WHO Pandemic Treaty Debate [Senator McKim] “Cookers & Lizard People” speech
Livestreamed 27 March 2023 Full Debate on YouTube | Rumble-Clip | Telegram-Clip
Senator McKim: Uh, well thank you very much Acting Deputy President. Well, that’s 15 minutes of my life that I’m never going to get back, but I did actually learn one thing from Senator Canavan, and that is this: cookers are going to cook. That’s what we learned here this evening.
Now, this pandemic that we’ve been living through for years, and we continue to live through today, is an extremely serious issue, and as we continue to grapple with the ongoing challenges of this global pandemic, and as large numbers of Australians continue to die of COVID-19, it’s critical that we do reflect on the lessons we learned, the mistakes that we’ve made, the mistakes that we continue to make, and the work that still needs to be done.
I want to start by acknowledging the incredible efforts of healthcare workers over the last few years. People who work in the health system, whether they’re support workers, doctors, nurses, first responders, all of those other essential workers who do such a terrific and critical job of looking after all of us when accidents befall us or sickness takes us. We need to acknowledge and thank them from the bottom of our hearts because they have put their own health and safety at significant risk to look after us, to try to keep us safe, and to keep our country running, and we owe them a debt of gratitude that can never truly be repaid.
We also need to understand and recognize that the pandemic has exposed deep inequalities in our society, particularly in the areas of healthcare, housing, and employment. And what the pandemic has revealed ultimately is that we are far more units in an economy than we are human beings to those who govern us, and we’ve seen that time after time when basic protections for people, such as income support, such as health frameworks, have been removed in order that the economy can keep on trundling along. So we have to address those issues that have been exposed by the pandemic, ripping off some of the Band-Aids that have covered up some of the gaping chasms in our society, some of the inequalities in our community and in our economy, and we have to commit to addressing those issues and ensuring that everyone has access to the things that they need to stay healthy and to have a good life.
We also need to make sure we are prepared for future pandemics because, believe me, colleagues, they will be coming down the line, and that’s going to mean investing in public health infrastructure, research, I think.
Things like vaccines, things like testing for particular viruses, things like ensuring our supply chains are resilient in our emergency and pandemic response plans are up to date.
So absolutely, the Australian Greens do support research and review of the ongoing handling of COVID-19, and the lessons that can be learned for the future, and I want to be really clear about something. It really beggars belief that a Labor government isn’t working hard to look to do more to look after people and to create jobs in our society by engaging in a significant retrofitting of public buildings in this country with clean air standards, ensuring adequate ventilation, adequate filtration of our air, and ensuring that new buildings in this country comply with rigorous standards, because one of the most significant things that a government could do in this space at this time is ensure that, to the greatest degree possible, the air that we all rely on to survive as human beings is clean and virus-free.
The Greens also support global cooperation in addressing pandemics and public health emergencies, and we believe that the World Health Organization plays a critical role in coordinating international responses to these crises, and we do believe that a global pandemic treaty with a focus on prevention, preparedness, and response represents an important step forward in our efforts to protect public health on a global scale.
Now, what is always amusing, I’m glad Senator Roberts and Senator Babet is in the chamber; it’s always amusing when we just get a little peek behind the curtain of what the “Cookers and the right-wing conspiracy theorists” are actually worried about. Now, Senator Roberts wants to put on his white coat and use the Senate’s valuable time and resources to annoy public servants about the Illuminati and Agenda 21, probably the lizard people? and we’re not going to have a bar of it, and I have to say, Acting Deputy President, it must be absolutely terrifying.
Acting Deputy President: Senator Roberts [but livestream audio didn’t pick up what was said]
I was saying, it must be pretty terrifying being Senator Roberts because he spends so much time worried about imaginary threats that he can barely come to grips with some of the massive real challenges facing our society. Now last week, Senator Roberts was in the chamber here carrying on about lab-grown meat, and during last year’s election campaign, he defiantly posted on Twitter that he would not, and I quote, “shut up and eat the bugs.”
Well, despite making some jokes about it at the time, I do want to point out to Senator Roberts, for you acting Deputy president, that no one is trying to make Senator Roberts eat the bugs. I mean, eat the bugs, don’t eat the bugs. The Australian Greens don’t care whether you eat the bugs or not, Senator Roberts, but while we’re on the subject of irrelevant rants, I would like to thank Senator Babet for dropping into the Senate in between making real estate deals to warn us that we actually don’t own them DVDs anymore.
Acting Deputy President: Senator Kim, I think to assist the chamber, perhaps you could withdraw that please, and just… because it does reflect upon said a little bit, and I’d ask you to withdraw it please.
I withdraw, I think, and, and I, but I do note that Senator Babet did actually say um that we don’t own DVDs anymore. Well, I want to say, Senator Babet can speak for himself. He may or may not I own any DVDs. I don’t know. I got plenty at home. Senator Babet, I just want to say, the Lord of the Rings box set on Blu-ray just looks utterly magnificent, and I do commend it to you.
Um, and to the chamber, but interestingly, acting Deputy president, as I was coming in here, I found a top-secret … stamped, ‘top secret,’ One Nation, um, on the top, and very surprised, it’s quite dynamite this document, and when I read it, it turns out that this document is actually a list of proposed Senate inquiries that One Nation is pushing for into the future, and I thought I’d share some of these potential Senate inquiries. Um, that One Nation wants to pursue. So, firstly, on this top-secret document, a Senate inquiry into why one sock seems to go missing when you do the laundry. That’ll be a critical matter for this chamber to inquire into. A Senate inquiry into whether Elvis is alive and perhaps living in a small village in regional Serbia. Um, a Senate inquiry, this is actually going to stop, this is a barbecue stopper, acting Deputy president, a Senate inquiry into how they just made Maxi Bonds smaller but are still charging the same price for them. Senator Roberts, I look forward to that one. A Senate inquiry into how there are, like, 14 different streaming services, but you still can’t find some movies on any of them. That should be an absolute, an absolute beauty, Senator Roberts, uh, but this one I think is possibly, possibly the marvel of them all, and I do thank Senator Roberts for bringing this one forward. A Senate inquiry into why you need scissors to open a packet of scissors. That one, acting Deputy president, is an absolute ripper. And I look forward to the number of
Acting Deputy President: Senator Kim [inaudible]
Thank you, The Senator’s reading out a list. I’m wondering if he could table that please.
Acting Deputy President: Senator Kim, you’ve been asked to…. Would you like to..
I don’t think, well, I thank the senator for the invitation, but I don’t think it will be fair for me to table a top-secret list of One Nation’s proposed Senate inquiries, but the last one on the list which I think actually, um, the Liberal National Senators could be very constructive members of the inquiry into why do you have to have a go to get a go. And I think that one is a critical inquiry in Australian politics, and I just thank One Nation for bringing these just absolutely amazing proposals before the Senate, uh, and as I said at the start of my speech, what we’ve really found out today is that cookers are actually going to cook despite what the sensible people in this Senate have got to say.
What I’ll say in closing, Acting Deputy President, is that the COVID-19 pandemic has of course presented us with many challenges, but one of the big opportunities that it has presented us all with is an opportunity to reflect on the state of our society, the state of our government, and the state of our economy, and it has shown us where we need to improve and where we need to invest, the regulatory frameworks that are missing or those that need to be beefed up, and ultimately, it’s given us an opportunity to learn a giant lesson about how we need to change as a society and how politics needs to change in this country to make sure that we do more, much more, to look after people and support people who are ill.
I want to give a shout-out to everyone who’s suffering from long COVID in this country. I want to get out about and extend my deepest sympathies and those of the Australian Greens to everyone who has lost a loved one, a family member, or a friend as a result of COVID-19 because it is cutting a swathe through our community. Life expectancy in this country and reliably, and in fact, life expectancy is plummeting now at the first rate since the Great Famine of China in the early 1950s. That is the rate at which global life expectancy is currently plummeting, and it is due to this virus. It is due to COVID-19 and the global pandemic that we are all living through, and we will live through tragically for some time yet.
What we do know is that it has revealed, amongst many other things, the critical importance of public health infrastructure, the critical importance of a robust and responsive healthcare system, the absolutely crucial nature of a coordinated and compassionate approach to protecting everyone in our community, but particularly those who are most vulnerable – the older people, the immunocompromised people.
We’ve also seen the devastating consequences of systemic inequality and economic injustice in this country. We’ve seen the devastating consequences of a precarious and underpaid workforce and of a lack of investment in the education and training of healthcare professionals, and as we move forward, we have to make sure that we learn the lessons of this pandemic, invest in our people, invest in public health structure, give more people permanent secure work with paid sick leave, invest in healthcare workers, and invest in the social safety net that protects the most vulnerable people in our community.
I mean, JobSeeker was doubled for a brief and beautiful time during the pandemic by a liberal national government, I might add, and my office was flooded with testimonials from people who said, for the first time in some cases in years, they could actually put food on the table and pay the power bill in the same fortnight, and for those who have never labored under those kinds of financial stresses (and I actually have labored under them for a brief period when I was younger), they are terrible, terrible pressures to have to bear on a day-to-day basis, and we should be doing much, much more to ensure that JobSeeker allows people to live a dignified life.
We’ve got to ensure that our economy is resilient and adaptable and that it provides good jobs and fair wages, and it supports the small businesses and workers who are the lifeblood of our communities, and we’ve got to do it all with a clear-eyed focus on the challenges and the opportunities that lie ahead.
This pandemic has actually demonstrated very clearly that everything is interconnected. We are all interconnected. The jobs people do are interconnected. The pastimes people enjoy are interconnected. Our families, our communities, the economy, our society, the environment, the climate – are all interconnected. Our fates are intertwined, and our actions can have far-reaching consequences – not just on ourselves, we have to listen to each other, we have to support each other, we have to love each other, and we have to approach our collective future with hope.