Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (11:41): Thank you, Mr Acting Speaker. I salute your re-election to this place and the high office you are holding momentarily. I rise to speak to the South Australian Public Health (COVID-19) Amendment Bill 2022. I will not hold the house long because I know we want to get to committee and I know that we have Address in Reply speeches to be given by new members to this house and others, but I want to talk about COVID management in relation to someone representing a border community.
To say it was difficult for border communities would be an understatement, and difficult for a range of reasons, because police only manage their side of the border. There are a lot of things I learnt during the pandemic. Perhaps I should have known some of these.
The border station at Pinnaroo—I used to represent right out to the border at Pinnaroo—is a kilometre inside South Australia. These are the little intricacies you learn and there were a range of other intricacies, especially with lockdowns. There were seven biosecurity staff who lived in Murrayville across the border. There were schoolteachers and schoolchildren who lived across the border who needed to get through to Pinnaroo Primary School. There were a range of other workers. There were people who lived in Murrayville who owned and operated businesses in Pinnaroo, so it created a whole range of different scenarios, such as whether they could even come to work if the place was locked down for a week or whatever the time line was.
My boys both play for Peake in the Mallee Football League, so I am well aware of what goes on. I am a sponsor of Peake. Everyone was doing their best to make sure that Murrayville could keep playing because the season before the Mallee Football League could not function because of COVID. There were some different views on what happened towards the end of the year. This is just an example of how COVID can affect a cross-border community. There were different effects right up and down our borders with the implications of shutdowns and whatever.
We were in the finals series, both netball and football, and Murrayville was involved. On the Saturday, the finals were in Lameroo and the next day they were in Pinnaroo. During the Saturday, Victoria went into lockdown, but their people were in South Australia. I contacted my local police superintendent to see how to deal with this and the message I got back, which was absolutely valid, was, 'Well, we can't because they are Victorians. We don't have jurisdiction over them,' but essentially they should have gone home.
The story was that allegedly they did not go home; they stayed and played in the finals the next day. I think the grand final was the next week, and they were obviously locked out, so I acknowledge Murrayville's frustration. I think some people there thought that the South Australian teams were trying to lock them out, but from the conversations I had with the local footy league as the local member they were doing all they could to make sure that the finals worked to full capability, so everyone with eligible teams could play.
It created a lot of difficulties. There were talks about whether it was the netball or the football club of Murrayville suing the league, and all sorts of things. I was talking to the SANFL at high levels, I was talking to Netball South Australia at high levels, and it just gives another insight into what happened, and this would have happened right up and down the border. This is just along the Mallee, and I know it would have happened down around the Mount Gambier and Naracoorte communities for the member for Mount Gambier and the member for MacKillop, and obviously for the member for Chaffey up around the Riverland.
Aside from all those difficulties with sport, which is very important for regional communities, were the impacts on farmers. For many farmers the border is just a fence or there may not even be a fence. One farmer was that concerned about whether or not he would be able to harvest so he called me in. In the interests of what needs to happen in the house, I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Adjourned debate on second reading (resumed on motion).
Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (17:38): Thank you, Mr Acting Speaker, and I welcome you to your current elevated position. I rise to make some further remarks in regard to the South Australian Public Health (COVID-19) Amendment Bill 2022. I was just venturing into my remarks earlier today about some of the issues with border communities. They are many and varied.
There are many farmers who own land on either side of the border, and there were many intricacies in managing those farms with lockdowns and all the COVID management. I want to acknowledge Commissioner Grant Stevens and Nicola Spurrier, Chief Public Health Officer, for the massive amount of work they have done over the last two years with all their teams in helping to manage COVID across the state.
It got down to some very fundamental issues that were brought to me as a local member with a border community. There was a family farm with a father and a couple of sons working on it. It was a big property of several thousand acres just out the back of Pinnaroo, and some of their land went over the Victorian border.
With the rate of lockdowns, they were concerned that, when it got to harvest time, they would not be able to reap their crops on the Victorian side. I said, 'I think you will be okay. You're an essential service. Where do you get through to your Victorian land?' They said, 'You can see it about two kilometres in the distance.' They showed me a line of trees and I asked them if they had a gate there. They said and yes, and I said, 'Right, when those crops are ready, whatever happens, you need to reap it as an essential service. I will make it my responsibility to make sure that you're okay and don’t run into any compliance issues,' and they were happy with that.
As I indicated earlier, there were many, many issues, especially with education and health services. Di Thornton lives across the border on the Victorian side and runs a private health clinic in Pinnaroo. She could not even come to work when lockdowns came in, so we had to do a lot of work with the local community to make sure that people could come across the border. I met with the principal of Pinnaroo Primary School. He is now at Mypolonga in my electorate. I had people communicating with me, including teachers who lived on the wrong side of the border, about the issues they saw in not just them getting to work but the schoolchildren as well.
I will never forget talking to the principal when a teacher I knew walked past the door. She was being very polite in how she was framing her argument to me. I could tell she was pent up and I said, 'Just let it go. I have worked in shearing sheds. I have used all the words.' Well, did I open her up, but she was still polite enough. I said, 'Now you feel a lot better that you have told me exactly how you feel.' That was the stress for border communities, but all those things were done to keep people safe. I looked at a number that was released the other day right across the country: we kept 46,000 people alive due to these restrictions.
It is tough, as no-one wants to be restricted. The Spanish flu was reflected on earlier today. Five hundred million people caught the Spanish flu over 100 years ago and 10 per cent of them died: 50 million people died from the Spanish flu. The interesting thing is that in those days they used washing your hands and social distancing. Who would have thought that in this day and age, two years ago when the COVID incident started, you would have to tell people to do something simple like wash your hands? It seemed quite odd to me.
It has been tough, and I really want to commend the health sector and the policing sector. People were subbed out to the border control points and they were getting email updates every half an hour, so if there was some confusion that is just the way it was because sometimes the rules changed pretty quickly and information flow had to happen, and they did a great job under pressure.
There were some of the most tragic stories on the border. A friend of mine had a daughter going to a school in Victoria and literally could not touch her for many months. I cannot remember how long, but it might have been close to 10 or 12 months. The deal was that she went to Naracoorte on a back road and the police were there. The daughter, who was doing year 12, sat on one side of the border and the mother sat on the other and they had to stay at least a metre apart. The police officer, who was reduced to tears in the end, said, 'If you touch her, I am going to have to arrest you.' That was how tough it was because people had to keep the rules. Obviously it got better with the exemption process and getting people through, but this gets to the nub of the question in a moment.
To say that the police were doing a great job was exemplified by a farmer friend of mine at Pinnaroo who was driving his self-propelled boom spray on a back road between his properties on the border. He pulled up to take a phone call, to do the right thing because he was on the road, and next thing a police car zoomed up. He said, 'What are you doing?' They said, 'You're right in front of one of the cameras we've got in the trees.' There were cameras set up for people who dodged the main road. These were right across the border, so the police took it extremely seriously, as they should have, and I applaud them for it. I think it did take a bit of education. I think it was city-based police officers saying, 'Well, what are you driving?' They got through that and that is fine.
It is the first time in 100 years that a worldwide pandemic has had to be managed. I certainly get it that, at any scale, people get upset about restrictions. The biggest frustration, as was indicated in the house earlier today, is the anti-vaxxers. I am a great supporter of freedom of choice. People said to me, especially before the election, 'What's your view on vaccination?' I said, 'I support freedom of choice, but whatever choice you make there are issues or complications that can be around it.' But I also said to these people, 'We need to have higher vaccination rates.' That was the issue all the way along before we could open up the borders, as we did on 23 November. It was just a real pity that Omicron loomed in the next few days.
But do you know what? One of those communities on the border, I never heard from them because they had been sick of having buds put up their noses every week, as they had to, so they could keep crossing the border to go to work. I also acknowledge the interstate truck drivers who did such a fantastic job not just carrying this state but carrying this country. Those blokes and ladies—there are a lot of ladies driving trucks now—had to get tested every seven days. It was such good work having the Tailem Bend testing station set up at the new On The Run at the motorsport park first but then at what was a Caltex but is now an Ampol on this end of Tailem Bend. That has worked brilliantly as a testing station and is where I got my PCR-positive test the other week. It was a couple of weeks ago, so do not panic.
It has been a huge job. I want to reflect on some of the misinformation that got out there. Ivermectin is a wonderful sheep drench that came out in the mid-eighties. It was life changing for sheep farmers; I think it was a clear drench, from memory. I was working in Western Australia on farms for a little while at that time before I came home to put a crop in around 1985 or '86. They had all these big launches and it was a game changer for making sure that sheep got treated for worms and I think it was itch mite as well—I would have to look at the label.
The interesting thing is how many experts googled—Google experts—figured that ivermectin was going to fix them. I was stunned by very educated people saying to me, 'This is the go.' I explained, 'Well, look, this is a sheep drench. If that's where you want to go, that's up to you, but I wouldn't be going there.'
The Hon. A. Koutsantonis: Did you have some? What does it taste like?
Mr PEDERICK: I haven't seen ivermectin for a long time. I had another person I had done a bit of work with; they were in the agricultural services industry. We know each other pretty well. He rang me up one morning and said, 'So, Peds, when do I need to sell my business?' I said, 'What are you talking about?' He said, 'When are you going to link ABNs to whether or not you are vaccinated?' I said, 'Are you serious? This is the first time I have ever heard that.' I appreciate it if you want to make the choice not to get vaccinated, but I said, 'There has not been any discussion about that.' It just blew me away, that level of thought about getting vaccinated, but that is alright and people can have that choice.
As time went on, we saw in both the education and health sectors—and my understanding is it was only several hundred in each sector out of tens of thousands of people in each sector—when the mandatory vaccination process came in, this created headaches. Of course it created headaches. People were making a choice—an interesting choice, I think, but that is fine. I am double-vaxxed and boostered.
I had someone ring me from the local health sector who said, 'I'm going to lose my job.' I said, 'Well, that's a choice you need to make.' It was interesting that five days later he was back at work, so he must have got vaccinated. I said that people are going to have to make a real decision if they want to keep making their house payments or living, for instance. I take my hat off to the ones who stuck to their guns, but it came at a huge cost. People were diversifying their income sources and that kind of thing. Vaccination was the key to making sure that we could start opening up the state.
We saw what happened in Western Australia, where they set up the fortress. Fair enough, they call everything outside Western Australia 'over east', but Omicron crept in and next thing was they were having hundreds of cases every day. They had not even opened the gate and it was there. It has been an interesting time.
We used to shut the state down for one case and now we are getting, I think, 4,000 or 5,000 cases a day. The superspreader events have been interesting. People can name weddings. In Robe, there was a wedding just before New Year's Eve and then there was New Year's Eve, and Robe always puts on a good show especially for much younger people than me, more in my son's age group, 18 to 21, and sure enough, many people got COVID.
My younger son thought he had it three times, and he was fully vaccinated, but by the time he got it he was just happy to get it to get it out the way. He was okay. He just went to bed and slept for 12 hours and got on with life.
In regard to where we go with the future management under this bill—and I know there will be a lot of questions asked in committee—we have to work as a parliament, because a lot of this stuff was done in a bipartisan way when we were in government, and I think we need to continue that to a certain degree.
The first people we need to think about is the community of this state and make sure we do the right thing, that we keep people alive, that we do not overload the hospital system, that we do not, God forbid, run out of ventilators or run out of intensive care unit beds because we have to look after the people of this state.
That is exactly what we did in the Marshall Liberal government. It probably cost us some paint at the last election, but we did it trying to do the right thing for the state. As was proven with the commentary the other day about keeping 46,000 people across the country alive, that is where the rubber hits the road. I will listen with interest to the rest of the debate.