The Hon. Greg Hunt MP
Minister for Health and Aged Care
8 July 2021
INTERVIEW WITH ALLISON LANGDON AND KARL STEFANOVIC
THE TODAY SHOW
Topics: Compassionate lockdown exceptions, vaccine update, Sydney’s lockdown and financial assistance.
So much pain there this morning. And joining us live from Canberra is Health Minister Greg Hunt. Greg, good morning to you.
Look, we’re hearing case after case like this. Where is the compassion and where is the
Sure. So wherever we’re aware, as a Commonwealth, of these compassionate cases, of end of life cases, we’ll quietly intervene and speak with a particular state, and overwhelmingly we’ve been able to assist.
This is obviously just an agonising case for Anthony, and one of the things that I’ve done is, through the Chief Medical Officer, asked if we could work with the states to see if they can have a more streamlined deep compassionate exemption program.
It won’t be for every case, but where there are end of life or fundamental questions, to be able to ensure that subject to COVID-safe travel, and we can do this, that we’ll have that capacity.
But there’s a little way to go is the honest answer. But wherever possible, we intervene and quietly try to help with some of the states.
When you say there’s a little way to go with that, I mean, how much time are we talking here? Because we’re a long way into this pandemic. We’ve heard so many stories like this. We haven’t come up with a solution so far.
Does that mean that there is resistance to coming up with some sort of national coordinated plan to allow people to see a dying relative before it’s too late?
Well we are very supportive of that. And that’s something that I’ve personally intervened in, the Commonwealth has, the Prime Minister has.
But is there resistance from some states to that? Like, what is the hold-up here?
Well I think you’ve just given the example of the case in Queensland, and we have had some challenges in ensuring that there are exemptions and that they are done rapidly in that particular case.
So we want to work with all of them. We’ll be supportive of all of the states and territories, but ultimately, as I see this, these are people’s lives and these are the critical moments in their lives.
And this is a very important part of how we provide exemptions for incoming travel to Australia, or for outgoing travel at the international border level, but between states, I’d encourage and support that same compassionate approach.
Okay, good luck with that. Let’s hope it happens expeditiously because there’s so much emotion riding on it. People’s psychological welfare.
Yeah. No, I understand.
2 November has been earmarked by a pandemic analyst as the date we receive 80 per cent vaccination. Firstly, are they dreaming? And secondly, the US is now limiting its Pfizer exports, we’re relying on a boost from the European Union. Will we get it?
Well firstly, I am increasingly confident that we’ll be able to bring forward supplies in August from later on in the year.
We’ve had excellent, fully reliable supplies from Pfizer. We had record vaccinations yesterday. We’ve had increased Pfizer go out this week to GPs as a starting point, so 165,000 people yesterday. But I’m increasingly confident that we will have additional supplies arriving on shore in August, and we’ll have confirmation in the coming days, but we’re quietly working behind the scenes every single day to ensure that, and that’s beginning to bear fruit.
Now, in terms of the whole national vaccination program, firstly thank you to everybody for coming forward, but secondly, please keep coming forward for first and second doses. And I won’t put a particular date on it, our goal is to ensure that every Australian, who is eligible and wants a vaccination gets that opportunity this year, and with these numbers we’re on track to achieve that.
How many of those will be earmarked for New South Wales and how worried are you about the situation in Sydney right now?
Look, it is a serious situation. We think that the New South Wales Government is doing an outstanding job, and the public have been overwhelmingly observing the difficult, challenging lockdown rules.
There are some that have breached it, and to those people: please think. If you breach those rules, you could spread the disease, you could pass on a deadly disease, and you could risk so many people.
So to everybody who’s doing the right thing, thank you. To those small number who have not been observing the rules, it could be your mum or your grandma, your grand-dad who suffers as a result. So we’re doing a great job as a nation. The rest of the world wishes they were us.
But what we need to do is to continue to A) be vaccinated, but B) where there are challenges, such as in particular south-west Sydney but more broadly across Sydney, please make sure that you’re following the social distancing rules, because anyone can save a life, or inadvertently risk a life.
Finally and quickly, we know that the NSW treasurer Dominic Perrottet has been in touch with Josh Frydenberg this morning, as well as the Premier of NSW.
They’re working on something. Something needs to happen, does it not, for the businesses of New South Wales without that safety net of JobKeeper. They’re going to need some help from state probably and federal.
Sure. We currently have the COVID Disaster Relief Payments which came out of the National Cabinet and the agreement with Victoria as a national model. And that’s the basis. That’s been kicked into action by the COVID Hotspot declaration of the Chief Medical Officer, which was also extended last night for an additional week in line with New South Wales.
So that is an important part of Commonwealth financial assistance for individuals in the Greater Western Sydney area and the lockdown areas. It’s hard. And so that’s why we have put those payments forward.
Alright. Well I think in the coming weeks, you might find that businesses are going to need a little bit more. So hopefully we can find that for them. Minister, thanks for joining us this morning.
We appreciate it.