Liberal Senator slams ‘heartless’ Victorian government over exemption decision

Let’s go now to Sarah Henderson, a Victorian Liberal senator who is stuck in Canberra because of the lockdown. Thanks for joining us, Sarah. Look, we all know about rules. God knows we’ve been dictated to by them for a year and a half now. How can the Victorian government justify not giving an exemption to a family in Warrnambool in those circumstances?

Chris, good afternoon, and I have to say, of all the stories, this is one of the most disgraceful decisions made by the Victorian government. And I actually went through this situation helping a family last year. They lost their 16-year-old boy to suicide. And I negotiated for weeks to have some exemptions in place to help the family. At the end of the day, would you believe a senior health official in Victoria told me it would be a breach of the Victorian Charter of Human Rights?

This is an absolute joke, Chris. It makes me really upset. And I cannot believe this decision’s been made. There are no covid cases in Warrnambool. What a heartless, horrible decision. Look, it just demonstrates to me that the Victorian government is really just floundering in how it’s managing the situation in Victoria. But this is a disgraceful, disgraceful decision and it is just so, so upsetting.

Look, it’s disgusting, too, because you saw the chief medical officer there. He’s shunting it off to bureaucrats. Don’t blame me. It wasn’t my decision. The politicians will do the same. We all know how this works. We all know that politicians and leaders know stripping away you can make exemptions. And in this case, that is just terrible.

Chris, in fact, when I dealt with this very situation last year, there was a shocking, tragic death of a young teenage boy in Ocean Grove in the Geelong region. I just could not believe the heartlessness. I didn’t say anything at the time. But this is just another example of the fact that we actually under the national cabinet, there is the capacity for the Victorian government to make exemptions at the margins when it comes to funerals and the fact that they offered to run this funeral and it covered Safeway, run it outside.

And that’s the same situation that happened last year. They just want it together. And I’ll tell you what the consequences are, Chris. The consequences for the mental health harm for Cooper’s classmates and the families of those students and Cooper’s family and their extended family and friends, the mental health consequences are just insurmountable. You are sorry. I just cannot believe that Brett Sutton talks about equity issues. I mean, I’m really angry about this. I mean, Brett Sutton, get life equity.

What are you talking about? This tragic incident has happened. A young eight-year-old boy has lost his life. And what does the Victorian government do? Talk about equity issues? Sorry, Chris. This is just shocking. And I really think that it comes a time when the Victorian government has got to lift its game. I mean, there is one reason that only Victoria is in lockdown is that Victoria cannot cope with this virus as much as any other state.

We have the same principles, the same sports support right across the nation. But we had one case in Victoria a few weeks ago. Now the whole state is in lockdown and more than a billion dollars of economic damage, more mental health harm, the more terrible toll on Victorians, and even worse than last time, Chris, parts of Victoria have been locked down where there are no covid cases at all. So it is a backward slip from where we were last time, frankly, when the lockdown happened last year.

And, you know, again, the Victorian government is so arrogant that they will not listen to fundamental advice, like, please use one QR code, like what is happening in other states to make sure that the contact traces have every possible way of finding people quickly. But they are arrogant. They want to do things their own way. They won’t listen and look at the consequences.

Look, Sarah, there were a whole lot of issues, political and practical and medical, that I was going to talk to you about. We are out of time now. But I think this example, this case of the way they’ve made this heartless ruling over little Cooper’s funeral says it all about how this government has lost the plot on the management of the pandemic. Thanks so much for joining us.

Thanks so much, Chris.

Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson there she comes from the Geelong area on the way up there to Warrnambool. And again, strength and love to close family and friends just shouldn’t have happened to you. None of this should have happened.

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