Public Interest Debate - Covid-19

16th June 2020

Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) (17:29:14): I am pleased to speak in debate on the motion. Having listened to the other speakers, I note how inadequate five minutes is to do justice to the huge effort that has been made by our communities and all of those who have stepped up during the extraordinary time we have experienced. The year began in drought with fires raging. We then moved into a period of concern about flood in many areas. Barely able to draw breath, we were hit with the crisis of the global COVID-19 pandemic. It has been extraordinary. No corner of our communities remains untouched by this pandemic, both from a health perspective, including mental and emotional wellbeing, and from an economic perspective.

We still have a long way to go in fighting COVID-19. We know that the economic recovery will be long, complicated and difficult for many people. I acknowledge people who have lost their jobs or whose income streams have been compromised. Anyone who has remained in full?time employment, including members in this Chamber, is in a privileged position. I am sure all members have been dealing with people in such circumstances. Our hearts go out to them in trying to find a way through these extraordinary times. Normally we have a pattern, a template, and we know where we can go. We do not have that in the current circumstances. As the member for The Entrance mentioned, we must acknowledge people who have had to leave their rental properties because they have been unable to pay their rent. It is heartbreaking, but our communities do go on.

I acknowledge the extraordinary effort of those at the pointy end of the frontline—nurses, doctors, medical and aged care staff, police, retail staff, disability sector workers, truck drivers, public transport staff and other essential workers. I acknowledge all people whose jobs kept life reasonable for us, such as the baristas who made our coffees, enabling us to feel some sense of normality. They were all very important. I acknowledge the local police in Lake Macquarie under the regional command of Danny Sullivan. He and his troops have done a tremendous job in leading our local community. We cannot name all the great charities, which is a great shame. In my local area Southlake Marketplace, Southlake Community Services, the Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul, Meals on Wheels and other charities have done extraordinary things getting help to people in need. In Lake Macquarie and the broader Hunter Region, COVID-19 has, so far, been contained to 278 cases, with the sad loss of four lives. Health agencies had estimated that loss of life in our region would have been far worse if nothing had been done, with a possible death toll in the thousands. I acknowledge the Hunter New England Health workers who did an amazing job in keeping their local communities informed and in giving a sense of being in control.

Of course, the economic cost is enormous. We know it will be painful and it will be some time before we recover. It will not be without significant sacrifice and debate. That time is coming. As part of the recovery process, we should certainly be debating how we will go about that. My view and the overwhelming view of my community is that it would be wrong to overlook the amazing job that the Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, has done and continues to do in guiding us through the pandemic. She has done a magnificent job. I acknowledge the health Minister Brad Hazzard. Dr Kerry Chant has also done a superb job. I am pleased to know that our politicians listen to the advice of health experts, which is very refreshing. Overall, New South Wales has done very well. The prize for the collective effort must go to the people of New South Wales. I thank every person who has stepped up and done the right thing by their neighbours and family members. I support the motion.

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