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Australia Olympic gold medallist Libby Trickett asks Australia's leaders to 'grow up' and show leadership over COVID-19 on Q+A

19:59  22 july  2021
19:59  22 july  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison finally said "sorry" for Australia's slow vaccine rollout on Thursday but for Q+A panellists it still wasn't enough.

With more than 13 million Australians in lockdown as the Delta variant continues to spread throughout New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, the question was put to the panel what the government can do to help Australians through this period and if politicians can actually act in a bipartisan manner.

Olympic gold medallist Libby Trickett, who earlier revealed she has been taking anti-depressants during the pandemic, and had received her first Pfizer shot despite being under 40 and not in a targeted group for the vaccine rollout, called on politicians to show true leadership to get Australian out of its current situation

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"I just would like them to grow up, to be honest," Trickett said.

"I just really want our politicians, the people that are in power and are responsible for taking care of our communities to look after us, and actually do the job that we've asked them to do.

"It feels so much like the responsibility and the burden has been placed on the states and on the individual communities.

"We are the ones who have to stay at home and have to go into lockdown and do all of these things.

"I just want the states and the federal government to come together and actually come out with a clear, concise plan."

Former Opposition Leader Bill Shorten agreed as he called on the federal government to communicate its plan clearly to Australians.

"I think that we deserve is to be told nationally, where the finishing line is," Mr Shorten said.

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"There's 13.5 million people locked down, businesses are screwed, it's tough for families, there's mental health trauma.

"Where is the finishing line? When can we finish lockdown?"

He also called on long-time political rival Mr Morrison to lead by example.

"We need proper research and [to] learn that we'll live with masks perhaps ... I just wish the government, Mr Morrison, would lead now," he said.

"The doctors have done their bit, the scientists have done their bit.

"The people are doing their bit right now, it's now time for the government to step up."

Notion of vaccine hesitancy questioned

The comments came on the back of a discussion of the nation's vaccine rollout, when podcaster and disability advocate Astrid Edwards raised the failure to effectively vaccinate those in care homes.

Ms Edwards discussed the news that three residents of a disability group home had contracted COVID and had only received one dose of the vaccine each.

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She wanted to know how that could happen or how care workers could possibly not be vaccinated.

Minister for Regional Health David Gillespie blamed both "vaccine hesitancy" and the initial shortage of vaccines around the globe for Australia's low vaccination rate.

"With Pfizer and with AstraZeneca, all the production in America was staying in America," Mr Gillespie said.

"They were crying out for it in Europe and we got put to the side.

"They saw how safe and well we were going in Australia … the health system was overwhelmed around the world and we were sitting at the bottom of the world in a really good spot."

Q+A host Virginia Trioli said Australia had squandered that opportunity before Trickett suggested the Minister was not being completely honest.

"I've heard it a couple of times already tonight, a lot of blame about vaccine hesitancy and I just don't think that's 100 per cent accurate," she said.

"I think the majority of people in my age group, which is under-40s, who don't have any medical conditions and are not in any of the priority groups, we're keen.

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"We want to get vaccinated.

"I got my Pfizer vaccination yesterday, my first dose, I have not qualified for it, and I don't really know how I managed to get it.

"And I know that there are people in aged care homes who are still not vaccinated.

"And there are people who are in those priority groups who are not vaccinated that I'm sure are very keen and very willing."

'Diplomatic insult' if Palaszczuk failed to attend opening ceremony

Brisbane winning the 2032 Olympic Games hosting rights also came up, but just how much that should be celebrated in the current environment was questioned.

Viewers again raised questions about whether it was entirely necessary for Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to fly to Tokyo, but moreso why Australia's politicians seemed to be prioritising sport over other issues during a pandemic.

The panel acknowledged it could be difficult for Australians in lockdown to see Ms Palaszczuk heading to Japan, despite having called for cuts to returning flights to Australia.

Mr Shorten sympathised with those who were critical of his Labor colleague but intimated she was not to blame.

"We have Australians overseas who can't get home, and I think that's a disgrace," Mr Shorten said.

"In this country we haven't handled the COVID-19 outbreak as well as we could have and as a result Australian citizens overseas for legitimate reasons haven't been able to get home and yet you've got other people hopping in and out.

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"I can see why people feel it doesn't feel right.

"As for Annastacia Palaszczuk going to Tokyo, we still have to do the day job.

"For people who have had weddings cancelled or can't see their family or operations put off, I can understand why the perception of a double standard would be deeply disillusioning."

The situation with Ms Palaszczuk turned again on Thursday when she was told to attend the opening ceremony at a press conference by Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) president John Coates in a press conference before the world's media.

Trickett said the Queensland Premier was simply in a difficult situation because of the unprecedented nature of dealing with COVID.

"I think she believes she was doing the right thing in terms of perhaps not going to the opening ceremony because a lot of people are a bit upset she has gone over to Tokyo for the Olympic bid," Trickett said.

"There's so many things people are dealing win their own lives at the moment, I understand why people would be upset about that."

Mr Gillespie defended Ms Palaszczuk and described Coates's conduct as "a bit menacing".

"I certainly wouldn't have spoken to the Premier of Queensland like that," he said when asked about Mr Coates's comments.

"The manner and the tone did come across to me a bit menacing, a school master talking to a pupil.

"The politics and the optics is not good but I agree with him that definitely the Premier and the Mayor of Brisbane and I expect Senator Colbeck (Sport Minister Richard Colbeck) is probably going to be there as well.

"The actual attendance at the opening ceremony though is highly appropriate.

"We have just been awarded the Olympics and have been involved in a long bid process.

"Japan has been one of our closest allies in Asia for a very long time and it would have been a major diplomatic insult if she didn't go."

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