Health( Preservation, Protection & Other Emergencies Act 2020. – Senator Keogan

Senator Sharon Keogan

I will be voting against the motion of Health( Preservation & Protection & Other Emergencies services in the public interest Act 2020. We are coming up to 2 years of living with Covid and we understand the impact this level of disease is having on our health services. This means you’ve had ample time to plan, mobilise and put in all the stops to beef up our healthcare system to the necessary levels to deal with this problem. Sweden doubled its ICU capacity to tackle the pandemic. Drastic action was taken when it was needed instead of forcing lockdowns like we did here. They rose to the challenge and protected the people. If our health system is overloaded, it’s not the fault of those who chose not to get vaccinated or of children who want to go to school or play sports. The responsibility ends with the Minister for Health.The intention of these laws was not to prolong them as long as necessary but in fact you are prolonging them for as long as possible!! I asked the Minister to review the scientific data on the efficacy of the vaccines and I suggested that he seek a refund on the cost of the vaccines.



Senator Sharon Keogan

I am glad everyone has the right time for the debate. It takes me a couple of days after the clocks go back to adjust. I am glad we are still limiting our clock changes to twice a year. The Government seems satisfied more with changing the sunset clauses in its legislation.

It is with great pleasure that I inform the Minister that I am one of the reckless elected Members who will vote against the motion. It really was a show in the Lower House yesterday – I will touch on that in a moment – but the Minister’s speech gives too great an opportunity for scrutiny.

He stated: “We are in a place where we have to be concerned about the burden and the impact that this level of disease is having … on our health … services.” We are coming up to two years of Covid. That is two years to plan, two years to mobilise and two years to pull out all the stops and beef up our healthcare system to the point that is necessary to deal with this problem. I spoke last month of how Sweden doubled its ICU capacity to tackle the pandemic, with the number of ICU beds in its capital quadrupling. Drastic action was taken not in the form of foisting responsibility for disease control onto the population by enforcing lockdowns but by rising to the challenge and protecting the people. If our health system is now burdened, it is not the fault of people who choose not to get vaccinated or children who want to go to school or play basketball. Responsibility begins and ends with the Minister and his remit. He said these laws were “not for prolonging a moment longer than is necessary”, yet we are prolonging them for as long as is possible under the parent Act, that is, the full three-month period.

He also stated: “The intention is only to use the provisions within these Acts for the measures that are currently in place.” Quick, start the clock, because the last time the Minister came into this House and used that line in respect of the use of Covid certificates, it was less than two weeks before the Cabinet changed its mind. I will keep an eye on the news on 17 November.

He then stated: “Our strategy to manage the adverse impacts of Covid has been guided by an evolving understanding of the disease.” What nonsense. Our understanding of the vaccines has evolved. Their real-world efficacy is falling far below test results, but the Government cannot acknowledge that, aside from boosters for the elderly, because it has never had a single plan other lockdown and waiting for the vaccine. Now, with a 93% vaccination rate, we are no better off and the Government is, let us be honest, entertaining the idea of another lockdown, although it will wait until its media scare people for a few more weeks until it is open about it.

The Minister said: “The Government must act with caution to ensure the most vulnerable continue to be protected.” Who is he talking about? That was the line being used when the narrative was that we just needed to have the over-80s, the over-70s or the over-60s vaxxed and that then we would go back to normal. What is the narrative now? Where are the goalposts? They have been moved so many times I have lost track. Maybe the Government has quietly packed the goalposts back into their container and we will just keep playing for the heck of it.

As for yesterday’s fiasco, “Fully vaccinated individuals with breakthrough infections have peak viral load similar to unvaccinated cases and can efficiently transmit infection in household settings, including to fully vaccinated contacts.” That is a direct quote from Community Transmission and Viral Load Kinetics of the SARS-CoV-2 Delta (B.1.617.2) Variant in Vaccinated and Unvaccinated Individuals in the UK: A Prospective, Longitudinal, Cohort Study, which was published last month in The Lancet medical journal of infectious diseases. Inconvenient science is still science – or should we just follow the State-sanctioned science? It was this finding that Deputy Verona Murphy was getting at yesterday, a finding published in one of the world’s oldest and best known medical journals, which the Minister labelled anti-vaccine information. Of course, that has been one of the most useful social tools in controlling the debate on Covid – simply slap the label “anti-vax” on an opponent and suddenly any of his or her questions or critique do not have to be taken seriously. It is beyond ridiculous that for months now, in both Houses, any Members wishing to ask bona fide questions about vaccines have been forced to qualify them with, “I am not an anti-vaxxer but”. It is a cheap trick to insulate those in power from criticism and it makes for sorry behaviour from a Cabinet Minister. The Minister can slap any label he wants on me. I do not give two hoots about how he or anyone else will try to limit and police my speech. I know who I am and I know what I am about, and that is standing up for the people of this country and for their civil liberties and freedom of speech and holding this Government to account for its stubbornly stagnated, faltering Covid response, which has simultaneously failed to suppress the virus while adopting the most overreaching and constrictive lockdown measures in Europe.

I have never supported the two-tier society the vaccine passport has created. I suggest the Minister look at the scientific data on the efficacy of these experimental vaccines and start looking for a refund.