27 October 2021

Well, the previous speaker might be surprised to hear my speech now, because I rise to inform the House of the people who've slipped through the many cracks of the Morrison government's so-called COVID-19 safety net. It was developed in a way that actively excluded people, like university staff, and overseas-owned companies like dnata. I have spoken to uni students and young people in my electorate who didn't qualify for JobKeeper even though they had two or three jobs, like my constituent Matthew, who worked in both retail and hospitality before lockdown but was denied JobKeeper after losing all his jobs. Because he didn't meet the 12-month continuity requirement, he couldn't get the payment. He had never been out of work. These young people like Matthew have bills to pay. They pay rent. They have to feed themselves and keep their homes warm in winter. They were left behind.

 

Another constituent, Anna, contracted COVID some weeks ago. Her whole family caught it, including her 13-year-old daughter, and tragically her father passed away from the virus. She paid for her father's funeral with the disaster payment she received, and she was grateful for that. But after getting COVID she still had symptoms. She was exhausted and too weak to get out of bed. She coughs persistently. She has muscle pains, and is too sick to return to work. However, despite her extended sickness, she couldn't access any further disaster payments from Centrelink. According to the government she had recovered, and must go back to work. What else could she do? She's a single mum and she has a daughter to provide for. Not only has the government safety net failed Anna, but it has exposed that they failed to account for the impacts of long COVID.

 

The World Health Organization recently released a standard definition of long COVID. The condition can last for months, and studies show that around one in three people with COVID-19 will have symptoms longer than the typical two weeks. How is the Morrison government working to prepare our health and welfare systems for people who are experiencing long COVID? When will the government put people first?

 

I would like to briefly tell the House about an extraordinary nurse, a long-time colleague of mine, who retired this month after 46 years, Ms Ida Edney. She began her nursing career in Perth, at the Royal Perth Hospital. She was nursing there when Cyclone Tracy hit Darwin, and she cared for the injured. She moved to Sydney in 1979, working in and managing aged-care facilities. Then, in 1985, she began the rest of her working life in Melbourne, at the Austin Hospital, where I also worked. What an amazing nurse Ida is. A trailblazer, she nursed the first liver transplant patient at the Austin Hospital, helping refine protocols and care for transplant patients thereafter. In 1997 Ida became the nurse unit manager of the endoscopy unit at Austin. When she started it was a burgeoning area of medicine, and Ida set about modernising the hospital practises, the environment and patient care. She has left after 46 years of nursing, and I'm proud to call her my friend.