Senator RENNICK (Queensland) (10:44): I’d like to start today by acknowledging all the people who have suffered injuries from the vaccines. When I signed up to become a senator 2½ years ago, I signed up to protect the Australian people and, in particular, to make sure that we always look after the health and wellbeing of those people. The name of the game with health is to make sure that everyone has a good health outcome. It’s not just about the vaccine rollout and reaching targets. That’s a means to an end. The end, in itself, is good health for everyone. The best people to do that are the people themselves, in consultation with their doctor. We shouldn’t be having mandates imposed upon people by bureaucrats, by governments or by the media.
What we have got, however, is Australians who have been injured—Australians who did the right thing, who listened to the government that said the vaccines were safe and effective—and what we’ve seen is that many of these victims have been scorned and ignored by the medical community. It must be particularly difficult to have an injury at the best of times, but it must be so much worse when you go to the doctor or the hospital and you don’t get the attention that you need. That is why I’m speaking here today.
The reason I am withholding my vote from the government is first and foremost to improve the indemnity scheme for those people who have been injured by the vaccine. People have been injured for months now. There have been people who have been paralysed down their right-hand side, people who have had strokes, pulmonary embolisms, myocarditis, pericarditis or functional neurological disorders, and these people have been left helpless by a government who are more than happy to indemnify foreign pharmaceutical companies, many of whom are convicted felons for past misdemeanours.
We are neglecting suffering Australians. I believe that these people should be compensated for every dollar they spend as a result of vaccine injuries. The threshold should not start at $5,000. They should also be compensated for their loss of income as a result of not being able to work because of the vaccine injury. Furthermore, they need to be compensated straightaway and not have to wait for months. I know one lady who was paralysed back in June. She’s been bedridden most of that time. She’s had a broken ankle. She has to spend $400 a month on potassium IV injections just to keep her alive. I don’t know about you, but I think that we’ve got an obligation to protect people who are going through such shocking medical injuries.
Furthermore, in the case of healthy people who had no underlying conditions, the onus of proof should be on the government to prove that serious injuries weren’t caused by the vaccines, not the other way around. These victims should not be treated like criminals and expected to prove beyond reasonable doubt that their injury was caused by the vaccine; rather, the civil weight of evidence should be used—that is, the balance of probabilities. It would be very intimidating for someone who’s sick and injured and who isn’t a medical expert to go up in front of a board of lawyers and doctors, who are basically trying to talk these people out of compensation merely because the government doesn’t want to do the right thing by its people. But what these people want most of all is for their voices to be heard, for their injuries to be treated with the same level of concern as a COVID patient. These people should not be shunned and scorned by the very people who are expected to care for them.
To be fair to the medical community, this is not your fault. I have heard from countless doctors, nurses and patients that backroom bureaucrats—namely AHPRA and the TGA—are threatening medical staff with deregistration if they speak up about vaccine injuries. This needs to stop. This leads to the even more egregious act that people who have suffered an adverse reaction from the first dose of the vaccine are now required to get a second shot. What kind of cruel, inhumane act is this? Seriously, what has happened to common decency and human compassion? I note that Senator Keneally used the words ‘violent extremism’ and ‘violence’ a lot in her speech. But can I say that the threat of having to take a second vaccine if you’ve already had an adverse reaction from the first vaccine is violence in itself. It is intolerably cruel, and it is not something I intend to walk by.
Furthermore, I don’t understand why it is so necessary to force these people into getting a vaccine if we are already at 84 per cent double-vaccinated for the adult population over 16. If you’d asked the Prime Minister and the premiers last year if they would have accepted that this figure was a reasonable rate of progress and would achieve herd immunity, I’m sure they would all have said yes, so why are the premiers still pushing vaccinations so hard?
I have been contacted by thousands of people who have valid medical reasons why they can’t take the vaccine. Many have even been granted exemptions by their doctors because there are reasons why they can’t take a second vaccine, but they are still being excluded from society by the premiers. If a doctor says that you can’t take a vaccine, and you’re given an exemption, who are the premiers and the government to say to people, ‘We’re going to exclude you from society’? These people are already injured. Why are we shunning them? Why are we putting them down? Why are we putting the spin of the political narrative over the health and wellbeing of the Australian people? This issue is way above politics. It is about the people, and we should not be playing political games with their health.
Where there is a risk, there must be choice. This is especially so in regard to healthy people who have a very low risk of serious injury from COVID. They should be entitled to weigh up the relative risk of an injury from COVID versus an injury from the vaccine. Instead, we have had their rights and their choices taken away from them. The problem with that is that federal legislation, and the Immunisation Handbook itself, says that you cannot coerce people into taking a vaccine. Section 51(xxiiiA) of the Constitution says that you cannot conscript people into giving the vaccine, especially in regard to medical procedures. That was put into the Constitution as a result of a referendum. That’s one of the very few referendums about the Constitution that has actually got up, but that only got up on the condition that people couldn’t be conscripted into taking a vaccine. So we need the Prime Minister and the federal government to stand up to the state premiers. At the end of the day, whilst I am a proud Queenslander, I’m a much prouder Australian, and the last thing I want to see is the premiers tear this country apart by playing political games at the expense of people’s health and at the expense of our national unity. Enough is enough.
The government overreach of the state premiers in destroying our civil liberties has gone too far. This is no longer about health but is rather about politicians wielding power for the sake of power instead of doing what they should be doing and protecting the people. To those of you who say I should not be holding the parliament to ransom, I say this: politicians should not be holding people to ransom. Politicians should not be holding people to ransom with their health. The people should not be held to ransom with their livelihoods. They should not be held to ransom by being separated from their children. They should not be held to ransom by their children being discriminated against. I’ve heard so many stories of upset parents who have chosen not to get their children younger than 16 vaccinated, because they want to wait and see the longitudinal data, and they know there is a low risk of children having severe adverse events, injuries, from COVID. And yet the children now have been stopped from going to school formals, attending schoolies and things like that. I just cannot believe that we are taking these mandates so far as to be holding it against the children. They have their choices restricted by their guardians—rightfully so; that’s why we have things called parents and we acknowledge age of consent—but this is just another example of government overreach that has gone too far in dealing with COVID.
I’d also like to point out to my colleagues, especially my Queensland colleagues, that we have the LNP values, which are about the dignity and worth of every individual. Surely, if someone has had a serious injury from a vaccine, they have the right to say no to a second one. What type of intolerable cruelty is it that we are going to force people into possibly getting injured again? I’ve heard many stories of people who felt a little bit off after the first vaccine and thought it was as a result of the vaccine. They went and saw their doctor, and the doctor said: ‘No. It wasn’t the vaccine. You’ll be right. Get the second vaccine.’ And then they’ve had a much worse reaction the second time around. When Chantal Uren, a Western Australian police officer in Perth, went to the vaccine safety clinic, she thought she was going to get some counselling as to how to deal with her injury. Instead, the vaccine safety clinic was trying to tell her to take a second vaccine. Her health has deteriorated markedly since that meeting.
We believe in freedom of choice. We believe in freedom of conscience. We believe in free speech. We should allow people to make choices based on their own medical conditions in consultation with their doctor. I’ll quote another doctor I spoke to last week, who said, ‘We’re now in this upside-down world where the doctors and nurses are being gagged and all the unqualified experts, politicians’—myself included—’the media and celebrities are telling everyone to get the jab.’ Another doctor pointed out to me last week that it is entirely irresponsible not to be diagnosing and looking at people before giving a vaccine, especially a vaccine that is still undergoing longitudinal testing, a vaccine that is new technology and that has never been used before.
The arguments often split out into vax versus antivax. Every vaccine has to be assessed on its own merits. This vaccine was rushed. I understand why: there was a serious risk from COVID. But we need to be honest about the fact that we are still undergoing testing, and we need to be honest about the fact that what we’re seeing out in the population—the population data of adverse events—doesn’t correlate with the data from the testing that Pfizer did. Much of that data, when it got released, had been redacted. That in itself is a massive concern. How can anyone make a proper, informed choice when the data from the trial itself has been redacted? Furthermore, they went and vaccinated the placebo group, so now it is almost impossible to do long-term testing, because we don’t have a trial of people who haven’t been vaccinated.
While I know the Prime Minister had good intentions by setting up the national cabinet, the premiers have abused his trust and the trust of the people. They are playing political games in order to score political points. They need to be reined in. The Prime Minister must assert his authority and stand up for the Australian people. I commend the bill to the Senate.