All senior federal politicians bar five younger MPs have been vaccinated against COVID-19 just days ahead of a sitting of Federal Parliament widely feared could become a "super-spreader" event.
The people's house is now slated to go into public lockdown from Monday, one day ahead the resumption of Parliament, due to the escalating COVID-19 situation around the nation, particularly in NSW. The building will be closed to the public and all event bookings have been cancelled or postponed. A significant number of MPs and senators will be attending Parliament remotely, particularly those from Greater Sydney.
Australia's most populous state on Tuesday recorded 172 new locally-acquired cases of COVID-19, with 60 of those cases infectious while in the community - a stubbornly high and increasing number of concern for NSW health officials.
There are fears the imminent sitting week period could become a national super-spreader event. Parliamentary and health officials are concerned about the particularly virulent Delta strain being brought to Canberra which has had no locally acquired cases in more than year. MPs from hotspot areas are quarantining in the ACT. Officials are most concerned about a possible COVID-19 outbreak not related to Parliament, which may get into the building and then be spread nationally as parliamentarians and staff later return home.
To assess the vaccination status of Australia political leaders,The Canberra Times has surveyed or assessed the social media posts of all members of the Morrison ministry and Albanese shadow ministry, as well as assistant ministers and shadow ministers. The Canberra Times has also spoken to Greens and One Nation representatives and numerous backbenchers and independent MPs.
Vaccination is medical information, but the politicians are sharing their status ahead of the resumption of Parliament as the nation grapples COVID-19.
Less clear is the vaccination status of political staffers, who in the main are younger and therefore less likely to be vaccinated. Presiding officers have requested that parliamentarians only bring essential staff to Canberra and Parliament House. Only senior politicians, such as leaders and ministers, are expected to bring staff from outside Canberra.
It is well publicised that both the Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Labor Leader Anthony Albanese are fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine.
The Canberra Times has now found that almost all senior federal politicians have been vaccinated with either the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines. The five senior MPs who are not vaccinated are Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, shadow environment minister Terri Butler, Assistant Minister for Women Amanda Stoker, shadow assistant minister for mental health Emma McBride and Assistant Minister for Forestry and Fisheries Jonno Duniam - all are in under 40, or in their early to mid-40s, and are booked in for vaccinations or "booked in to discuss with GPs."
All Greens senators and party leader Adam Bandt have been vaccinated against COVID-19, but both One Nation senators Pauline Hanson and Malcom Roberts are not and do not plan on getting vaccinated.
Senator Hanson is not attending parliament in person in the first week, while Senator Roberts is planning to travel to Canberra to attend the sitting.
The virtual completion of senior politician vaccination compares to the 16 per cent of the Australian population over 16 years who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and almost 31 per cent who have received one dose.
Labor's spokesperson for senior Australians Clare O'Neil is on maternity leave and she has not been included in the figures.
The difference in the take up AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines among the nation's leaders is roughly half-half, although a significant number of politicians did not want to spell out which vaccine they got.
Health experts, including the former deputy chief medical officer Dr Nick Coatsworth, say the AstraZeneca vaccine has been unfairly maligned in the fight to get the Australian population, due to skewed concerns over a vary rare but deadly adverse blood-clotting reaction.
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Among the senior politicians who have received the AZ jab are; Health Minister Greg Hunt, Environment Minister Sussan Ley, Trade Minister Dan Tehan, Social Services Minister Anne Ruston, Energy Minister Angus Taylor, Minister for Superannuation Jane Hume, Industry Minister Christian Porter and the Assistant Minister for Road Safety Scott Buchholz.
On Labor's side, AZ has gone to such shadow ministers as; Penny Wong, Tony Burke, Linda Burney, Bill Shorten, Mark Butler, Mark Dreyfus, Jenny McAllister, Tanya Plibersek, Richard Marles, Glenn Sterle and Ged Kearney.
Some of the Pfizer takers include; Attorney-General Michaelia Cash, Defence Minister Peter Dutton, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, Labor's Treasury spokesman Jim Chalmers and Shadow Minister for Climate Change Chris Bowen.
Of the local Canberra region representatives; Liberal Senator Zed Seselja and Labor's Katy Gallagher, Andrew Leigh and David Smith are vaccinated, but Member for Canberra Alicia Payne and Member for Eden-Monaro Kristy McBain are both under 40 years and tell The Canberra Times they are keen to be vaccinated as soon as possible.
A significant number of politicians have indicated they are waiting for further health advice before deciding on whether to attend Parliament next week in person.
The lockdown procedures for the August and September sittings have been worked out between Parliament's Presiding Officers and Commonwealth health officials and agencies including the chief medical officer, and discussions are understood to be ongoing.
Apart from Federal Parliament being closed to the general public, there will be heavy restrictions on pass holders, physical distancing and masks will be required, food outlets will be takeaway only and Parliament's fitness centre and pool will be closed.
Parliamentary departmental staff numbers will be reduced in the building by about 60 per cent, while all external departments and agencies are being urged to minimise attendance of public servants.