000 Tasmanians have been infected, including thousands of children and young people, with a novel bat virus. Fifteen people have died since you reopened the border; these were avoidable deaths.
Instead of taking steps to prevent infection, you have removed mask-wearing protections, allowing the BA.2 subvariant to run rampant. So high is our current case rate that if Tasmania was a country we would be in the top 15 nations in the world for cases per capita. As you know, no child under 12 is fully vaccinated, vaccines are waning in efficacy, they do not prevent infection or the risk of reinfection or long COVID.
Tasmanians want to know what is your endgame with this virus?
Mr Speaker, I thank the Leader of the Greens for that question. It does not surprise me that she is still continuing in the same vein that she started over the Christmas period -
Ms O'Connor - Jesus Christ, have you had a look at the numbers?
Mr GUTWEIN - where you claimed that -
Government members interjecting.
A member - Swearing in parliament.
Mr GUTWEIN - where you claim that Public Health, that the Government -
Ms O'Connor - It is not swearing.
A member - Taking the Lord's name in vain.
Mr GUTWEIN - was engaging in eugenics. It was just a disgrace.
Ms O'Connor - I am not using it in vain.
Mr SPEAKER - Order, Ms O'Connor, you have asked the question. I expect everybody to listen to the Premier.
Mr GUTWEIN - As to the matter Ms O'Connor has raised, Mr Speaker, the number of people in hospital being treated specifically for COVID-19 has remained relatively stable.
Ms O'Connor - It spiked overnight.
Mr SPEAKER - Order.
Mr GUTWEIN - There are 14 people in hospital who are actually being treated for COVID-19.
Ms O'Connor - What a load of crap. There are 32 people in hospital.
Government members interjecting.
Mr GUTWEIN - In terms of the total number of people in hospital, obviously as COVID
Ms O'Connor - I actually care about their health.
Mr SPEAKER - Order, Ms O'Connor. If you do not want to be the second leader to leave the Chamber this morning, I would stop interjecting.
Mr GUTWEIN - Mr Speaker, as COVID-19 spreads more widely, what we are seeing, importantly, is that it is not manifesting as higher rates of serious disease. The number of people in hospital being treated for COVID-19 has remained relatively stable right throughout this. But what will happen as people enter hospital over time, someone breaks their leg, because of the spread of the disease the chances of them entering hospital and having COVID 19 are much higher. But they will not be -
Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Mr Speaker, standing order 45, relevance. People who communicate with the Greens want to know what -
Mr SPEAKER - I am sorry, you will have to take your mask off, your voice is muffled.
Ms O'CONNOR - I do not regard this Chamber as particularly safe, as you know, Mr Speaker. But people who are worried about the spread of this virus want to know what the Government's end game is.
Mr SPEAKER - What is the point of order?
Ms O'CONNOR - The point of order is relevance. Could he answer the question instead of resorting to personal attacks?
Mr SPEAKER - Premier, if you could continue.
Mr GUTWEIN - With the greatest of respect, you have made an art form out of personal attacks.
The end game is exactly the outcome that we spoke about when we laid down the plan. That was to open our borders safely and successfully, and ensure that over time we could transition to living with COVID 19 safely and getting on with our lives. That remains our plan.
Public Health has been clear in their advice. We had Public Health speaking on the radio this morning; I think they were out there publicly yesterday. They stood with me on Friday. I have made this point before: unlike other premiers in other states or first ministers, I have stood with Public Health every step of the way. Public Health has made it clear on a number of occasions - last Friday, yesterday, and I understand today as well - that the uptick in case numbers is a result of the more transmissible BA.2 variant.
Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Mr Speaker. I believe the Premier is misleading the House. I cannot believe Public Health said that removing masks had nothing to do with spread.
Mr SPEAKER - It is not a point of order, Ms O'Connor.
Mr GUTWEIN - Mr Speaker, the higher spread is related to the BA.2 variant's higher transmissibility. That is directly from Public Health. Sensibly, in terms of masks, the position of Public Health was that in high-risk settings, they are to remain. In other settings, if you cannot socially distance, it is recommended that you wear a mask, which is what we are doing today. I have to say that, in a sparsely populated Chamber last night, I thought it was highly unfair of you to target a member of the House's staff in the way that you did. Somebody who was following the rules, as outlined by Public Health -
Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek the leave of the House to make a personal explanation after question time. I am flagging that I will, because Mr Boutchard's presence in here unmasked put us at risk.
Mr SPEAKER - The statement can be made after question time, not now.
Mr GUTWEIN - Perhaps in that personal explanation, Ms O'Connor, you can explain how you got to eugenics and that disgraceful claim over the Christmas period.
Ms O'Connor - I have explained that. It came from Women with Disabilities Australia.