A Cruel and Callous Scheme

3 June, 2024

Whilst I disagree with some parts of the motion the member for Macarthur has put forward to the House today, I would never doubt his sincerity towards the issues around health and the wellbeing of his community and the community in Australia, and I applaud him for that. He asks for improvements to our health system.

Well, we're clearly in desperate need of improvements, given the way that flu, RSV and COVID are currently sweeping across the nation and overwhelming the public health system. Elective surgeries have been cancelled under South Australia's emergency 'code yellow', with plans to transfer some patients from overwhelmed Adelaide metropolitan hospitals to regional centres—in large part because frontline workers are sick. But how can that be, if they're all vaccinated? Clearly I do not understand how vaccinations work.

An improved and supportive health bureaucracy is not the experience of Chris Nemeth, a vaccine-injured gentleman who has been suffering great distress and financial hardship since he was injured by the COVID vaccine. Chris is so desperate that he's given me permission to use his full name. Chris was diagnosed with a COVID vaccine injury called chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, which resulted from his first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine. He will have this condition and need treatment for the rest of his life.

This is the same vaccine that was removed from pharmacy shelves after its manufacturer conceded, in a United Kingdom court last month, that the vaccine causes blood clots. It bewilders me that there hasn't been more of an uproar from Australians who received the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Chris has been engaged with the government's vaccine injury compensation scheme and is getting nowhere. Working with a lawyer, because the system is so difficult to navigate, Chris compiled a thousand-page submission, which he submitted to Services Australia on 2 March 2023. That's 459 days ago. In those 459 days, his application passed the initial review stage and then also passed the external medical review done by the TGA on the first try. After passing the external medical review, he was asked three times for additional information, and his application then went through another external legal panel review and an internal legal review. The most recent external legal review was completed on 23 May, and the advice was passed to Services Australia on that day. Last Thursday, day 455, Services Australia advised that they cannot offer any further update—nothing—no indication of what the advice from the external legal panel was, no indication of the next step and no indication of when they will be able to provide any further update.

The scheme was supposed to be an easy-to-access safety net, with quick administrative processes. These were the words of Greg Hunt, then health minister, when he announced the scheme. The government knew there would be vaccine injuries, but this cautionary initiative was drowned out by the fear propaganda machine and the 'safe and effective' mantra.

Chris is an innocent victim of a bureaucratic nightmare. In Chris's words:

the vaccine injuries scheme is administered with cruelty and callous disregard for the human beings who have been injured by these vaccines that were taken in good faith when asked by our government to do so

Chris told me he speaks with other people facing the same challenges with the scheme and its administration. Are we seeing another robodebt? Will it take a suicide to draw attention to this horrendous situation? Dare I say that the vaccine compensation scheme looks to have similar hallmarks to the robodebt scheme, which was referred to as a 'crude and cruel' mechanism. Haven't we learned anything as a parliament of people?

Chris hasn't been able to work since September 2021 and has not had any income since April 2022. While he did receive a modest TPD payment from his superannuation, it's money that diminishes with every passing day. Chris called me last Friday at his wit's end. He is a strong, capable and professional man who has been pushed to the brink, and he's not the only one. He said he's at the edge of his ability to cope with the additional harm that this claim scheme is inflicting upon him every day. Chris's situation is a shameful blight on our nation—one that has not reached its zenith.

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Russell Broadbent MP
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