SUBJECT/S: Prime Minister brings himself to say sorry after 24 hours; vaccine rollout; Brisbane Olympics
ALLISON LANGDON, HOST: The Prime Minister has finally said “I’m sorry” accepting responsibility for the nation’s slow vaccine rollout. The apology comes as it is revealed kids, as we have just heard, over the age of 12 will soon be eligible for Pfizer. To discuss, we are joined by Defence Minister, Peter Dutton in Brisbane and Deputy Opposition Leader, Richard Marles in Melbourne. Nice to see you both this morning.
PETER DUTTON, MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Morning, Ally.
RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Morning, Ally.
LANGDON: Peter, the PM, he has had a bad few days. You have got the whole sorry thing, he is picking a fight with the drug regulator over AstraZeneca. What is going on? Is he okay?
DUTTON: Not only is he okay, I think he is doing an incredible job in the best interests of our country. And there will always be people who have different views, and you see some of the polling, even in ‘The Courier- Mail’ today where people are evenly divided on some of these issues. The reality is that the Prime Minister made decisions right from the start to close our borders, to put extra support into our health system, to put troops on the ground where needed. We have made decisions about acquisitions of vaccines. We haven’t put vaccines into people without the medical and scientific advice. Remember, Anthony Albanese wanted us to start rolling out AstraZeneca before there was approval. So, not everything is going to go right along this path, because nobody has a textbook as to every scenario and what the response should be. And I think the government has been able to adapt. Where we have made mistakes, we have apologised, we move on from it. We learn from those mistakes, and we deal with the next issue, and that’s exactly what he is doing at the moment.
LANGDON: I mean, I think the issue is not just saying sorry right at the start means you got these headlines for a couple of days. But Richard, do you think he is doing a good job at the moment? What have you made of, particularly the last few days?
MARLES: Well, firstly Labor never said AstraZeneca should go in before it has been approved, that’s just completely wrong. The Prime Minister was dragged kicking and screaming to apologise. Obviously, he got advice overnight from his minders. He must have seen a focus group. But this is actually about character, and you can’t find character in a focus group. At the end of the day, when the Prime Minister is put on the spot and he is asked to take responsibility, invariably he avoids it. Invariably he passes the buck and invariably it is somebody else’s fault. At the end of the day, we are in the situation we are in now because we have got a pathetically low level of vaccination; 11 per cent across the country. We are last in the OECD when the Prime Minister promised we would be at the front of the queue. And that is on Scott Morrison. So, he is doing an appalling job and that’s the only way you can objectively read what’s going on at the moment. And the fact that we are in the situation that we are in now is because of this government’s failure in relation to vaccine and this government’s failure in relation to having fit for purpose quarantine facilities in Australia.
DUTTON: Again, it is just not right. I mean, you can’t argue that you should start the vaccine rollout earlier when you don’t have approval and therefore, we would have a higher rate today-
MARLES: No one did.
DUTTON: Well that is exactly what Labor did, Richard. And it is exactly what Anthony Albanese said at the start of this year, and he was wrong. And he has been proven to be wrong. And, we aren’t going to vaccinate people when we don’t believe it is safe to do so. And we have got advice, obviously, that might be coming from the TGA and ATAGI now in relation to younger people, because we know that the Delta strain has a disproportionate impact on younger people, whereas the Alpha strain had a disproportionate impact on older people. So, as the vaccine is rolled out, as this thing morphs, it is a terrible, terrible pandemic and virus, as we are seeing overseas. And we have to adapt our own situation to it, and that’s exactly what we are doing-
LANGDON: Your problem, Peter, here is that you backed the wrong horse, and a lot of that comes down to bad luck. But, the advice on AstraZeneca, it has jumped all over the place. He has been pushing it pretty hard these past couple of days. It is now available at pharmacies. But this as we have seen two deaths linked to blood clots, both in their 40s. Unfortunately, AstraZeneca is an impossible sell. I mean, is he on the phone to the US bosses of Moderna and Pfizer? Is he begging for more? What’s he doing to get more vaccines on our shore?
DUTTON: Well firstly, in relation to children, we have provisioned for children to be vaccinated at some point. So, that work has been done in anticipation of approval and if the Delta strain is going to impact kids or younger people, we want to make sure we have got them vaccinated as quickly as possible. As we have done with other vulnerable groups, and we have seen that over the course of the last couple of months as well. In terms of future contracting and in terms of boosters, obviously all of that negotiation and ordering, etcetera, takes place, and the Prime Minister will make announcements on that at the appropriate time. But we don’t hold the IP. We don’t manufacture the Pfizer drug here because they are a company that holds the IP and manufactures, and Canada and other countries are in exactly the same situation that we are. So, we have to deal with reality. The Prime Minister doesn’t politically interfere with the advice provided by the doctors or the scientists. So, sometimes, we will all become frustrated by the fact that their advice might move around, but it is moved around based on the medical evidence and as the numbers grow, they get a greater body of evidence and they decide that AstraZeneca is appropriate, it is not appropriate for different age groups. But it is clear now that people should take AstraZeneca, if they are advised by their doctor to do that, that is what they should do that, particularly in south-west Sydney at the moment, but across NSW and in Victoria. And we are seeing, as the Prime Minister has pointed out, a much greater take up with younger people of AstraZeneca now and the medical advice is that is safe to do so.
LANGDON: I think you just have to look at Sydney Olympic hub where you had 9,000 Pfizers yesterday and 50 people took up AstraZeneca. I think that tells you everything. And the problem you have got now, Peter is the last time Scott Morrison was this unpopular was when he was in Hawaii during the bushfires. It is something- it is a real problem for you guys right now. But I do want to finish on this because Peter you are a proud Queenslander. The Olympics, 2032. No doubt you will be sitting next to Annastacia Palaszczuk for the Opening Ceremony.
DUTTON: Richard will be on the other side. He will be there. He will be there. Don’t worry.
MARLES: Peter will be there.
DUTTON: Who wouldn’t want to be there, I just think it is so exciting-
MARLES: It is a great moment.
DUTTON: For kids who are out in sporting teams at the moment, 5, 6, 7, 8-year-olds who will be dreaming about representing their country at the Brisbane games and it will be phenomenal.
LANGDON: Richard, Karl has already suggested thong throwing as a sport. I can see you two as the Australian synchronised swimming team. Have you got a good Aussie sport we should think about?
DUTTON: Promise me there is going to be a one piece, Richard.
MARLES: No way I’m standing next to Peter whilst he is wearing budgie smugglers. That is horrifying, that is not morning TV-
LANGDON: Weirdly, it works for me-
MARLES: Where are the censorship laws?-
LANGDON: Nice to see you both.
MARLES: Good to see you.