E&OE TRANSCRIPT | SUBJECT/S: Vaccine rollout; COVID-19 situation in India; hotel quarantine.
ALLISON LANGDON, HOST: Well, one of the country’s leading immunisation experts is warning confidence in the AstraZeneca vaccine has taken, a quote, “ huge hit”. The over 70’s the most concerned age group. For more let’s bring in Defence Minister Peter Dutton in Brisbane and Deputy Leader of the Opposition Richard Marles in Tullamarine, Victoria. Very good morning to both of you.
RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Morning, Ally.
PETER DUTTON, MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Morning.
LANGDON: So Pete, the group most vulnerable – the group most vulnerable, they don’t want it. You have a problem, my friend, don’t you?
DUTTON: Well, Ally, all we need is people in the media to keep talking it up and not talking it down because I can tell you as somebody who had COVID 12 months ago, on day eight I went to bed that night thinking if my breathing was any shallower, I would go to hospital the next day. And if you’re in an age group of 70 plus, 60 plus, you need to take your doctor’s advice, talk to your GP, there’s not a credible doctor in the country, who is saying don’t take this vaccination. And let’s be very clear, if you get the virus, it’s not a flu, it’s not a simple case of a cold and a bit of a headache, and you move on. As we’re seeing around the world, older people, people who are overweight, people with comorbidities can die and are very susceptible to this pandemic. And we need to make sure that people have the vaccination. Yes, it will be a bad reaction in a small number, as there is in any flu season where people who are older who might have other conditions, react badly to a vaccination, but take the advice from your GP.
LANGDON: Peter, I’m just not sure you can sort of point the finger at us here because we have a responsibility to report if there is a death from a blood clot after someone has had the AstraZeneca jab. We’ve always been painfully, to be very clear to say whether or not, whether a link has been established. But you also have the medical authority saying don’t have this if you’re under 50. So, I mean, we’re really just reporting what the medical advice is and we are raising issues when they come about. AstraZeneca unfortunately, is on the nose, you don’t have enough options. Richard, everyone over 50 can now get that jab from Monday.
DUTTON: It’s not on the nose, Ally, its not on the nose. I mean that- that’s where, I don’t have – I’m not taking issue, I’m not being critical. But it’s not on the nose. The doctors have been clear if you’re over 50 years of age have the AstraZeneca vaccination, that has been very clear. And all I’m saying is report how many people in a normal flu season, that normally would have the flu vaccination each year would have an adverse reaction. And that’s, that – that’s all I’m saying, I’m not being critical of the reporting. I just think that we need to put it into perspective and we need to recognise that if you’re over 50, if you’re over 70, which is the age group that you were talking about earlier, this can be a very bad virus and it can result in death. And you need to take the advice of your GP.
LANGDON: Peter, do you think we will see- Richard sorry – do you think we’ll see people lining up, everyone over 50 lining up from Monday?
MARLES: Well, I think it’s important that people do and I do agree with Peter that there is very clear medical advice. He’s right that there isn’t a credible doctor in the country who is saying that you shouldn’t be getting the vaccine if you’re over 50. And I think it’s really important that people over 50 do that. I’m certainly going to be doing that in terms of getting the vaccine. I mean, we’ve been critical about the rollout of the vaccination, we’ve been critical about the options that the government has on the table and we’ve been critical about the ability of the government to get this job done by the end of the year. I mean, they’ve had one job this year, and that’s to get Australia vaccinated. But it is really important that people listen to the medical advice and the medical advice is clear. If you’re over 50, you should be getting the AstraZeneca jab.
LANGDON: Well, let’s hope that does happen from Monday. This is all of course as Victoria announces plans to build their purpose-built quarantine hub in Melbourne’s North, they want you to pick up the bill for it Peter, will you?
DUTTON: Well Ally, I’ve seen some political smoke and mirrors over my time and I think this is right at the top of the list. This is a $15 million generous donation from the Victorian Government to do the planning for a $700 million bill that they want the Commonwealth to pick up. As we’re seeing in New South Wales where 3000 people a week are coming into hotel quarantine. As we’ve seen around the rest of the country, hotels are working very well. They’re able to be scaled up, it gives us the ability to bring people into quarantine, then to send them back home and get on with their lives. There have been a couple of exceptions, one in Victoria, one recently in WA, but they are small, you know, blips in the rollout. We’ve now had half a million people who have come back from overseas for different reasons and it’s working. We’re supporting the States, they’re doing a good job. The contact tracing is working where it doesn’t, you know, where things might go off the rails. But the fact is that this is a very good model and we’ll continue to support the States.
LANGDON: Will you be closing this Doha loophole where people from India have managed to fly into Australia, despite all those flights being banned?
DUTTON: Yes, we will. We’ve been clear about not wanting people to come through third countries. So, we’ll look at all of that and look, in some cases, we’ve got people who are in very desperate situations, there are compassionate reasons and obviously, DFAT will consider all of that. But it’s a horrific situation unfolding in India. And we’re providing significant support and I really feel for people in Australia who have family or friends back in India in a very difficult situation. And I think it just serves to remind us how fortunate we are in our country, and we shouldn’t take our success during COVID for granted.
LANGDON: We feel for everyone in India right now, when will you close that loophole?
DUTTON: Well, I think Border Force and Infrastructure are dealing with those flights and talking to, to those carriers, etc. And you’re talking about very few, you know, very small numbers of people, in any case. But that that’ll be given effect very quickly. And I think Border Force have done a great job during the course of this pandemic as well. I think everybody right across, frankly, the three levels of government have really pulled together and, you know, we have the argie-bargie from time to time, but our country is in a very fortunate position.
LANGDON: Richard, your thoughts on that?
MARLES: Well, let me say in relation to the hotel quarantine, I think the idea that this has been working well, you know, stretches belief, really. Hotels are not fit for purpose. And the reason why the Victorian Government is calling upon the Commonwealth to pay for the facility, that it’s earmarked in Mickleham in Victoria, is because it’s the Commonwealth’s job. I mean, go and read the Constitution. Quarantine is the government’s job, the federal government’s job, and they have had advice from the middle of last year that they should have purpose-built facilities to deal with quarantine. So, when you think about India and the 9000 Australians who are seeking to come back, I don’t question the advice of the need to shut the border now, but it’s obviously not a solution for those Australians. We can’t abandon them. What underpins that, is the need to have proper, purpose-built quarantine facilities in this country. Jane Halton was saying that this government should have been doing it last year. You know, you’ve got Howard Springs, which is under enormous pressure right now in the Northern Territory. We need more facilities like that. And to be suggesting that hotel quarantine which is not fit for purpose, which has seen major capitals around the country be closed down for days on end at costs of huge amounts of money. Just misses the point.
LANGDON: Well, certainly we hear that quarantine travel in Victoria could be the norm for the next three years. So anyway, plenty going on this morning. I know you’ve got a flight to catch, Richard so we won’t hold you up. Peter, always good to talk to you. Both of you enjoy your weekend. Thanks.