SUBJECT: Vaccine rollout.
ALLISON LANGDON, HOST: Well more now on the major step towards producing a COVID vaccine on home soil, the government determined to rely less on overseas doses. Let’s bring in Defence Minister Peter Dutton in Brisbane, and Deputy Leader of the Opposition Richard Marles in Melbourne. Good morning to both of you. So, Peter, I mean, supply isn’t an issue now is it? I thought we have plenty of AstraZeneca. It’s just that no one wants it.
PETER DUTTON, DEFENCE MINISTER: Ally, I think what everybody’s learnt out of this is that we just don’t know what the future holds. And the ability for this investment to result not just in vaccines for whatever a future pandemic might mean, it also gives us a chance at responding better, or finding a cure towards cancer, other cardiovascular disease, etc. So this is a very, very important investment that the government can make, it means that there’s production onshore, so that whatever happens into the future offshore, we can contribute to our domestic requirements. And I think it’s a prudent approach and Christian Porter and the Prime Minister and the Health Minister, I think have made a very important decision here.
LANGDON: Richard, is this enough to fix our vaccine problems, you reckon?
RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, this is the decision Ally that the government should have made last year. I mean, in the midst of its self congratulation, last year, they were complacent in the failure to put Australia properly in the queues of the various vaccine projects around the world. They bet the house on AstraZeneca being able to do the job here. And now what you see is really the – in the messaging that the government’s giving an almost undermining of people having confidence in AstraZeneca. I mean, I listened to the health minister yesterday, and I couldn’t work out whether, on the one hand, he was telling us to go and get AstraZeneca if we’re over 50, or if, in fact, he was really dog whistling to us all having an option to get Moderna or some other mRNA vaccine at the end of the year. I mean, it’s deeply confusing. And the truth of the matter is, we need to get vaccinated as swiftly as possible. We don’t get back to normal, we don’t get our venues full, we don’t get back to the other side of COVID until we’re vaccinated.
LANGDON: I mean, it did leave a lot of people perplexed yesterday, just in regards to that. I’ve got that grab, which – of our Health Minister Greg Hunt from yesterday. Just take a listen.
GREG HUNT: Right now. We want to encourage everybody over 50 to be vaccinated as early as possible. But we’ve been very clear that as supply increases later on in the year, there will be enough vaccine of mRNA vaccines for every Australian.
LANGDON: I mean, Peter, it doesn’t help does it?
DUTTON: Ally, what’s Greg saying there? He’s saying there is a requirement –
LANGDON: If you don’t want AstraZeneca, wait till the end of the year, is kind of how a lot of people took it.
MARLES: That’s exactly what he said.
DUTTON: No, what he’s – what he’s saying is that there’s a program now, and as all the doctors are saying without exception, if you’re over 50, get vaccinated. Go and see your GP, have the discussion if you have a hesitation, go and see your doctor, get vaccinated. It’s incredibly important. That’s the most important message. And then Greg’s saying, well, yes, we’ve secured other doses and they’ll be rolled out between now and the end of the year. I mean, it couldn’t get any clearer than that. And that’s exactly what he’s done. And, you know, yes, I mean, Richard comes out negative again this morning on the vaccine rollout. Labor has undermined this program from day one. And they really do have a lot to answer for here.
MALRES: Greg Hunt is doing enough of that himself.
DUTTON: Richard, honestly, you and Anthony Albanese coming out, bagging this every day has contributed to an undermining of the confidence, particularly for over 50s. And I think it’s unconscionable and it shouldn’t happen. You should listen to the doctors. The doctors are telling people over 50 to get the jab now. And that’s the best advice that we can give people.
MARLES: Well, we’ve been doing none of that. People over 50 should definitely get it.
DUTTON: Say something positive.
MARLES: Well I have, people over 50 should go and get the AstraZeneca jab. I did that this week. That’s been the unequivocal message. Anthony went out and got his vaccine as soon as he possibly could. That’s not the issue. The issue is, the government actually rolling this out in an effective way and having proper messaging. And it was Greg Hunt yesterday, who is essentially giving everyone an option to wait. I mean, that’s what his message was. So it’s not about us. It’s about the government’s own messaging here. And really, people should be going off and getting this as quickly as possible because you know that we do need to do this with swiftness. It’s the government who’s saying it’s not a race. It’s the government who say we’ve got all the time in the world. That’s just wrong.
LANGDON: And what message is the Queensland Premier and her Chief Health Officer sending, when admitting yesterday that she hasn’t had the AstraZeneca jab, Peter?
DUTTON: I really don’t understand the Premier’s position. I think in a position of leadership, it’s important particularly now to demonstrate that leadership and to make sure that you lead by example and the Premier and the Chief Health Officer in Queensland, have let Queenslanders down and they need to, I think go out today, roll their sleeve up, make a very public statement about the fact that they’ve got the vaccine and encourage other people to do it.
LANGDON: You know, what we do need? I think pretty much everyone agrees on this. We need a big positive campaign here promoting the vaccine, especially AstraZeneca. When we hear again today, six potential blood clots linked to it. I mean, Peter, you manage to put out that very weird consent video involving milkshakes. Why don’t we have a decent one for the jab yet?
DUTTON: Well, Ally, there’s a lot of good information and advertising that’s out there already. And so there’s a lot of information that people can receive. As the Prime Minister has pointed out, we’ll have more messaging, which will be positive. If you’re available, you could lead the campaign and send a very positive message. I know you’ve been very positive about the vaccine. And let’s get it out there. I mean, in a normal flu season, when there’s an adverse reaction to somebody getting the flu vaccination, we don’t hear about it, it’s not reported, because that’s the reality of rollout of any vaccine. And it’s dealt with in the health system, people are hospitalised. In very rare cases, there might be a death, but in most of those cases, there is a medical response to it, and people recover from it.
LANGDON: Are you saying we shouldn’t be reporting on such things? I mean, this is a new vaccine, I feel that we have a duty to report. I’m so on board. I’m on board with the over 50s getting AstraZeneca, which is the health advice. I’m open to everyone getting the Pfizer and Moderna when it becomes available. But I do feel that when we hear such things that it needs to be reported.
DUTTON: Yeah. No, I’m not saying it shouldn’t be reported. I just think it should be reported responsibly, first point. Second point is that, just remember that these things happen in a normal season, where there is an adverse reaction to somebody getting a vaccination, whether it’s an adult, somebody getting the flu vaccination each year, or if it’s a child, these adverse reactions happen, and they’re not reported in a normal season. I think that’s the important point. So put it into perspective that, yes, there are cases where there have been blood clots, but the doctors knowing all of that, are still at one in advising Australians to get the vaccination as quickly as they’re able, as soon as they’re eligible.
LANGDON: Richard, what did you make of the Prime Minister’s vaccine passport idea for travel between states that he’s been talking about this week?
MARLES: Yeah, look, I like the idea that Australians can travel around the country without a passport. I think we do get to a place at some point where vaccine status is an issue. But the point I’d really make is this, I think there is room for a public campaign here, as you’ve said, when people get a vaccine, there is a degree of individual, obviously individual protection around all of that. But there is a collective society-wide benefit to a certain proportion, the great majority of the country being vaccinated. It’s when we get to those levels as a community as a collective, that we see life returning to normal in terms of limits being removed from venues, for example.But a whole range of ways in which our lives have been changed now, that stops once we get up to certain levels of vaccination, which is why there’s a population-wide requirement here, which, you know, if we got to that point, there is no need for passports. And that does require some confidence building on the part of the government. And that’s really, I think what we’ve got to see now, and at the heart of that has to be clear messaging.
LANGDON: You got to get people on board. We’re happy to help with that in any way we can. In fact, Peter, I will give Karl his Pfizer jab live on air next week if you like? Happily.
MARLES: We’re tuning in for that.
DUTTON: In the arm? Let’s ramp the ratings right up here.
LANGDON: No one wants to see the other spot.
DUTTON: Righto, righto. See what he says, he might not rule it out.
LANGDON: We don’t give him the choice in such matters. All right, Peter and Richard, nice to talk to you this morning. Thanks for joining us.