At the memorial service for Shane Warne at the G last night, many beautiful stories were told about the kind big-hearted man. Gideon Haigh is an author of a book on Shane and said recently “let’s look at who Shane Warne was cricket aside.” He said:
All these characteristics were celebrated over and over last night.
Many recalled his selfless care for others both in Australia and overseas.
He was a patient man. On and off the field.
He was a competitive brilliant tactician on the field who would build up to take the scalp he was after.
Off the field we learnt he would sit for as long as it took to sign autographs for fans, once up to two hours.
He was kind. Visiting sick and vulnerable children and others who just wanted to meet their hero.
He rang those who he knew were in strife, just to check on them. No fanfare, no media.
One can only imagine the countless acts of kindness that came naturally to him that we will never hear about.
He was patient and he was kind. You know, these two characteristics are the first two mentioned in the definition of love described by Paul in the book of Corinthians.
It begins, Love is patient and love is kind.
If we in this country can simply honour Shane by emulating these two beautiful characteristics what a testimony it would be.
Warne was known for his loyalty and generosity.
Many others have mentioned, as Haigh did, how much he loved his children. We saw how much last night and we saw how much they love him. Their loving hero who put them first. His favourite time was time spent with his kids.
They said he taught them that “manners are free.” He was courteous.
He could speak to, and had a respect for, all people no matter their station in life.
A man who owned his weaknesses and fessed up. He was honest. He was a great example of what Peter wrote about when he said
“Above all, love each other constantly, because love covers a multitude of sins.” He did this. He lived love.
So let’s take this opportunity in celebrating a genuine bloke by honouring his personal strengths.
He was down to earth. He was what is affectionately known as a larrikin.
He didn’t try to be anyone else but himself. Flawed, yes, but he owned his behaviour and said to Leigh Sales in an interview “I try to learn from my mistakes and be a better person”.
If only we all did this.
He loved to entertain. He loved to be the centre of attention. And he thoroughly enjoyed the interaction with everyone. And the people loved him back.
He had a talent above cricket to make people feel special - respect for people does that.
Patience, kindness and respect for all. Simple but not easy. Shane Warne made it look easy.
As a country, we have a lot to learn from Shane.
How about we give it a go.
One thing that I've learned after being in and out of this place since 1990 is to never forget who brought you to the party, never forget who you represent.
People like myself who represent the regions represent small communities with not-for-profit aged-care centres like Foster, Neerim South, Phillip Island, Leongatha and Korumburra. They're names you might never have heard of, but they're important because they're facilities that are really, really important to the economic value of those communities, not just the aged care that they provide.
COVID has really knocked them about. This is right across Australia. They have unique downsides in that they don't have facilities to grab another nurse around the corner. They just don't have that facility in a country area.
We need to look very closely at these areas, like Foster and Neerim South, and say, 'What are we going to do in the future for you?' Otherwise, they will be unviable. If they become unviable, the whole community loses.
Aged care has been a passion of mine from the time I came into this place; it will be a passion of mine until the time I leave.
The people who work within the facilities and those who are a part of the community are magnificent in the way they go about their job, but we need to be great in the way that we look after them.
Watching Offsiders last Sunday, I was drawn to Gideon Haigh’s response to the death of Shane Warne.
Haigh is an author of a book on Shane. Haigh said “let’s look at who Shane Warne was cricket aside.”
He said this “That the man was punctual, he had an affection for children, respect for elders and was well mannered, well brought up as the authors Mum would say.”
Warne was known for his loyalty and generosity. Many others have mentioned, as Haigh did, how much he loved his children.
Outside of Warne’s brilliance and his cricket achievements, he was flawed.
A flawed man who owned his weaknesses and fessed up. We are all flawed, but some basic characteristics shine through.
So here is an opportunity to celebrate a real bloke by honouring his strengths.
He could speak to, and had a respect for, all people no matter their station in life.
He was courteous. He didn’t try to be anyone else but himself. Flawed, yes, but he owned his behaviour and said to Leigh Sales in an interview “I try to learn from my mistakes and be a better person”.
Shane Warne was a hero because he was bigger than cricket.
He retained his down to earth love of the people.
He loved to entertain. He loved to be the centre of attention. And he thoroughly enjoyed the interaction with everyone.
He had a talent above cricket to make people feel special - respect for people does that.
Men have a lot to learn from Shane Warne.
Vale Shane Warne.
That’s just as I see it.
Reflecting on the issues confronting women in Australia, on International Women’s Day, I confess, that like last year, it’s difficult to find things to celebrate.
Because the women I’ve been talking to lately – especially mothers of young children - are battle weary. They’ve borne the brunt of the pandemic and they’re exhausted. There’s a heavy air of utter despair and despondency that I’ve not witnessed before.
Victorian women’s health services have instigated a #sickofsmallchange campaign to raise awareness of the pain and suffering being experienced by Victorian women – especially those that are often marginalised such as Aboriginal, refugee, disabled migrant and LGBTI women.
They paint a very disturbing picture. The pandemic has decimated women’s health and wellbeing, 38% of women reported being diagnosed with anxiety or depression, and more than a quarter (27%) reporting high level of psychological distress, with self-harm hospitalisations double the rate of Victorian men.
And even more shameful is the knowledge that in several areas in Gippsland, a woman is 26% more likely to be sexually assaulted than if she lived in other areas of Victoria.
This is a disgrace and an indictment of our society.
In the midst of this distress, women have continued to carry the load of unpaid, undervalued domestic work. Many put their careers on the line to juggle remote work, parenting, home-schooling and other caring responsibilities such as ageing parents. The exceptions have been few and far between.
Is this due to a gender bias that assumes women are better at cleaning, cooking and caring than men? Or a pragmatic decision reflected in recent research suggesting that men are now twice as likely to earn more than $120,000 a year than women. Could it be because women dominate the aged care, disability care and childcare industries which are undervalued and under paid?
It’s a vicious cycle. And women and their families are suffering.
While our TVs show the humanitarian crises unfolding in the Ukraine and current floods in NSW, they are not showing the horror of what’s festering inside the homes of Australian families at the moment. We are in the midst of our own humanitarian crisis and urgent action at an individual, community and government level is needed. Now!
As a start, it’s about restoring the health and economic security of women, who are the majority of the population.
It’s about justice for the many women who have been forced to draw on their savings and superannuation to survive and to fix the systemic disadvantage they endure. It’s about restoring dignity for mothers and children who are escaping family violence.
But fundamentally, it’s about respecting one another as human beings not as commodities.
So many women are doing it very tough at the moment. I encourage you to regularly check with the women in your life and your sphere to acknowledge their service and their sacrifice.
I have not had a COVID vaccination. There seems to be great interest in my decision. On Monday I updated the House and those interested in my electorate and elsewhere that I had contracted COVID. I described what I did to treat myself during the course of my illness and the support I got from the state government, which is the standard support for every person in Victoria. It was a matter of transparency and honesty as far as I was concerned. Now I am being accused of “spreading dangerous conspiracy theories”, according to Dr Rob Phair, President of the Rural Doctors Association of Victoria. I have never done this. I tell it like it is when put to me firsthand.
I have only ever put forward views of those I represent who cannot be heard otherwise. Heartbreaking stories around vaccinations from both health practitioners and patients alike. I represent the views of those often ignored. People who know me, know this to be true. Since when has it been the case that, if one wants to tell it like it is—not, as the media puts it, to toe the line or go after a headline—suddenly one is spreading dangerous conspiracy theories? I am not a right winger, as you know, Deputy Speaker Coulton, let alone an extremist. I am an independent thinker. I owe no-one and no-one owns me. My parliamentary colleagues know I don't fit into a box. I've crossed the floor in the past on a matter of principle. Mind you, the truth can be very threatening if one is in an environment where truth is not valued.
Why can we not have a discussion when we have a difference of opinion? Having a discussion does not cost lives. People will continue to decide what vaccines they will have, what treatments they will embrace, and good on them for doing that. That is their choice. I have never sought to influence people's choices, just made my decision based on the advice from my health practitioners, and I have been pilloried for it. I have told the House stories of reactions to the vaccine received. They are facts, not hearsay. Are we no longer able to bring to light evidence that is uncomfortable, that presents a different picture?
It is well known that fear polarises people. When did we become a fearful nation? Divisions are deep in our community and they are getting deeper. Fear undermines everything and is a powerful form of manipulation. There is an alternative. The alternative is love, for love casts out fear. We heard a lot about it in the Religious Discrimination Bill speeches, and I think the member for Burt made a marvellous contribution last week, they were probably the highlight of the 46th Parliament. We have a choice: fear or love. Love does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful and endures through every circumstance: 1 Corinthians. Love requires courage as well as compassion, which we see in everyday acts of kindness. Love knows that everyone is entitled to some respect, however great or little. Truth must win out, because it's fundamental to good governance, and the people of Australia have every right to expect it. Love, truth, respect, all underpinned with humility. Finally, wisdom—without it, we're dancing in the dark. Love, truth, respect, humility, honesty, integrity and wisdom: I look forward to seeing their manifestation in this parliament.
These are appropriation bills. So, as for these bills, I would like to say this: my concern about appropriation bills in the history of the parliament is that they are not assessed against any objective criteria. The policy targets are ambiguous and, it would appear, designed so that the outcomes cannot be tested.
Economic policy, employment and national wealth, are two sensible criteria. What key performance indicators are used to assess the appropriation bill we're talking about today?
When it comes to social policy those above and below the poverty line and a proportion who are excessively rich might be considered within the taxation policy. Are industry and the community measuring the impacts and outcomes in health and education policy? I worry for the poor, who seem often to bear the brunt of what I would see as poorly targeted initiatives.
On the environment, business taxation concessions and business welfare appropriations in the environment sphere are worth testing. Has the parliament suggested objective criteria? I suggest we do.
Both sides of politics complain about federal-state duplication, but what have we ever done about it? We need to test the workings of this parliament against the health, wellbeing and financial security of our First Peoples, which Warren Snowdon, the member for Lingiari, described as unacceptable in his valedictory address. I want to take a moment here to say that the member for Lingiari is our last contact with the old House, so this is an historic day, as he is making his valedictory speech.
Of course it's unacceptable. The Australian people know it is, and they want change. We will not flourish as a nation until our generous Indigenous people enjoy the equality and respect that they deserve. I will have more to say on these fundamental issues, because they go to the heart of good governance, honesty, integrity and value for money, which all Australian citizens expect of this parliament and its parliamentarians.
On 21 January this year, I proved positive to COVID. I wasn't too worried about that because my health advice over the last 12 months has had me on vitamin D, vitamin C, zinc, B1 and other supplements to improve my immune system, although I was in trepidation about going back home to Phillip Island to tell my wife that I had tested positive.
I also had access to Ivermectin, which we both immediately went on as soon as I tested positive. We had five days of Ivermectin and then another five days to prove it treated.
I had some symptoms. I had a bit of a rough time for three or four days. I am not vaccinated. I won't be vaccinated because my view was the risk from being vaccinated was just as high as the risk I was taking from getting the virus itself.
So I had to make a decision, and I made a decision on my behalf. I made a decision that I wanted to continue in this House, and I had just been through a fairly major health issue only a few weeks before, so I was fairly vulnerable.
But I believed I had actually done the right thing and protected my body in the way that I wanted to protect it, by the choice that I made and the choice that all of those demonstrators out there we're talking about have made—choice and freedom and not having the things that they do imposed upon them by politicians in this place and others.
I rise to return this book, American Colossus: Big Bill Tilden and the Creation of Modern Tennis, to the member for Bennelong. He lent me the book, and I now return it to him. The member for Bennelong has given me great gifts, not just the book. He gave me 'Indian Summer' by the Gatlin Brothers, with Roy Orbison taking it home. He's told me about songs, about places. He's told me stories.
But for me, his great contribution has been that, as an international person, to a degree he's been above this parliament. His thoughts have been higher than our thoughts. His work on committees and the uplifting inquiry into infrastructure — I believe he's a prophet and a seer. One day, John — one day, Member for Bennelong — the things that you put in those reports, on that infrastructure and the way we do it, will come to pass in this country, and you'll be lauded as somebody who was way ahead of his time.
As an international tennis player, coming into this place as you did, you had a different view of the world. You may not have been like other politicians here. You were different. You wanted to see national cooperation for the betterment, and the greater benefit, of the Australian people. That was your goal. That was your focus and always has been. To me, it's a great regret that you are leaving this parliament. You know I encourage you to stay on — probably once a week — but your time has come. I wish you the very best, and I give you this song: 'Gentle on My Mind'.
John, you'll be gentle on my mind forever.
Thank you for this opportunity to address the parliament on the Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment (Exempting Disability Payments from Income Testing and Other Measures) Bill 2021. Every now and again there is a moment in the parliament that should not be missed, where history is made, where a change comes, and we as parliamentarians need to note it. With the retirement of the member for Lingiari, Warren Snowdon, our last connection to Old Parliament House will be severed.
Warren Snowdon was the Minister for Veterans' Affairs from 2010 to September 2013. He achieved two things
I would like to acknowledge, amongst many other achievements. He moved the veterans' affairs equivalent of Five
Eyes from officer level up to ministerial level, so the issues were acknowledged as far more important than the
parliaments of the day were recognising. Subsequently, the second ministerial meeting was held here in Canberra,
and that was Warren's work. From 2010 to 2012, Warren focused on the eminent persons group to start planning
the Gallipoli event of 2015. He knew that they had to look ahead and they had to be three years out to make this
event the very important event that it was. To his credit, the member for Lingiari understood the value of
relationships. To underpin such important work he twice visited Turkey and France. His foresight in dealing with
the mayor of the province of Villers-Bretonneux was seen when he happened to have a signed Wallabies jumper at
hand to give as a gift to the mayor.
Closer to home, according to Warren's return speech, Warren wondered if having a child at the height of his 2013
campaign would grab the granny vote and some of the women's vote. I have heard since, though, that the women of
his area rallied and put out the cry 'Support Elizabeth; vote Warren go back to Canberra'! He did return, and his list
of parliamentary achievements is two A4 pages of tiny writing, so I won't even try to go through all the work that
he's done in the parliament, but I would like to highlight some things.
In August 2013 he launched the online suicide prevention and mental health resource Operation Life online. In
June 2013 he improved military compensation arrangements in response to the 2011 review of military
compensation changes to the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004, including increased permanent
impairment compensation and DVA white cards for former ADF members with long-term health conditions
accepted under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act. He increased the compensation for dependant
children of deceased ADF members. In May of 2013, the DVA Veteran Mental Health Strategy was launched, with
proposed extended arrangements allowing access to mental health supports—here we go again—and supports prior
to compensation claims post discharge and GP assessments. It also extended the veterans and veterans families
counselling service to those with certain peacetime service.
In May 2012, funding was announced for the Anzac centenary commemorative program to run from 2014 all the
way through to 2018. In May and June of 2012, the government provided assistance to Bomber Command veterans
travelling to London for the dedication of the new Bomber Command Memorial on 28 June 2012. In February of
2012, the first national observance of the bombing of Darwin was held on the 70th anniversary. In December 2011,
Australian personnel involved in maintenance, transport or decontamination of aircraft used in the British nuclear
testing program became eligible for cancer testing and treatment. In September 2011, the prisoner of war recognition
supplement was introduced. It was paid to veterans who were prisoners of war and to civilian detainees. It was paid
at the rate of $500 per fortnight and indexed in line with the CPI. It was not income for income tax purposes or for
the purposes of social security or veterans entitlements income checks. In May of 2011, the Coordinated Veterans'
Care Program was introduced to provide ongoing planned and coordinated primary and community care for gold
card holders who have chronic conditions and complex care needs and are at risk of unplanned hospitalisations.
Sharon Bird just gave her valedictory speech, and I've heard the member for Lingiari speak to the parliament. In
March 2011, he released a military compensation review, a review of the Military Compensation and Rehabilitation
Act 2004; and, in 2010, members of the Australian Protective Service who patrolled the Maralinga site up to June
1998 became eligible for cancer testing and treatment. He has the serious dedication around mental health and
condition of the community that veterans' affairs ministers become a part of—part of their family. For all his hard
work, Warren is to be congratulated. The parliament is better for it. Having said that, I will refer to his first speech
in just a moment.
The era that Warren first joined the parliament in—the Old Parliament House—was totally different to the
expanses of this Parliament House. Everybody was connected together in a very small group of people—it's only
what I've been told—and so the interaction between members, staff, ministers and backbenchers was fierce and
unrelenting for the whole of the time they were there. COVID has had us so disconnected in this House with the
social distancing and all the measures that we have had to deal with, whereas the old House was a very small unit,
and the interaction of parliamentarians then was quite different to what it is today.
We have someone coming from that era still here in 2021 and having suffered a loss. I identify with the member
for Lingiari, because I have been a 'oncer' in this place twice, and I know how hard it is to come back. I know how
hard it is to stay here in a marginal seat, like the member for Lingiari. There are many people—I'm sure the member
for Lingiari won't talk about them—who would be very happy if he weren't in this place or if he had been booted
out long ago. You've got to fight for your position, you've got to fight to stay here, it's hard to come in, it's difficult
when you are in here and it's very easy to be thrown out. So you've got to be a dedicated parliamentarian and have
a commitment to the people that you serve, the people of this nation, the party you represent, the caucus you are a
part of and this House of Representatives—this place where the decisions for the nation are taken. It's a privilege
for all of us to be a part of that decision-making process for the nation in good times and bad.
The member for Lingiari said in his first speech:
This nation cannot pretend to wear the mantle of maturity until the indigenous rights of Aboriginal Australians are given formal recognition and the demands by Aboriginal and Islander people for compensation for lands stolen and for social and cultural disruption are addressed. In my view, this should involve appropriate amendments to the Constitution. I say to the member for Lingiari: we stand here today, you and I, in unison on that need to change the Constitution and recognise the importance of the Indigenous people in this nation.
Further, he said:
Until we give back to the black man just a bit of the land that was his, without strings to snatch it back, without anything but complete generosity of spirit in concession for the evil we have done him—until we do that, we will remain what we have always been so far, a people without integrity; not a nation by a community of thieves.
Pretty strong words for a first speech in this place! But those words were written and spoken by someone who had
a clear sense of responsibility of representation.
I wish the member for Lingiari and all who travel with him, his family and friends, the very best in his retirement.
May you go well and may the sunsets of the Northern Territory be a part of your days
Tonight, as the Victorian government looks set to pass its controversial pandemic bill, I feel compelled to acknowledge the Australians who, unlike me, have been forced to choose between getting vaccinated or losing their job. It makes no sense to me that Commonwealth officials who work in windowless offices are not mandated to be vaccinated, while vaccinations for farmers, producers and their workers in my electorate have been mandated. That's not right, it's not fair and it's not logical. For the record, I want to acknowledge that I know I'm privileged not to be faced with having to make such a decision.
Over the past nine months, I've spoken with hundreds of people in distress, many who are suffering on a scale that I find difficult to comprehend. I'm sure that my fellow members and senators are also hearing gut-wrenching stories. I want to honour some of those people and bear witness to their suffering. I have purposely changed the names of the people that I'm about to explain to you because I don't want them to suffer significantly for the stance they've taken.
Firstly, there's Nina, a single mum in her late 30s with two children, who felt coerced to get jabbed to keep her job as an aged-care nurse. Nina came away feeling violated after her first jab. The fact that she felt coerced into getting it left her reliving trauma associated with having been raped when she was 20. She said she feels disgusted in herself that she gave in to the coercion. Then there's Deani, a schoolteacher, and her 13-year-old daughter, who endured four weeks stranded in New South Wales, living in a stranger's caravan, whilst trying to get back into Queensland to rejoin her husband and son. David and Leah are primary school teachers and parents to three boys who are on unpaid leave while they wait to see if the mandates change.
Carolyn is a doctor who has decided to retire early so she can speak freely and advocate for patients, family and friends. Ahmad is a chef who now provides companionship and cleaning services instead of doing the work that he loves. Bonnie, having recovered from COVID eight months ago, is fearful of being vaccinated and will lose her job as a hairdresser unless she can obtain an exemption. Tonya was told by her GP of more than 30 years that she couldn't see her face-to-face unless she was vaccinated. Katherine and Rick, parents of two teenage girls, have decided to sell their business to set up a sustainable life on the land with friends so their daughters don't have to get vaccinated, at least until their daughters can make up their own minds and make their own decisions.
Then there's Sarah, who lives with her partner and five children aged six to eighteen. Sarah and David have been registered nurses for the past 30 years and have lost jobs which they love simply because, in their professional medical opinion, they were not prepared to be jabbed with an experimental vaccine. Sarah was terminated from a nursing position after 24 years. Her partner was terminated from his position after 18 years of service. Sarah and David are now living off their limited savings and will soon join the Centrelink queue, which they have never done before, to pay their mortgage and bills and to feed their children because they're unable to find employment. More than anything, Sarah wanted to tell me about the impact this mandatory vaccination is having on her and her children. She is angry and scared and at a complete loss to understand the unnecessary and unfair adverse impacts on her children. Her son has just completed year 12 and works as a lifeguard at two local pools but can no longer do so. He also wants to go to university next year to study either nursing or paramedicine but now can't unless he gets double jabbed. He also can't pursue his love of participation in musicals or attend Venture Scouting activities. Sarah's 16-year-old daughter has all but completed her surf lifesaving certificate but can't volunteer now either. Her 10-year-old is the only child who can access the pool. However, this would be unsupervised as nobody else in the family can go. She ended with a plea for me to help save the children.
I note that Dr Nick Coatsworth, a highly regarded medical person, is completely at odds with the rest of the medical profession by saying he's strongly against the need for children to be vaccinated. I have to say so am I.
Deputy Speaker Claydon, this Sunday is World Soil Day — and I knew you'd be interested in that! Soil degradation is widespread in Australia, and this poses untenable risks to food security, the environment, and our health and wellbeing.
Over the past 200 years, we have done terrible damage to our soils. But the good news is that innovative farmers, graziers and market gardeners across Australia have turned their creativity and knowledge to regenerating Australia's degraded soils. Organisations like the independent, non-profit Soils for Life have been sharing their stories of restoration and regeneration for more than a decade, and now soil has rightly found prominence as a matter of national significance, through the National Soil Strategy and Office of the National Soils Advocate in PM&C.
I recently hosted a discussion with Soils for Life with leading producers, farmers and soil specialists. As we deliver on this strategy to repair degraded soils, success will rely on researchers, policymakers and producers partnering to support stewards of this land to make our soils healthy and naturally productive again.
Their advice to me was clear. They need stable, long-term, ongoing support for locally led soil health initiatives run through local hubs. I look forward to continuing to work with Soils for Life and producers in my electorate and encourage other members to do the same.
There are some times during a long stay in this parliament, like I have had, when I need to bring to your attention, Deputy Speaker Mitchell, and to the House's attention and to the attention of the people of Australia what's going on in my state of Victoria. These things need to be recorded on Hansard so that the world knows exactly what's going on in Victoria, my home state.
Recently, a friend of mine brought to my attention that a fellow friend of his had heard about a vigil being held in a Bayside suburb. It was opposing what the Victorian state government is doing. He thought: 'I'd like to go and sit with that vigil. It's a quiet vigil.' He went and sat on the lawn quietly. There were some police nearby, but they were just watching. Some journalists came along and he spoke to them. As he spoke to them, the police walked towards him and then issued him with an infringement notice. He took his infringement notice and went home, and last week he received the fine. The fine was more than $5,000. Thousands and thousands and thousands of people have entered the streets each weekend and yet there were no fines for them.
How is it that what we would have seen as absurd and unconscionable even a year ago in this nation is now here? How can we have a nation so corruptly divided as this, where thousands can march—thousands can march—and yet this one person who spoke to two journalists receives a fine for more than $5,000? This was at a time when he had decided he didn't want to take these vaccines. He's not an anti-vaxxer, but he didn't want to take these vaccines, so he has lost his job and he has a $5,000 fine. That family was already struggling. This is my 'great south land'. There are things that we don't do. I think this is wrong. I think it is unconscionable. I think it is criminal. And I think it is immoral.
Today the Prime Minister introduced the Religious Discrimination Bill. In doing so, he talked about all the good reasons why we as a nation must say no to discrimination in all its forms. He noted that this bill will add to existing Commonwealth legislation that criminalises discrimination on the basis of age, race, gender, disability and human rights. It's rather ironic, then, that, while this bill is being debated today, unvaccinated people in Victoria are on the receiving end of some of our country's harshest discrimination restrictions.
Let me paint a picture of this repugnant discrimination. Yesterday my friend, who I'll call Kate—not her real name—rang to let me know that, from today, she can no longer go to her local agricultural hardware store to purchase feed for her livestock. While pet stores are considered essential, stores that sell livestock feed are not. But it turns out that the store also sells petrol. As petrol is deemed an essential retail item, my friend was confused about why she couldn't simply pick up some feed at the same time as paying for the petrol. Having lived in this tight-knit community for than 10 years, she knows the staff well. In fact, they were a lifeline during the recent electricity blackouts after the storms, when they helped source a generator for her. She even promotes the business to clients because of their friendly and competent approach.
When Kate entered the store, she saw all the new signs reminding people of the need to check in with their vaccination status. A bit bemused about what these signs might mean for her as an unvaccinated person, Kate half-jokingly asked the manager, 'Can't I come shopping here anymore if I'm not double vaxed?' To her utter shock, he replied, 'No, you can't, effective tomorrow morning.' Kate then asked, 'So, if I come in tomorrow and fill my car up with diesel, can I come in and pay for it?' He said, 'Oh, that's different. You could buy petrol; that's essential. I can't ask you about your medical status when you buy petrol.' This is exactly the same checkout at which Kate pays for the other items. A bit perplexed, Kate checked a bit further. 'So you're saying that livestock feed is not essential?' The manager said, 'Kate, the advice has come from the top. I'm just following orders. You have to disclose your medical status.' Kate, who is of German heritage, took a deep breath and replied, 'Sorry, but I come from a country where they once "just followed orders". Don't worry,' she said. 'I won't make your life a misery, but I won't return until this madness stops.'
How can these restrictions be based on so-called science or health advice? You only need to look at the different approaches across Australia to know they can't possibly be—or at least that, clearly, there's a broad range of health advice that can be chosen by governments to suit their own political needs. For instance, how is it that New South Wales is reducing restrictions for unvaccinated people at the same time that Victoria is doubling up on them? We are a fractured nation of people who are hurting, and I don't understand why more of us in this House aren't standing up to call out this divisive and repugnant discrimination.
I know this woman to be strong and resilient, and she says she's okay, but the point is that she shouldn't have to be okay. What about the hundreds of thousands of people that are not okay—the ones that for many and varied reasons have made the choice that they would prefer to lose their job, risk their home and their ability to care for and feed their family, rather than be coerced into accepting a new vaccine about which they are unsure? The government has spent a lot of money on so-called educating people about what they're on about. But it comes down to looking like coercive control, to me, when the Victorian government is isolating you from your personal support systems, preventing you from meeting up and spending time with other family members and friends, monitoring your activity through the day by exactly what I did before I came in here, denying your freedom and autonomy, malicious name-calling, belittling you, putting you down, limiting your access to money or jobs and controlling aspects of your health and body.
My friend is one of the most strongest, most resilient people I have ever met in my life, but it breaks my heart to know that she is enduring this. If you're unvaccinated in Victoria, you will be persecuted; you will be ostracised. Why do you think there are 50,000 people marching in the streets in Victoria? There is a bright side—there's always a bright side: the connections they're making with like-minded people are connections that will last the rest of their lives.