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Estimates Reply – Rockliff

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 20 June 2023

Tags: Health, Political Leadership, COVID-19, State Budget

Ms O'CONNOR - It was a very long day for the Premier and part-time Health minister and Tourism and trade minister on Monday 5 June. As someone who has always been interested in what body language tells us, I found the Premier's performance on that Monday absolutely fascinating. We watched a human being basically disintegrate at the table. As the day wore on, he was tilting across the table at a 45-degree angle into his Health secretary and looked like a person who did not want to be there.

We talked about a range of issues. Obviously, the day started with questions about the stadium, the documents that were tabled, questions about transparency, whether all the advice had been provided on 1 June. We now know, despite the Premier's protestations - in fact, repeatedly at the time, to the best of his knowledge, he said - that it was not the complete advice. Four days after1 June, it was tabled. Mr Rockliff said:

I have tabled to the best of my knowledge, all of the advice that I have been provided with and if there is more, I am happy to table that as well.

Perhaps not so happy because the Greens still do not believe we have the full advice.

There were questions asked by the Greens about the Government's commitment to a ban on conversion practices. I acknowledge that this is a matter in which the Premier has a personal interest and concern, and also wants to see some reform in this area. But we were concerned to hear the Premier run a line that echoed, in part, at least - and he can respond to this in his reply, the lines by the Australian Christian Lobby on their opposition to a ban on conversion practices because they genuinely believe you can pray away the gay. We had the Premier talking about the need for this legislation to allow people freedom of speech and prayer. No one wants to stop people from responsibly exercising their freedom of speech and praying to their own god. The issue here is when people in the church think that they can torture and effectively diminish the identity and life experience of LGBTIQA+ people, as the ACL wishes to do.

When we quizzed him, I said: 'What do you mean by this? Are you suggesting, for example, the Australian Christian Lobby will have an influence on the form of that legislation?' The Premier replied that they have a right like every other Tasmanian to comment when it is out for draft and he indicated that he had a meeting with them, which his diary confirmed - and thank you for providing the diary. But he would not talk about what happened in that meeting.

We asked questions about concern about surgeons undertaking surgeries on babies born with a variation of sex characteristics, or intersex babies. This is an issue that we have raised with the Attorney-General in this place, that has been raised with the Premier previously. He wrote to Amnesty International in 2019 and stated that there were no surgeries being conducted on intersex babies. We have some concerns because of an analysis of the Medicare codes that these surgeries are being undertaken. obviously without the consent of the babies.

It transpired through our questioning that there is no guidance at all, no formal policies, protocols, guidelines or frameworks to guide decision-making for surgery for minors. This is from a part-time Health minister who was alerted to the issue three years ago by Amnesty International. I find that an absolutely abrogation of his responsibility to protect the rights of these babies. There is no guidance at all to clinicians and surgeons about how to respond to babies born with an innate variation of sex characteristics, three years after Amnesty International raised this with him and he denied they were happening here. We are deeply concerned that they may be happening here and call on the Health minister and Premier to make sure there are guidelines in place for clinicians so that babies are not having identities decided for them, genders decided for them not long after they are born.

I also go to an exchange the Premier and I had which, now we have produced a short video of it, has gone somewhat viral. I am getting emails from the UK, Europe and the US about watching a premier and Health minister squirm at the Estimates table in relation to his failed response to contain SARS CoV 2 and protect children. This is a minister, premier, Health minister who sat at that table and talked about the importance of keeping children safe and well. Of course, the research, hundreds, indeed thousands of peer-reviewed papers now makes it clear that you cannot keep children safe and well when your policy is one of constant infection and reinfection with a vascular virus that causes brain damage, heart damage, compromises the immune system, permanent damage to the lungs, impacts on the kidneys. We are seeing a rise in childhood diabetes and hepatitis, and on it goes.

When I asked the Premier and part-time Health minister whether or not the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), which is made up of all the nation's chief health officers, had informed the charge that he led with former New South Wales premier Dominic Perrottet to remove the last population-scale protection of five day isolation, the Premier misled at the table. When I asked him, 'Where did you get the evidence base for this from?', he said AHPPC and advice from the chief medical officer at the time supported the National Cabinet decision, 'if my memory serves me correctly'. Well, his memory did not serve him correctly. During a media conference on 30 September, the day the decision was made, the chief medical officer confirmed that AHPPC was not asked to provide advice about the removal of mandatory five-day isolation. Dr Kelly said:

We have not specifically discussed this matter. I was asked for this advice yesterday and I provided it as the chief medical officer to the Prime Minister.

Every independent informed epidemiologist and immunologist in the country, for example, people like Professor Brendan Crabb from the Burnett Institute, knows that AHPPC was not asked for advice on removal of five-day isolation. We wrote to the Premier and asked him to correct the record because what he said at the Estimates table was patently, provably untrue. We received the most extraordinary rubbish letter back which confirms that AHPPC was never asked about the removal of mandatory five-day isolation. He talks about previous advice on seven-day isolation from AHPPC. However, there is nothing in there to confirm that they were asked. We suggested to him that he consider Dr Mark Veitch's reputation because no self-respecting chief health officer would want to be part of a decision that had no scientific or medical foundation.

That untruth stands on the Estimates record told by a Premier and part time Health minister who has been part of a National Cabinet approach that has sickened nearly three quarters of the Australian population, at least 300 000 Tasmanians, and is infecting and reinfecting people here every day, putting enormous pressure on our health system and also having profound impacts on the health of children that this Premier and minister wants us to believe he wants to keep safe and well.

Why is this Premier and part time Health minister not leading the charge at National Cabinet for children under the age of five to be vaccinated like they are in the United States? There is a mountain of peer-reviewed evidence that says it is not only safe to vaccinate children under the age of five but it is important that we do because the impact of coronavirus on those babies is much more profound than the impact of vaccines. But no, we do not have that from this Health minister either. So, we are not buying that he wants to keep children safe and well because every child under five in this state right now is unprotected by vaccination in a society which has decided lives are expendable. That is where we are and I will maintain till my dying breath that this policy is eugenicist.