News & Events

liza harvey

How I Would Handle The Coronavirus

16 March 2020

It is now less than twelve months until the next election in Western Australia and as Leader of the Liberal Opposition, I am often asked: “How would you do things differently?”

Let’s take the crisis facing the State as an example. Here’s how my response to the Coronavirus would have been different.

In the first instance, when our biggest trading partner closed down one of its provinces and then prohibited travel during its most important festival of the year, Chinese New Year, I would urgently take a number of actions, including preparing for the worst case scenario. I would activate the existing Pandemic Plan (every State has one).

I would consult immediately with the relevant health services in our community, like the AMA, St John Ambulance, the not-for-profit sector, The Royal Flying Doctor Service and aged care providers to understand the information gaps and put in place protocols around management of people who may contract the virus.

I would consult with the business community, our employer and industry groups to ensure that they have plans prepared for people management and business continuity should a worst case scenario eventuate. And I would seek their support to help inform the community of the simple health messages people need to be aware of.

Then I would initiate a significant public health campaign, advising the public of Western Australia of the simple protocols of personal hygiene to manage the spread of the virus when it arrives. This would include information regarding self quarantine, warnings regarding overseas travel, where to go if they believe they have contracted the virus, and what symptoms they should watch out for that require hospital treatment.

This would also have a very specific message to those likely to be impacted the most, such as people over the age of 65 and people with compromised immune systems.

I would repeatedly assure the community through this campaign that they will receive timely advice should the level of virus spread reach threshold levels that may require changes to our daily activity.

I would set up a hotline and a web page for information, which would be front and centre of the campaign, so that people can get the information they need to keep them calm and confident in dealing with the virus when it arrives.

My multimedia campaign would involve print, online, TV, radio, social media, any available publicly owned advertising space, sporting event space. And I would request the assistance of the business community to get the information to their employees.

I would then direct the Department of Health to source all available protective equipment to ensure our health workers are protected so there’s the least possible disruption to our hospitals and network, as these workers are the most critical in caring for our sick people.

I would then have put together a comprehensive stimulus package knowing that there could be some shocks to our struggling domestic economy. I would use some of the $2.5billion revenue windfall resulting from the buoyant iron ore price that the State has benefited from over the past year.

This package would include a freeze on all utility charges and other state government fees to give confidence to seniors and struggling families to make some discretionary purchases knowing they won’t have further cost of living increases. Also, I would make an immediate increase in hardship payments to vulnerable Western Australians and an increase in the seniors rebate given they are most at risk.

I would bring forward infrastructure projects like Roe 8 and 9 to stimulate jobs and assist consumer confidence.

I would provide payroll tax relief, a payroll tax holiday or deferral of payroll tax liability for six months to support small and medium family businesses with cash flow and protect jobs.

I would also provide an assistance package for regional hospitals, health clinics and GP clinics to ensure that they have the capacity to cope with more patients as a result of the virus.

And I would encourage people to use the opportunity to holiday at home to divert money spent in international and interstate destinations into our struggling domestic economy.

Most of all though, I would trust the Western Australian people to manage the information about this most serious health issue sensibly and to act accordingly.