Second Reading-PUBLIC HEALTH AND WELLBEING AMENDMENT (QUARANTINE FEES) BILL 2020

Mr FREGON (Mount Waverley) (16:12): I rise also with delight to speak about the Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment (Quarantine Fees) Bill 2020, and it is great to hear, fantastic to hear, from the member opposite that we are all working together, because I was not sure. But it is good. I am not arguing with you. That is good to know, because I agree with the Shadow Treasurer, who said we all want this to work—and we do.

 

Now, can I firstly thank the Minister for Police and Emergency Services for her work on this bill today but also on the significant preparation for what is the reset of our hotel quarantine. It is not only her and her work and her department and everyone connected with that but also corrections, police, the ADF, security guards, health workers at the Alfred, health workers around the state, aged-care workers, health workers who did shifts for aged-care workers, transport workers and staff at supermarkets. We have all worked to get this state currently 40 days clear of this virus. It has been a long road and it has been a hard road, and yes, as the member for Yan Yean aptly stated earlier, people are fallible, nothing is perfect and things that we have learned over those hard times will be put into practice now.

 

I agree with the members opposite and members on this side that we are all doing our very best, every one of the 6 million Victorians, to make sure as best we can that we do not get a couple of German tourists—sorry, returned travellers—slipping through at Sydney Airport. I am not blaming the people at Sydney Airport for that happening.

 

Mr Dimopoulos: No, it’s the Liberal Party’s fault.

 

Mr FREGON: No, I am not doing that. I am not blaming anyone. These things unfortunately have a chance of happening, and our job is to do the very best we can to minimise that chance. But I think, as we say, this year has been very hard—and it has, on all of us, as Victorians and Australians, and on the world.

 

I have mentioned before in this house that I remember first hearing about this virus back on I think it was 30 January or thereabouts. So we are talking about 10 months ago. A gentleman from Wuhan had visited a restaurant four doors down from my office with the coronavirus. Now, I was having a look at the Channel 7 report of that just earlier today. I will not quote it verbatim, but it stated the facts: that this gentleman had gone to this particular restaurant, that he had been found later to have the virus—he did not know he had it at the time, so again, it was not his fault. He had been told later, ‘Yep, you’ve got it; there’s a problem’, so had to quarantine himself. At that stage we did not know enough about it. There was no quarantine at any federal level or state level or anything apart from, ‘Please stay home’. And he and his family quarantined, did the right thing. Now, at that stage this was new. We did not understand. The Channel 7 report at the time said, ‘Well, pretty much coughing and sneezing probably does it, and maybe from surfaces’, but they were not sure. That was coming I think from New South Wales health at the time, that statement.

 

I think we now know that it is not just coughing and sneezing but breathing, singing and possibly droplets. I am no epidemiologist, but I am happy to wear a mask if there is an off chance that it means I do not spread it to anyone just if I get it and do not know. I am happy to do it, and we all are. The member for South-West Coast said that she is happy to do those things too; we all are. We are all on board to protect our community. One of the best things I have seen about the state of Victoria in the last number of months is that the community are on board to protect each other. We have banded together to protect a vulnerable section of our community and we have gone through a lot of hardship to do it. Yes, people are unhappy about certain aspects, but we did it, and when I talk to people now there is pride in that. And when we look overseas and, without judging any other country, we see the things that were too hard and we see the steps that were too far and the political will that could not be summoned—in this state we did it, and now we will do our very best to keep it.

 

You know what? Maybe we do have a bill for which we are going to work out the accounting and we are going to do that today, and then maybe someone will get an invoice in January instead of in two weeks. Well, that is not a particular surprise for me. You get services all the time where you get invoices later. Would it be easier or not easier if they got it straightaway? Maybe. Does it matter? I would not have thought so. I think the most important thing is we have a quarantine system that is ready and we are bringing people back as of yesterday, because we have thousands of people waiting, and the very idea, which I heard on the weekend, that because of a billing issue we should keep people overseas longer—well, I cannot go along with that.

 

There are others who want to speak on this bill, and I do want to quickly say that one thing that has come up during this whole pandemic that not only this government has probably always been alert to but also now we see a real reason why we have to do something substantial about it is the issue of insecure work. The member for Caulfield in the debate earlier mentioned that airline workers are going back to work, and that is good thing. Currently we have a national airline that at the same time as they have taken a whole heap of money from the federal government—and we have JobKeeper and JobSeeker, which are very good things—they are laying off people to other companies and then are going to have those people basically apply for their jobs back. Now, yes, we have got airlines going back to work and, yes, we have had an economic dent—and our budget, which I will speak on later, is doing significant work to rebuild from that—but I just say to the Qantas board: now is not the time. You are the Australian airline, and we want to back you, we will use you, we will fly on you. We will all do that, but this government is backing Victorians. We are investing in Victorians, and I ask the Qantas board directly to back our workers, protect our workers and invest in our workers, and it will come back to you tenfold. I commend the bill to the house.