LOCAL HEROES OF THE PANDEMIC

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (12:52): [by video link] In the time left to me, I just want to make some points about the second reading amendment moved by the Labor shadow minister and the need to deliver better health outcomes, particularly during the COVID pandemic. I just want to talk to the House for a few minutes about the fact that, when I have conversations with local health practitioners in all different roles, I'm so conscious of the enormous stress they are under at this point in time. As my colleague the member for Macarthur said yesterday, they don't describe themselves as heroes; they just get on and do the job that they love doing. But we should all remember the enormous strain and pressure that they are under. I know they seek to look after their own on mental health and wellbeing and their colleagues' mental health and wellbeing, but I think it is important, as a community, that we give them that support too.

In that context, I want to endorse the words the member for Macarthur said in the parliament yesterday—that leaders in communities, and in particular those of us who have the enormous privilege to sit in this federal parliament, should not be spreading misinformation or scaremongering. We should be endorsing the national health messages and we should be encouraging our communities to comply with those messages in the interests of everybody.

Our health practitioners, our nurses, our doctors, our specialists, the cleaners, the admin staff and all of those people who do exhausting work, day in, day out, whether it's in our hospitals, GP clinics, testing clinics or vaccination hubs—in all of the places where they are out and about, working for our benefit as a community right now—do not need to have their work undermined by people who should know better who are spreading fear and misinformation and encouraging disobedience in our community. It's very sad today to see stories in the media about health professionals saying that they've even had falling-outs within their own families, with people caught up in these very unhelpful conspiracy theories that are being circulated. Indeed, there's a story today in the local media about a health worker at a clinic being physically attacked by somebody who was not wearing a mask. It's just very distressing.

So, on that broader issue about supporting our health workers during the pandemic, all of us should think very, very carefully about the enormous privilege we have when we open our mouths to speak as community leaders and we should understand that there's a great responsibility that comes with that, and we should be ensuring that we are backing in our amazing health workers across the nation.

I endorse the bill and I endorse the amendment moved by the shadow minister.

Watch Sharon’s speech here.