SENATE COVID COMMITTEE TABLES INTERIM REPORT

09 December 2020

SENATOR KATY GALLAGHER
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCE
CHAIR OF THE SENATE SELECT COMMITTEE ON COVID-19
SENATOR FOR THE AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY 
 
SENATOR KRISTINA KENEALLY
DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE
SENATOR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES 
 
SENATOR MURRAY WATT
SHADOW MINISTER FOR NORTHERN AUSTRALIA
SHADOW MINISTER FOR DISASTER AND EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT
LABOR SENATOR FOR QUEENSLAND
 
 
SENATE COVID COMMITTEE TABLES INTERIM REPORT
 

The Senate Select Committee on COVID-19 has tabled its first interim report, which outlines a series of recommendations and findings about the Morrison Government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic throughout 2020.
 
The Committee report has found that while Australia escaped the worst of the potential health outcomes, the Morrison Government was unprepared to meet the challenges of a pandemic and was too slow to respond to the emerging crisis, ultimately leaving millions of Australians behind.
 
Australia has recorded almost 28,000 cases of COVID-19 and tragically 908 Australians have lost their lives to the disease, including 693 in aged care.
 
The Committee has so far held 37 public hearings, hearing many hundreds of hours of evidence from ministers, government officials, stakeholder groups, expert witnesses and individual Australians affected by the pandemic.
 
The report calls on the Government to:
 

  • Publish all previous and future minutes of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee so that Australians are aware of the health advice underpinning the decisions that have a profound impact on the community
  • Commission an independent review into the design and cost of the multi-million-dollar COVIDSafe app which has so far only identified 17 unique contacts
  • Establish an Australian Centre for Disease Control to ensure that Australia is better prepared for future pandemics and can respond more quickly
  • Monitor the economic impact of its decision to cut the coronavirus supplement support payment and report to the Senate with any findings
  • Permanently increase the rate of JobSeeker in the upcoming MYEFO or in the next Federal Budget in May 2021
  • Release all reports and conflicts of interest of the secretive and expensive National COVID-19 Advisory Board

 
The Committee report finds: 

  • Pandemic planning pre-COVID-19 was inadequate and the government ignored warnings about the National Medical Stockpile
  • Its mishandling of the crisis in the aged care sector had catastrophic consequences for older Australians and their families. The Morrison Government failed to develop a plan and accept full responsibility for the aged care crisis despite being solely responsible for funding and regulating the sector.
  • The Government should have acted sooner and with more consistency in relation to its travel restrictions and quarantine measures – especially in relation to travelers from Europe, the UK and the United States
  • The Government left tens of thousands of Australians stranded overseas due to poor planning and its slow response
  • The Morrison Government did not follow its legislated responsibilities on human quarantine when it came to the Ruby Princess debacle leading to Australia’s largest outbreak
  • The national lockdown on 30 March was the result of states and territories, particularly NSW and Victoria, taking charge when the Federal Government was reluctant to act
  • The Morrison Government has improperly applied cabinet conventions to avoid transparency and to keep National Cabinet decisions secret 
  • The Government was too slow to roll out the JobKeeper scheme and deliberately excluded more than one million Australians, hurting them and the wider economy
  • The economy was propped up by $41.6 billion from the private retirement savings of 2.7 million Australians through the Early Access Super Scheme, many of whom were hardest hit by the pandemic
  • The base rate of JobSeeker is inadequate at $40 per day and should be permanently increased
  • The Government’s economic response left women behind and failed to take into account the disproportionate effect that the pandemic would have on women
  • The Government refused to put in place a paid pandemic leave scheme at the earliest opportunity to slow the spread of the virus

 
Australia has suffered the deepest recession in almost a century and the decisions the Government is making now, matter to the lives of millions of people.
 
Unfortunately, Scott Morrison has prioritised headlines over delivering for Australians, leaving too many behind.
 
The Morrison Government has already flagged the phasing out of economic stimulus and significant reforms to industrial relations laws as Australians seek to rebuild in 2021.
 
The Committee will focus its attention on the impact that these decisions will have on all Australians.