The Nationals Danny O'Brien Coronavirus restrictions Coronavirus recovery Danny O'Brien MP Lockdowns stage 4 restrictions

Plan needed to avoid future lockdowns

The Nationals Member for Gippsland South, Danny O’Brien has backed a motion in State Parliament to establish an inquiry into alternative management of future COVID-19 lockdowns.

Mr O’Brien said he had helped draft terms of reference for the inquiry after hearing from numerous local businesses and community members who are suffering from the COVID-19 second-wave lockdown. The inquiry motion was voted down by the Andrews Labor Government.

“We have all worked together to keep our community safe from COVID-19 and the work done over two successive waves is hopefully getting the numbers back under control again,” Mr O’Brien said.

“However, it seems clear to me that our community and our economy here in Victoria cannot afford a third stage 3 or 4 lockdown and we need to be considering what the alternatives are to keeping our community safe, while considering the massive costs of shutting down our economy and society.”

Mr O’Brien said the committee would have considered advice from the Chief Health Officer as well as other experts in fields such as mental health, epidemiology, economics and sociology as well as looked at approaches taken by other jurisdictions in Australia and around the world.

“Effectively, I am saying that we need to have a discussion about the costs and benefits of our current approach to managing COVID-19, because I fear, like many experts, that the cure is worse than the disease.

“In saying this I am not for a second suggesting that we let the virus spread unchecked – that is clearly not an option.  But I do think the current approach has not fully considered the massive costs of lockdowns in terms of mental health, businesses shutting, jobs lost and enormous social dislocation.

“I have heard from many doctors concerned that patients are not getting regular check-ups or tests for minor ailments that will become much bigger problems down the track because they are concerned about going to a medical clinic or hospital for treatment and catching COVID-19.

“The damage to people’s mental health is massive, with respected expert and former Australian of the Year, Professor Patrock McGorry telling a Parliamentary committee that incidents of self-harm in young people alone has increased 33 per cent.

“There is obviously a massive impact on jobs and businesses devastating the lives of many, some of whom have put their entire lives into their businesses only to have them smashed by COVID-19 and the restrictions that have come with it. 

“By no means do I have all the answers and I’m not suggesting that any alternatives will be cost-free – maybe there is no viable alternative.

“But I do believe as a community we need to have a serious examination of alternatives, because I just don’t think a third wave of lockdowns is feasible in the absence of a vaccine.”

Mr O’Brien said more could be done to protect the vulnerable, ensure our health system and our frontline workers can cope while not condemning the rest of the community to enormous negative impacts.

“It’s disappointing the Andrews Labor Government chose not to back this motion.  I believe it is incumbent on the Government to now explain how it will deal with any future outbreaks, given its failures in hotel quarantine and contact tracing up to now.”


4 September 2020

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