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Speech: Stop blaming Covid numbers on people of colour

Speeches in Parliament
Mehreen Faruqi 24 Aug 2021

It is difficult to see the rising COVID numbers in New South Wales, and it is also heartbreaking to watch the New South Wales Liberal government shaming people in certain communities in their theatre of compliance because they have failed to control the spread of COVID and, ultimately, because Scott Morrison has failed to roll out a vaccination program early enough. It is having a huge impact. The multicultural communities being overpoliced and singled out by the New South Wales government are also now carrying a disproportionate burden from this outbreak. South-West and Western Sydney are full of essential low-paid workers who carry out the bulk of the needed critical work. They are first responders, grocery store workers, train and bus drivers, delivery drivers, childcare workers, nurses, aged-care workers and so much more. Getting their jobs done means that they are shouldering the burden of this pandemic while, all the time, risking exposure to the virus. But the people of South-West and Western Sydney, rather than being thanked for doing the work we all so desperately rely on, get told off and put under curfews in a heavy-handed police crackdown. This might be a cheaper strategy than proper wage subsidies and income support, but it's also shameful and discriminatory. Overcrowded housing is at its worst in Sydney's west and south-west, yet the government keeps telling people to stay home rather than providing safe housing for all. The Morrison government's botched vaccine rollout, mixed messaging and blame shifting have created mass confusion.

Despite efforts to divide and to paint multicultural communities in a different light, a report by the New South Wales Council of Social Service found that attitudes towards vaccines in multicultural communities mirror those of the general population. I know that low-paid brown and black workers might be the easiest of scapegoats for politicians, but shifting the blame to people of colour really needs to stop right now. Just stop. It is not just unhelpful; it stinks of racism and is doing immense harm to so many.


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