Mr NORTHE (Morwell) (11:23): My question is to the Premier. Premier, the impacts of COVID-19 are really being felt across many regional communities right now, and one of the concerns we have locally is accessibility of GP services and health services. There is a recognised shortage of GPs in the Morwell electorate, and many local residents are fearful that they will be unable to get a doctor’s appointment if they need to be tested for COVID-19. Whilst I understand responsibility for GP shortages primarily sits with the federal government, I have written to the Victorian health minister multiple times following ongoing complaints from local residents and GP clinics. At a recent Senate estimates health hearing it was duly noted that the Traralgon, Morwell and Churchill clinics did not have enough GPs even before COVID-19 hit. Premier, can you advise what actions have been taken in consort with the federal government to address GP shortages in my community, and willlocal residents be able to get immediate access to medical services should they develop symptoms of COVID-19?
Mr ANDREWS (Mulgrave—Premier) (11:24): I thank the member for Morwell for his question. I can say to the member for Morwell that Minister Mikakos on behalf of the Victorian government and all Victorians is working very closely with Minister Hunt at a national level. As the member for Morwell rightly points out, GPs are predominantly a responsibility of the federal government. However, simply saying to people who are anxious or saying to people that might need care, ‘Well, that’s not our responsibility’, that is hardly the right answer. What we are doing is working very closelytogether. Primary health networks as well as
—A member interjected.
Mr ANDREWS: Well, others may not be interested in this answer. The member for Morwell is. This is a serious issue, and it may well relate to GP shortages in lots of other areas. Some, it would seem, are not interested in this. The member for Morwell has asked a serious question. We are working government to government very closely. Health services are working very closely as well to make sure that we have adequate supplies of everything that will be needed. Now, the system is going to change. Things are going to be very different, I think, in the next six months than they have been. These fever clinics or COVID-19 clinics that are being established by the commonwealth government in partnership with our government and health services are exactly to the point that the member for Morwell raises. I think it is fair to say that prior to this health emergency there were really significant challenges in making sure that there were enough GPs in every community to provide every person, particularly vulnerable people, with the primary care that they are fundamentally entitled to. That is for another day, that debate.
As we come together with a sense of unity to meet people’s needs, not to have demarcation disputes about who is responsible for what, I am confident, and I think the member for Morwell on behalf of his community can be confident, that staff are working together closely, governments are working together closely, departments and health services are working together closely as well. With some of the specific interventions through that historic national partnership between our government and the federal government—those fever clinics being one example—I think we are in a better position to be able to respond. On the exact arrangements in the member for Morwell’s community and on the notion of potentially advocating for anybody in the Morwell community who might need more, I would propose the following: I am happy for my office to have a conversation with the member for Morwell, as I think we have already done on the question you raised earlier in the week about small business. If there are specifics he would like me to convey to the national government on behalf of his community, I am more than happy to do that. If there is any further information I can provide about specific partnership resources that are standing up, activities, additional things that are happening in the Latrobe Valley, I am more than happy to provide that information as soon as I can get it.
Mr NORTHE (Morwell) (11:27): Premier, as you are aware, many supermarket shelves are empty of essential items due to the selfish bulk-buying of some people. This behaviour has placed many vulnerable members of my community, including the elderly, persons with a disability, those with health and mental health challenges, amongst others, in an awful predicament whereby they are unable to access or purchase essential items. People who are required to work and are unable to get to their supermarket early are also confronted with empty shelves when they eventually arrive at their supermarket. Many people in those categories have contacted my office in tears about the situation, and quite rightly are asking for stronger interventions by government and by the supermarkets because what is in place right now is not working. So, Premier, can you advise what interventions the government might put in place to ensure members of my community and other communities are able to access an adequate supply of essential goods and items?
Mr ANDREWS (Mulgrave—Premier) (11:28): I again thank the member for Morwell, and a minute may not be enough to get through all the different things that are being done, and if I need to add to this answer I am more than happy to do that in writing later on today. This is an issue. People need to stop hoarding. People need to stop buying four weeks, four months worth of groceries, and going from top to bottom on their normal shopping list. A few more of the basics is what is important. If those who are hoarding keep doing it, then the people that the member for Morwell is rightly concerned about and is standing up for today will not have the basics. To that end—and we will have more to say about this very, very soon—care packages are being prepared. They are being delivered in fact right now to those that we thought would be without groceries because of their quarantine. Now we face a slightly different challenge: people who cannot get groceries because of selfish hoarding and totally inconsiderate and irresponsible behaviour that some people are exhibiting. We are taking action on that. There are issues for consumer law as well, and of course there is a partnership between Woolworths, Coles, Aldi and IGA, who are doing a great job at this very difficult time.