Senators Statements - Covid-19 National Plan

COVID-19: Vaccination Senator STOKER (Queensland—Assistant Minister to the Attorney-General, Assistant Minister for Women and Assistant Minister for Industrial Relations) (13:57): Around Australia there are a lot of people struggling with the pandemic. There is the anxiety of not knowing whether there will be a spike in cases that could threaten your health; the stress of economic disruption with the potential to make your job or business non-viable; the frustration of missing school, sport and the chance to build friendships; the hit to pride that comes from taking a welfare payment when you've lived all your life proudly paying your way; and the isolation and the mental health impact that comes with it. Beyond Blue reported a 30 per cent increase in calls compared to before the pandemic, with Lifeline recording the busiest three days in its 57-year history this month. A colleague of mine described it as a feeling of quiet desperation. I hear you. But there is a way out, a light at the end of the tunnel: it's the national plan for living with COVID. We can't eradicate it. In all of history, only one disease has been, and it took some 200 years. But we can live safely with it, and the national plan is our path to get there. Every Australian who can, whose health and conscience permits, needs to get vaccinated. It is voluntary and that's why we need your help. When you do it, you protect yourself. Either you will be immune from the virus or, if you get it, it will be less severe. Importantly, you will protect the people you love, the children and older people in your lives and the vulnerable in our community. In the plan there is agreement struck between the Commonwealth and the states that, as we hit vaccination targets of 70 and 80 per cent, our freedoms will return because it will be safer. The states must keep their commitment. It's where we end the cycle of lockdowns and border closures. So everyone who can needs to roll up their sleeve. We've made sure there are vaccines available in abundance. Every minute, 800 Australians are vaccinated, a million doses every three days. We are almost there. I want to encourage Australians to step up and to play their part. (Time expired)