SUBJECTS: COVID-19 situation in India; hotel quarantine; Vaccine rollout; Barbeques.
KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: Flights from India will resume within days with the escape plan to rescue 9,000 Australians stranded in the COVID ravaged nation approved overnight. Let’s bring in our pollies, Defence Minister Peter Dutton in Eatons Hill, Queensland. And Deputy Leader of the Opposition Richard Marles, in Melbourne. Good morning, guys.
RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Morning, Karl.
PETER DUTTON, MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Morning, Karl.
STEFANOVIC: Thanks for your time today. Pete, can you tell us more about these plans? When will the flights start?
DUTTON: Well Karl, we’ve obviously taken the medical advice from day one- right back 12-15 months ago, we closed the border, firstly with China and then the rest of the world because that was the medical advice. And we’ve done the same in relation to China. We’ve said that we’ll make an announcement and the Prime Minister will make an announcement in due course. But this was always a temporary fix. As we know at Howard Springs, we had at the peak 53 people from India with the virus, the last two flights that came in- repatriation flights- one in eight people presented with the COVID virus. So, I think we’ve taken a prudent measure here and people know that we’ve acted in our country’s best interest and we won’t waiver from that first priority.
STEFANOVIC: Considering the crisis in India is only getting worse, how quickly will you be able to get them all back, do you think?
DUTTON: Well Karl, firstly, just in relation to India, I mean, we’ve provided a significant amount of support ventilators, support that India has asked for otherwise to input into their health system. So, I think that’s really important to understand as well. And the Indian community here in Australia has been quite amazing in the support that they’ve provided. There are doctors here in Australia, who are doing telehealth conferences with their loved ones, or with people from their home village, whatever it might be. And it’s quite remarkable the way in which people have pulled together to provide that support. And we’re working very closely with Barry O’Farrell who’s the High Commissioner there, to identify cases, to provide support to people. But in the end, our first priority is and always will be, the safety of our country and Australian citizens.
STEFANOVIC: Richard, those who fly back will quarantine at Howard Springs. Makes perfect sense doesn’t it? Hard to criticise.
MARLES: It makes sense to quarantine at Howard Springs. What’s obviously missing in this equation is more facilities like Howard Springs. And the government have been called upon by their own advisors for the better part of a year now to develop bigger quarantine facilities just like Howard Springs around the country, which would have meant that we’re not in the situation that we’re in now. I mean, we obviously need to be taking the medical advice about any given flights, I think we can all understand that. But, you know, for particularly for members of the Indian-Australian community, this is a really difficult moment. And the absence of proper quarantine facilities around Australia is now being shown for what it is; you know, we were unable to deal with this situation as we should.
STEFANOVIC: It makes a lot of sense. But it sounds to me like the government’s not going to do anything about hotel quarantine, they’re going to stick with the status-quo. Pete, that’s right, isn’t it?
DUTTON: Well Karl, again, I’m coming back to the medical advice. The medical advice is very clear; that hotel quarantining was the best option available to us. You can scale it up, you’ve got en-suited rooms, you’ve got segregation of people staying in different rooms. Where there’s been a problem in the – I think it’s, you know, point one or something like that per cent of cases of people that have stayed in hotel quarantine – it’s been breaches, people have come out into the corridors, they’ve acted against the advice of the doctors. So, hotel quarantine has worked as well here as anywhere in the world. And we’ve provided support to the Northern Territory government through Howard Springs, but you have the ability to feed people in a hotel room, you have the ability for them not to integrate into a broader community. And you’ve also importantly, got proximity to tertiary hospitals. If people get sick and you’re in a regional area, it is much tougher to get that person the first responder assistance that they need by way of that, that tertiary care and intensive care. So, the medical advice has been clear from day one; that is that hotel quarantine has been adequate, but we’ll continue to work with the states on the proposals that they’ve got.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, you left the door open. Now, Richard, it’s times like these, we feel lucky that we’re so far ahead in our vaccine rollout.
MARLES: Well, I assume you’re saying that with irony, Karl because we’re not anywhere near ahead of the game in terms of our vaccine rollout-
DUTTON: Good pick up, Richard. Well done.
MARLES: Can I just make- the medical advice is not that hotel quarantine is the best way forward. I mean, it’s played a role. But the advice from day one is that we need fit for purpose facilities and hotels are definitely not that. We need to be getting the vaccine done. Right. That’s actually what’s going on – that is the ultimate solution to this problem. And this government has been a shambles when it comes to the roll out of that. We are way behind the rest of the world, we’re in danger of being left behind. And all you hear from the government is ‘I’ve got plenty of time, this isn’t a race, it doesn’t matter how long it takes to do it’, all of that is wrong. There is an imperative to vaccinate the population- and quickly.
STEFANOVIC: Just on that, Pete, another five people have had dramas with the AstraZeneca vaccine, it’s now one in 100,000’s a risk. If you don’t think this is a proper worry for people and a dent for confidence, then you’ve got your head in the sand, don’t you?
DUTTON: Well Karl, I just think people need to take the advice of the doctors. If you’ve got a medical condition, you go and see your GP, you take the advice of the doctor or the specialists. The best specialists in the country in this area are all at one, they’re telling us to take the vaccine, and they are detailing, as we’re seeing on our screens, nightly, the deaths that are the reality of COVID that we see in our near region, overseas in countries like the United Kingdom, the United States. That’s the reality for people, particularly if you’ve got comorbidities if you’re overweight, if you’re older, if you’ve got respiratory issues, etcetera, you have a very significant problem, potentially, if you contract COVID. So, get the vaccine. That’s been the very clear message from the doctors. And in the cases where people do have a side effect, well, the doctors and the health system will treat that, and we want those people to get well as quickly as possible. But that’s the reality of any vaccine that we get each year or indeed medications that people take, where there will be an adverse reaction. But the doctors really are at one in telling us to have the vaccine.
STEFANOVIC: How long are you in quarantine for because it seems to me like every day that goes past, we’re moving a day closer to going to war with China. Are you going to be able to fight this war from your bunker there in Brissie?
DUTTON: I’m not in- I’m not in quarantine. I’m at the Eatons Hill Hotel, one of the fine establishments in my electorate. We’ve got a meeting here today, there’s a bar behind me, Karl. I’m not here from last night-
MARLES: You’ve got all the essentials.
DUTTON: You happy? There is a good stock behind the bar there. No, so I am here for a meeting this morning on some road funding announcements, etcetera. So no, I’m pretty good and there is no war with China, just to, just to tail off your question. And yes, Richard, there was irony in that question.
STEFANOVIC: Alright, gentlemen, are we going to end on that happy note. I was going to talk to you about all manner of things related to barbecues given this fella in Sydney has gone to 25 different barbecue outlets and it seems to me the women of Australia vis-à-vis eg Ally doesn’t really comprehend why it takes a guy a long time to find a barbie-
MARLES: It is an important piece of equipment.
STEFANOVIC: I agree.
MARLES: And we don’t know whether he got it. Did he get the one he needed?
STEFANOVIC: Apparently, he got a $15,000, barbie. Typical Eastern Suburbs fellow.
ALLISON LANGDON, HOST: Yeah, I think it had like gold knobs or something.
STEFANOVIC: What? Gold knobs?
LANGDON: If something costs that much money-
DUTTON: $15,000- he won’t be welcomed back home.
MARLES: They matter, the barbie.
DUTTON: I wouldn’t be allowed back home with a $15,000 barbeque; I can tell you.
MARLES: It’s true.
LANGDON: I don’t understand this one.
STEFANOVIC: You’ll be right. You’ll be right. Mike’s chatting to me about getting a $15,000 barbecue.
LANGDON: See how he likes being homeless.
STEFANOVIC: At least he will have a barbie. He’d be quite happy! Thank you, fellas.