A Senate inquiry on COVID-19 has recommended permanently raising the rate of JobSeeker, independently reviewing the COVIDSafe app, and establishing a national centre for disease control.
- Senator Katy Gallagher told Parliament it was the work of states and not the Federal Government which guided Australia through the pandemic
- The Federal Government has rejected many of the committee’s findings
- The final report is not due until June 30, 2022.
Since April, the Labor-controlled committee has held 37 hearings with hundreds of hours of evidence that have produced six recommendations.
Committee chair Katy Gallagher has tabled the report in Parliament, arguing it was the leadership of the states and territories, not the Federal Government, that enabled Australia to do relatively well in the face of the global pandemic.
“It was the states who took the big brave decisions at the right time and forced the hand of the Federal Government, that was resisting pressure to take stronger action,” Senator Gallagher said.
“Without the strong advocacy displayed by state premiers for bolder measures — particularly by NSW and Victoria — Australia’s experience with the pandemic could have been very different.
“Thank goodness for the states.”
However, she added that even though COVID-19 had left other countries in much worse shape than Australia, that did not mean the health and economic costs were not severe.
“We should remember that almost 28,000 Australians have contracted COVID-19 and 908 Australians have died,” she said.
“Around 39,000 Australians remain stranded overseas and 8,000 of them are classified as vulnerable people.”
The interim report has come up with six recommendations:
- A permanent rise in the rate of JobSeeker
- An independent review into the COVIDSafe app
- An Australian Centre for Disease Control
- A call for any impacts of the winding back of COVID-19 supplements to be monitored
- Better public access to the medical advice provided to the government by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC)
- The National COVID-19 Commission Advisory Board’s reports be made public
Senator Gallagher made note of the deaths in aged care which accounted for three-quarters of Australia’s COVID-19 death toll.
She dismissed the Government’s COVIDSafe app, claiming it found “just 17 unique contacts” and was “expensive and ineffective”.
It dismissed a finding that JobKeeper unnecessarily excluded casual workers and refuted findings that the contact tracing app had failed, pointing out that it had been downloaded by more than 7.1 million Australians.
It also argued that the JobSeeker payment was adequate and that the government was not withdrawing the support too early.
The committee was established on April 8 and must deliver its final report by June 30, 2022.