THE HON RICHARD MARLES MP
Deputy Prime Minister
Minister for Defence
MONDAY, 25 JULY 2022
SUBJECTS: Foot-and-mouth disease; Monkeypox; ADF support to Aged Care.
CHARLES CROUCHER, HOST: Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles joins us now from Canberra. Good morning to you, Deputy PM. Let’s start with foot-and-mouth. How look can this will they or won’t they battle go on at the border with Indonesia?
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Firstly, we are putting in place the biggest biosecurity response that a government in our history has ever put in place. It’s a really significant response and it’s appropriate, given the outbreak that’s in Indonesia. But we have got more biosecurity officers on the job. We’ve got the foot sanitation pads in place. We’re putting in place the biosecurity zones around a number of our airports. And we’re obviously working with front-line countries – with Indonesia – to increase their ability to deal with this question at the border as well. So, we get the significance of it. And we are doing everything within our power to make sure this disease does not come to Australia.
CROUCHER: I mean, it is a billion dollar roll of the dice. David Littleproud was on the program half an hour ago and said you have lost control of the border. Is that true?
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well no, that’s not true. There is no roll of the dice. What there is, is concerted, sober action in the single biggest biosecurity response that an Australian government has ever put in place. I mean, the former government never did anything of this kind and there were foot-and-mouth outbreaks in countries that we had an open border with during that period. We are doing everything within the government’s power to make sure this disease does not come to Australia.
CROUCHER: And just so we know, those foot sanitation mats that seem really important, are they in place now?
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: My understanding is that they are being rolled out. If they are not in place in every airport right now, it’s on its way. But this is a critical step that we are taking to make sure that the country is safe, as part of a very significant action on the part of Albanese government to protect our country.
CROUCHER: Move on to that other pandemic that’s going on – the other disease we should be worried about at the moment, the World Health Organization designated Monkeypox a global health emergency. Australia has activated the National Incident Centre. What will that do, and how concerned are you as the government?
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: We are concerned, but we’re also in a situation where we are wanting to not overreact and make sure that we manage this in an appropriate way. The most important thing we can do here is to get the information out to the community. We are working through a number of peak bodies to do that, to make sure that people understand what the disease is, understand what the disease is, understand how it spreads understand how people can best protect themselves from contracting this. There are a couple of cases – or a few cases in Australia, but right now we are doing everything again within our power to make sure that we get the information out here, so that we don’t see a significant spread of this disease. But the World Health Organization is right to frame it in the way it has, and so we’re responding accordingly.
CROUCHER: We have the news this morning that you are extending what was a Morrison Government plan to have the ADF help out in aged care and, indeed, bolstering the numbers beyond September. Will they be sticking around beyond next month?
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: This is not something that is a permanent response. The ADF is there to defend the nation and it’s important that we have it focused on its main job. But right now we are seeing something like a thousand outbreaks in nursing homes around Australia. This is a very significant moment. It’s important that we are doing everything we can, again within our power, to deal with this. Having the ADF involved is appropriate. So it’s not just extending it, it’s actually increasing the numbers, up to 250 personnel through until the end of September is when their period has been extended in terms of working in aged care homes. They will make a very important contribution and we can all know that those wearing our nation’s uniform will do a fantastic job in acquitting themselves in our nursing homes. But this is not something that we can see as a permanent situation, obviously. We need to be making sure that we have a surge workforce in place, which the former government really didn’t do the work around that. We have. And so we believe we will be able to meet this situation going forward. But right now it is appropriate the Defence Force is playing its part.
CROUCHER: Deputy PM, it is a huge week at Parliament, we appreciate you carving out some time for us this morning.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Thanks Charles.