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Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 2 March 2022

Tags: Integrity, Ministerial Accountability, Conflict of Interest

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, well, this is a grubby business and we have heard a lot of shouting. I would simply say this to the Premier: if there is not an issue, if there is no conflict of interest, then lay the contracts on the table in this place and this problem will go away for you. I believe it is that straightforward.

Seeing as we are talking about the ministerial code of conduct, I wanted to raise an issue out of question time this morning that is of much more concern and relevance to Tasmanian people, particularly people who live and work in aged care and those who love them. If you go to the ministerial code of conduct, the Premier says on the first page:

This code reflects the expectation that ministers while in the service of the people of Tasmania must uphold the highest standards of integrity and be honest, professional and accountable in the performance of all their duties.

It also says:

Ministers must not deliberately make statements that mislead parliament or the public and in line with parliamentary practice are obliged to correct the record in a manner that is appropriate to the circumstances as soon as possible after any incorrect statement is made.

Dr Woodruff stood up in here this morning, an epidemiologist, the most qualified person in this place to ask questions about the Government's COVID-19 response. She asked the Minister for Health to simply confirm what has been confirmed by the World Health Organization, leading independent experts and the Victorian Health Department and that is that COVID-19 is airborne. Throughout the course of the past two years, Dr Woodruff and I quite happily stood by Public Health advice. Some of that Public Health advice is truly baffling when you have a look at the growing body of evidence about this virus. There is a document that is distributed to aged care providers in this state that has the false statement that COVID 19 is transmitted through contact and droplet transmission. The World Health Organization has made it clear that it is airborne. We cannot even get the Minister for Health to acknowledge a scientific fact in this place.

We have an entire document here going to our aged care providers which, at multiple points in the document, gives advice on how to prevent the contact and droplet transmission of an airborne virus. It is disgraceful and disrespectful that the Tasmanian Health minister cannot just acknowledge a scientific fact and commit to directing Tasmanian Public Health to update its outdated and dangerous advice to aged care providers. It is scandalous.

We have here the OzSAGE, a group of more than 400 independent experts who have written to every state premier, health minister and public health official to call for an urgent change of approach that accepts that COVID-19 is airborne and in order to prevent transmission hospitalisation and death we must clean up the air that people breath. There was no response to the OzSAGE letter about airborne transmission of February last year. We have looked for it and we have asked the OzSAGE group of experts whether they received a response. They did not.

This letter says:

Despite overwhelming evidence to support airborne or aerosol transmission of SARS CoV-2, this has not translated into appropriate and consistent public health and infection prevention control measures across Australian jurisdictions. While other countries promote the "3 Cs" (avoiding close spaces, crowded places and close contact settings), Australian guidelines continue to stress droplet and contact transmission … which have led to a focus on measures of limited or insufficient effectiveness, such as deep cleaning, handwashing, surface disinfection and 1.5 metre physical distancing.

At the back of this correspondence, which the Tasmanian Government received, are the names, qualifications and institutions of about 400 independent health care experts. Infectious diseases specialists, immunologists, epidemiologists, calling on Australian governments to accept the science, and in accepting the science, reduce the rate of transmission and save lives. We cannot even get our own Health minister in Tasmania to acknowledge that truth. It is the truth. So, why is Tasmanian Public Health advising companies, providers who look after some of our most vulnerable people, with the wrong information about how to prevent transmission? It is a question this Health minister must respond to. We have been asked to ask these questions by people who work in aged care, who are being sent into unsafe settings in surgical masks against the advice of independent health care experts. If Mr Rockliff thinks he is going to get away with not acknowledging the truth, I just need him to know, we will be back.