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Not Getting the Basics Right

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 9 March 2022

Tags: COVID-19

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, protecting citizens is a basic responsibility of government. It is a basic that democratically elected governments should strive to get right.

On that front, this Government is failing. Today Tasmania has reported 1109 new COVID-19 positive cases, up from 1051 yesterday. So far, since 15 December, 53 390 Tasmanians have been confirmed as COVID-19-positive. They are just the ones we have counted. Tragically 13 people have died since 15 February; 13 preventable deaths. In New South Wales there have been 1519 preventable deaths since their Premier, Dominic Perrottet, scrapped protections. None of those deaths, here, in New South Wales or the thousands of people who have died around the country, were mild. We are living through a pandemic of lies and misinformation. I am going to respond to the Premier's distortion of some of the things I said over the summer break, all of which were evidence based and true.

Long COVID-19, which this Government never talks about, is a mass disabling event. This is confirmed by, for example, Dr Elisa Perego from the University College in London. C Mia Spring , who is the director of the Disability Justice Initiative, says that COVID 19 is a mass-disabling event. Harvard medical professor Dr Julie Silver describes the pandemic as 'Probably the largest mass-disabling event since the polio epidemic'. Dr Deepti Gurdasani from the Queen Mary University College in London describes long COVID-19 as 'A chronic disabling illness'.

On eugenics, which I stand by, OzSAGE member, one of the 400 or more independent health experts, emergency doctor, Dr David Berger, says simply 'This is eugenics'. It is eugenics because it makes the frail, the infirm, the elderly, disabled, immune-compromised and unvaccinated people ultimately expendable. If you have a government that is removing mask protections, then it is removing protections for people who are already vulnerable to this virus.

I go now to a really confronting essay by Harvard law professor Jacqueline Fox, who makes the case that this is eugenics because the effect of a policy that abandons the vulnerable is eugenicist. She talks about feeling that disabled people have been completely forgotten. She said:

Despite the challenges of a pandemic that happens in waves, we are moving briskly towards not masking, allowing large crowds to gather indoors, planning to open schools with minimal protective measures. The reduction of COVID mitigation strategies occurs against the backdrop of an aggressive political tone of unconcern. We have entered a new stage of erasure of children, of the disabled and of the vulnerable. Healthism and its sibling, eugenics, have been unapologetically espoused during the COVID pandemic by our country's leadership.

And Lisa Maben who is the Director of Women with Disabilities Australia:

I am part of a small minority who'll continue to live their lives like there's a potentially fatal threat to their health long after the lockdowns end. The realisation that Australia will most likely not be COVID-free for the foreseeable future is a painful one for me as many of our disabled and immune-compromised community will be forced into self isolation indefinitely, sheltering from the frighteningly irresponsible public discourse that seems to be on route to having us all, vaccinated or not, going about our daily business as if COVID did not exist.

We roll out Dr Woodruff on this issue because she is an epidemiologist, more qualified than any person in this place to speak on the subject of COVID-19 and the prevention of mass infection. If I want advice on how to pull a beer, I will go to a publican. If I wanted advice about how we prevent mass infection and protect Tasmanians from COVID-19, I will go to an epidemiologist. There happens to be one sitting right beside me.

We have entered a very dangerous time in Tasmania where we have the highest chronic disease burden in the country, and the highest level of disability, according to the ABS. We have a Government that is removing mask-protections and an Opposition which is out to lunch on COVID-19. There has not been a single question from the Labor Opposition since parliament returned about the Government's manifestly inadequate and dangerous COVID-19 response. That is an indictment on this Opposition. Unless you have an opposition that can hold government to account while people are getting infected and dying, we are in a very dark place.

The Greens will keep coming in here with the evidence that we have. We will keep asking questions of the Government. We will be a voice for the parents of unvaccinated children. We will be a voice for people with disabilities in Tasmania and the elderly. We will name a mass disabling event, because that is what long-COVID-19 is. We will name Government policy that has the effect of eugenics, intentional or not.

It is Government policy that prioritises the economy and the making of money over the lives of the Tasmanian people. What is happening here is a disgrace. The Premier cannot even table the Public Health advice about the dangerous move to wind back mask wearing.