Thank you, Deputy President. For the 50th time, it is Gepp, and I would ask you to show some respect and pronounce it correctly.
I rise to speak on Mr Quilty’s motion. Gee whiz, you think you have seen it all in this place and then you hear the contribution that has just been made by Ms Crozier and the one preceding it by the mover of the motion, Mr Quilty. I just checked on the World Health Organization website to refresh my memory about where things are up to in terms of COVID around the globe. Globally there have been 526 million reported cases of COVID and 6.28 million deaths. And I thought, ‘I’ll have a look to see where Australia sits. Where does Australia sit in terms of COVID?’. We have had 7.03 million reported cases of COVID and 8178 deaths, and we all feel dreadfully sad about each one of those lives that has been tragically lost to COVID.
How does that compare statistically to other countries around the world? Just on the table from the World Health Organization website, Japan has had 8.63 million cases, so a bit more than Australia, and 30 336 deaths—almost four times as many deaths. The Netherlands has had 8.16 million cases and 22 328 deaths. Iran has had 7.23 million cases—very close, very close indeed, to Australia’s number—but the number of deaths is 141 000 in comparison to our 8000 deaths. Colombia has had 6.1 million cases and 140 000 deaths, and it goes on.
So this motion calls into question some of the things that this government has done, particularly around things such as the vaccine mandates. I would strongly suggest to the house that if the government had not taken the action that it did take in relation to vaccine mandates, the numbers against our country’s name in the World Health Organization table would be significantly higher. We do not apologise. We do not apologise for putting the health and safety of our citizens first and foremost. The Premier from day one when he first fronted the media about the pandemic said clearly—very, very clearly—that this government’s priority would be the health and wellbeing of its citizens. First, second and third, that would be the focus of this government. We knew that there were going to be consequences of the decisions that we were taking. We understood that there was going to be an economic impact, that there was going to be an economic downturn. We understood that. We understood that it was also going to have an impact on things such as the mental health and wellbeing of our citizens.
So we acknowledged that, but we also acknowledged that if we could not keep our citizens safe, if we could not keep our citizens well, if we could not protect the health sector, if we could not protect the fundamentals of our health system here in Victoria with the measures that we were about to adopt and that we would take based on the best medical advice that we were receiving at the time—if we could not do that—then we were going to be in all sorts of strife, that we were going to be in all sorts of trouble. So we understood that each and every time we took a decision in relation to this pandemic there would be consequences. Of course there were—there always will be. But if we did not take the measures that we took—if we did not take those measures—then the number of deaths against the number of cases according to the World Health Organization table that I just referred to would be a darn sight worse.
You would think, wouldn’t you, given the contributions from Ms Crozier and Mr Quilty that we are the only ones in the world that dealt with this. Well, just about every other country in the world wrestled with the same issues, wrestled with the notion of lockdowns. And we saw it again and again and again, right around the globe. We saw airports become vast desert wastelands.
Mr Melhem interjected.
Mr GEPP: China has just introduced some more lockdowns; that is absolutely correct, Mr Melhem. So this bunkum that we hear from those opposite, including Mr Quilty, again and again and again fails to recognise the facts. Had the Victorian Labor government under Daniel Andrews’s leadership followed the advice of the Liberal Party and the Liberal Democrats, I can guarantee you that we would be in a whole lot worse trouble in terms of our health system. Our health system would be non-existent because it would have collapsed in on itself. It would have absolutely collapsed in on itself had we followed the advice and the urgings of those opposite and Mr Quilty, none of whom were acting on any scientific advice, none of whom were responding to the medical advice that was coming through on a daily basis. All the time the Premier was standing in front of those news cameras day after day after day explaining to the Victorian people the depth of that advice we had the chief health officer standing next to him every day explaining to the Victorian people—understanding that the decisions we were making would have some consequence further down the road—that the first priority of the government was the safety and the health and wellbeing of our citizens. When you look at the statistics on the World Health Organization COVID-19 table I would say that we have done pretty well—we have done pretty well.
I just want to digress for another moment. The other thing that often gets overlooked is that when you look statistically at where the majority of cases actually occurred in the Victorian population, and indeed around the country and around the globe, it was working people. It was people who did not have available to them a vast amount of means—those people who had no choice but to go out and perform their insecure job because if they did not they could not put food on the table. It was those people who were the ones at most risk—the most vulnerable people in our economy. If you want to talk about economics, it was those people that were the most at risk in our economy. If you want to talk about kids, right from the outset the world was saying, ‘This virus doesn’t impact children as it does others in their community’. We knew that. But what we also knew was that the kids were the biggest carriers and they were the spreaders, and in early days the science was still out about the longer term impact on the children. What were we to do? Were we to just throw open the doors and say, ‘Let’s have life’s natural selection processes take place here’? Because we know what would have occurred: it would have been the most vulnerable in our community, those that could not protect themselves, who would have fallen over.
In my last 50 seconds, before we finish up this Parliament and before it ends its life in a few short months, I would rather, whenever we have this debate in this place about the pandemic and our response, that we all stand as one and that we just applaud all of those workers who put themselves, day after day, minute after minute, hour after hour, between us and that pandemic. When we did fall ill, they were the ones who went to work, masked up and treated us as best they could. Let us have that debate. Let us stand up and let us applaud all of those healthcare workers, those transport workers, those supermarket workers and all of the supply chains. Let us say thanks to them instead of the drivel that we get from the Liberal Democrats. I oppose the motion.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Thank you, Mr Gepp.
Mr Gepp: On a point of order, Deputy President, that is the second time within 10 minutes that you have mispronounced my name. I corrected you earlier, and I would ask you, respectfully, to pronounce my name correctly.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Thank you, Mr Gepp.
I notice that in the upper gallery we have a former Deputy President, Khalil Eideh, and also a former minister, Andre Haermeyer. Welcome.