Mr RAMSEY (Grey—Government Whip) (15:54): Mr Deputy Speaker Wallace, you’d be well versed in that Australian poem Said Hanrahan. I’m afraidHanrahan has been breathing on the other side of the House. I’ve never heard such a group contagion of ‘glass half-empty-itis’. What we need is a little less of what’s going on in the rest of the world. If you read widely enough and watched the SBS television news for a change, you’d have some idea. Just to bring you up to date: there have been 205 million cases in the world and 4.32 million deaths. In the US, we’ve seen 36 million people infected and 619,000 have died. In India, 32 million have been infected and 430,000 have died. In Brazil, 20 million have been infected and over half a million have died. In Russia, 6.4 million have had this disease and 164,000 have died. In France, 6.37 million have caught it and 112,000 have died. In the UK, which is held up as some kind of shining light, over six million have had the disease and 131,000 have died. Here in Australia, 37,000 have caught COVID—not 370,000, not three million—and we’ve had 944 deaths; not 944,000 but fewer than 1,000. Of course we could have done better, but it’s pretty hard to find a nation in the world that’s done any better than Australia.
On the economy, it’s exactly the same story. We’ve done better than almost any comparable economy in the world. Our GDP is higher than it was in February 2020, before we entered the pandemic. Employment in Australia is higher than it was in February 2020, when we entered the pandemic. Our unemployment is the lowest it’s been in 10 years—in fact, it’s the lowest it’s been in all but three years out of the last 25. That’s a pretty good outcome. Once again, we could do better, but it’s pretty hard to find a nation in the world that’s done any better than Australia. How have we done that? It’s been on the back of an $89 billion injection into JobKeeper, one of the smartest schemes ever devised by government to help out a population in crisis. We know that 3.8 million Australians have accessed JobKeeper, $35 billion was put in to boost the cash flows of businesses and not-for-profits and $20 billion went into the JobSeeker COVID supplement. Personal income tax cuts have come along at the same time, and we’ve installed the loss carry-back provisions. Then we’ve had the stimulus programs, like HomeBuilder, which has sent home building through the roof. The pace of construction around Australia is absolutely flat out. In an electorate like Grey we’ve seen an incredible amount of infrastructure investment, with over $1 billion of federal government programs or money sitting on the table for roadworks in Grey at the moment. We’ve never had that kind of input before. The aviation and tourism industries have benefited. We’ve seen $900 million for extra university places, and for JobTrainer another $500 million.
The vaccination program has drawn a fair bit of criticism. Yes, it was a slow and disappointing start, but despite what has been said in this place, we backed five different vaccination lines: the Pfizer/BioNTech, which is now coming to Australia in greater numbers; the Oxford-AstraZeneca; the Moderna, which has only just been approved for use in Australia but is on its way now; the Novavax, which is still undergoing approvals; and COVAX, which is a multinational approach. We’ve backed all of those with over $6 billion. We also backed the University of Queensland to develop our own domestic supply, and unfortunately that very promising vaccine hit a problem with false identification of HIV. I point out, on AstraZeneca, that we backed the company to make a vaccine onshore. The much maligned AstraZeneca vaccine, at this stage, has been the backbone of many nations’ vaccination programs. But one way or another those opposite seek to undermine the government’s efforts, as we have heard in the discussion on this motion. Some people in Australia have taken pot shots at AstraZeneca with very poor information to back them up. Across the board, I’d say the government has done a pretty good job. Sure, we could have done better, but it’s hard to find a place where they have done better.