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Government Priorities

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 30 May 2023

Tags: COVID-19

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Deputy Speaker, we are pleased to have an opportunity to talk about the Government's priorities. I particularly want to talk about the Premier's priorities. We asked him questions this morning in question time about the Government's failure to adjust to the rapid level of COVID-19 infectiousness in the Tasmanian community. The Government's abject failure, particularly for him as a leader, to say or do anything meaningful to make sure that we bring down the rate of infections and the risk that comes from having been infected with the COVID-19 disease once, twice, three times, or more.

We think it was a mistake but Mr Rockliff chose to keep the Health portfolio when he was Premier, probably because he is a kind-hearted man. He sincerely cares about people with mental health illnesses and making sure that there are services available for them. That is not enough. Ultimately, he made that decision not just because he cares about health but because there was not the talent on the backbench. There was no one else on his backbench that he could trust to take on the role of Health minister and give it the respect and courage he probably believes in his heart he would like to be able to give. However, what he has done is he is fighting wars on all fronts now.

He has made a decision to back the wrong horse and the horse he has backed is a stadium. He has shackled everything including the long-term good for Tasmania's health and wellbeing on doing what Gill McLachlan and the AFL want to be done. That is to spend an extremely inordinate amount of money that we do not have - and if we did have we should be funnelling it directly into health services and infrastructure. He is spending that on a stadium. He has given in to the Treasurer. If he was the Health minister alone he would be fighting tooth and nail not to take one single cent out of Health because there is not a cent to give. There are many more that should be there. So he has signed-off on cuts to the health system which will have terrible flow-on effects, making things even worse than they already are.

This morning we heard he is also quite capable of playing politics and deliberately distorting what the World Health Organization said in their statement earlier this year for his own political purposes. Yes, it is true that the statement from the World Health Organization said it is no longer a public health emergency of international concern but he stopped there. He did not go on to the rest of the statement which is very clear about the significant, concerning, ongoing impacts and the global deaths - three every minute - the fact that, 'We are heading for mass disabling event'; that there is an estimated one-in-10 infections that result in post-COVID 19 conditions suggesting from the WHO that hundreds of millions of people will need long-term care.

That is not the end of the pandemic. That is not his excuse to do nothing and pretend that there is not rampant COVID-19 infection in the community at the moment when there is. National epidemiologists are lined up on this one. The WHO statement says COVID-19 is not going away, it is here to stay. We cannot minimise it. It is an ongoing threat and we have to have sustainable measures because from all the evidence we know that COVID-19 causes serious long-term neurological complications. It increases the Alzheimer's risk 50 per cent to 80 per cent for people aged over 65. It stops neurons forming in the brain that are part of brain renewal. It leads to memory loss. It leads to Alzheimer's disease at higher levels, confusion, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and depression. These are serious issues and we are seeing the much higher levels of these diseases in Tasmania today.

We are also seeing the impacts on healthcare workers who are not just coming down sick themselves and leaving hospitals, healthcare centres and aged care homes right now in Tasmania because of COVID-19 infection that is unchecked under Premier Rockliff's leadership. We are seeing that they are not able to come back to work in the times that they used to be able to. It takes longer to recover from COVID-19 once and longer twice and so on.

What we have is a deliberate decision by Premier Rockliff to not look after our children, to allow them to go into schools unmasked against what is happening in the United States. The CDC guidelines are very clear: children should be vaccinated from six months to five years old. They should wear masks when they are over two-years-old in school. There should be mask wearing mandated today in Tasmania on buses. People who use public transport are often the most vulnerable and with high risk of complications if they get infected. A vaccination does not cure everything. It does not stop infection but it certainly helps serious risks from occurring. There is complete silence from the Government. Jeremy Rockliff has made no statement about COVID-19 to the community and neither has the Director of Public Health - not since nearly 256 days or longer. We are counting.

The New South Wales Director of Public Health, Kerry Chant, two days ago was talking to New South Wales people about their risks and how to protect themselves. So we go on. So when a premier is fully-focused on what is happening with a stadium, fully-focused on selling out the state against the majority of what Tasmanians want, it is no surprise that he does not have the backing of doctors and nurses and healthcare workers, people with disabilities and people in aged care. They know where his priorities are and it is not with them.