The Hon. Greg Hunt MP
Minister for Health and Aged Care
6 January 2022
INTERVIEW WITH MARK LEVY
Topics: Novak Djokovic; Rapid Antigen Testing; COVID-19 Boosters.
Let’s get you some more details on what’s transpired in the last few hours at Melbourne Airport, with Novak Djokovic having his visa cancelled. In an incredible twist that could see him flown out of Australia as early as today, the Australian Border Force made the decision on the grounds that he’s failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the requirements to enter the country.
A Federal Government source said he failed to provide proof that he had a legitimate medical exemption to vaccination.
Let’s find out a bit more from the Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, he joins me on the line right now. Minister, good morning to you.
And good morning Mark.
It’s been quite an extraordinary morning. What’s your reaction to what’s unfolded with Novak Djokovic and his bid to enter Australia?
So, the rules are very clear, and that’s about making sure that if you’re not vaccinated, you have a valid medical exemption.
And Border Force has assessed the process that was led by the Victorian Government. And to quote the Australian Border Force: Mr Djokovic failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia, and his visa has been cancelled.
So I understand there’ll be people who disagree, there’ll be many who agree. But the principle here is a clear set of rules that apply, and nobody is above the rules.
Were you surprised, Minister, that Novak Djokovic, the world number one, was granted an exemption by Victoria in the first place?
Well, I was, actually, after what they had previously said, so I hadn’t realised that was going through the works. And then obviously saw some media reports a couple of nights ago.
And Border Force did their review and made their decision, and the policy of the Government, led by the Prime Minister, who has been absolutely clear on border protection throughout, was about equal treatment according to the rules, and not having fear or favour.
I don’t have personal details about his application, I apologise, nor would it be appropriate for me to. Border Force will make their comments during the course of the day on that.
But I can say that this is about ensuring that nobody is above the law. If you have to go into a cafe in different states, you have to show your vaccination record. And if it’s good enough for all Australians, it’s good enough for visitors.
Minister, can you just bring us up to date with where Novak Djokovic is right now? I’m getting reports that he’s being transferred to a hotel in Melbourne. There could be a flight out of the country as early as the afternoon. There’s also talk of a legal challenge as well.
What’s the latest, as far as that’s concerned?
Sure. So look. On his movements, I apologise, I don’t have that.
I do know that the additional point that Border Force made is that non-citizens who don’t hold a visa, or whose visa has been cancelled, will be detained and removed from Australia. And so those two things about providing the appropriate evidence, and if your visa is cancelled, then you leave the country.
Now, any legal issues, that’s a matter for Mr Djokovic and his team. But the two critical points about evidence, either you have a vaccination, or you provide the appropriate evidence. And failing that, your visa will be cancelled and you won’t be allowed to stay in Australia.
Just one more on this before we have a look at some of the decisions taken by National Cabinet yesterday. It’s my understanding that Novak Djokovic isn’t the only unvaccinated player who was attempting to play the Australian Open.
It’s my information that there’s a couple of other tennis players who have been granted visas and entry into Australia to play at the Australian Open. Will the same happen for them? Will they be picked up, or at least contacted today, and saying, sorry, we need to have another look at your documentation. Or are you happy for those players to feature at the Australian Open?
So look, I apologise. I don’t have that information. And so these things are, as they have been, a matter for Border Force, but we’ve taken a pretty strong stance.
All right. Having a look at some of the decisions taken by National Cabinet yesterday. I suppose the big ones the rapid antigen tests, and that’s the way in which we’re going to sort of get out of this mess that we currently find ourselves in.
There’s a hell of a lot of them coming to Australia, but they won’t be here for the next couple of weeks. There’s a lot of people saying, well, why aren’t we getting free antigen tests, yet concession card holders are getting them for nothing?
What’s your response to them, Minister?
Sure. So, everybody has access to free tests through the healthcare testing program, and that has been the case right throughout the pandemic.
Over 56 million tests done, and they have been primarily PCR, or Polymer Chain Reaction, but there will be an increasing number of rapid antigen tests through those processes.
We’ll be providing the states with approximately 10 million that we’ve sourced to assist them over the course of the coming weeks. The states themselves have acquired a considerable number. So between the Commonwealth and the states, we’ve secured an extra 200 million. We’ve been covering our aged care throughout.
And then in addition to that, outside of healthcare settings, ordinarily people, whether it’s milk or bread or any other goods, have to secure them themselves. That’s just part of the modern economy and the natural flow of things.
But we will provide concessional access. So for low income people, we’ll provide 6.6 million people with 10 tests each, which is up to 66 million tests over the course of the next three months, working with the states and territories, and they’ll be delivered through pharmacies.
But Minister, what about the people, though, Minister? Like, I mean, I’ve got a couple of emails here in front of me, right?
So a couple of people that have said, Mark, I get a rapid antigen test. I try and find as many as I can, because I test myself before I go and see my elderly relative, because I wouldn’t be able to live with the fact if I gave her a COVID-19.
There’s another email that I read out this morning from a gentleman in Brisbane, who’s got an elderly relative with special needs. He tests himself with one of the rapid antigen tests to make sure he doesn’t have the virus and doesn’t pass it on.
Surely we should be making some sort of concessions for those people who are just trying to do the right thing and protect their relatives from coronavirus?
Look, I respect that, but, you know, our task is to ensure that there’s universal access to the healthcare, which is what we have, which is freely available.
I know Mr Albanese has vaguely talked about an infinite supply to an infinite number of people of free goods. Well, he needs to set out how many he’s talking about, and what that would do to the supply chain. The Albanese policy would smash the supply chain overnight.
Any good, whether it’s milk or bread, which was available on an infinite number to every person for free, would smash the supply chain overnight. And so that would actually prevent the very thing which your listeners are looking at.
And then the second thing is, we have no idea how much Mr Albanese is budgeting for this, how many billions it is, and he’ll have to set that out today. If he’s got a policy of an infinite supply to an infinite number of people, it’s not in the real world.
And we operate in the real world, where we meet the healthcare requirements of Australians. We’re also supporting lower-income Australians, 6.6 million of them.
And then in addition to that, there’s the pharmacy market and the supermarket supplies, which are growing very considerably. There is a short-term challenge around the world, and I have to acknowledge that, and it’s really important to do that. But people have been fantastic, and we respect that.
What about some of the price gouging, Minister? I listened to the Prime Minister’s press conference yesterday, and he alluded to some of the harsher restrictions and penalties that are at your disposal as the Minister for Health. These RAT tests that are being sold for 60 bucks, and, you know, even more, even on UberEats, what can you do about them?
So from 1:00AM tomorrow night, so 1:00AM on the morning of 8 January, I will have in place a biosecurity determination which will make price gouging illegal with fines of up to $66,000, and penalties of up to five years in jail.
So, it couldn’t be a stronger or clearer position. It’s what we did with PPE and sanitisers early on. There are export controls as well. And so, these are very strong actions that are being taken, the strongest possible actions to prevent profiteering in a time of need.
And we’ve been through these phases, and we managed them all, and it is a challenge.
The other thing that’s happened is the boosters. People have been incredible. Yesterday there were 222,000 people who came forward for boosters. That was higher than the highest first dose day of 187,000, higher than the highest second dose day of 212,000.
And so, we’re at almost three million boosters, and that program is absolutely roaring ahead, with people coming back from holidays with state clinics now joining the pharmacies and the general practices.
So, keep coming forward for your boosters. And kids start getting their vaccines next Monday.
Yep, I’m booked in for mine tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to getting it. It will put my mind at ease anyway, because I’ll have the full protection from coronavirus.
Just before you go, and I know you’ve got some other commitments. I’ve got to say this, most people, when they announced their retirement, they seemed to sort of start slowing down a little bit. But you’re just all guns blazing for the next five months, given what we’re going through at the moment, so thanks for joining us.
And if we don’t speak to you before the election, thanks for what you’ve done for the people of Australia over the last couple of years. Appreciate your time.
Thanks, Mark. Take care everyone. We’ll just keep going and you know, we’ll get through this, as we have right through the pandemic, with one of the highest vaccination rates and one of the lowest rates of loss of life.
Good stuff. Thank you very much.
That’s the Minister for Health federally, Greg Hunt, joining us with the latest on Novak Djokovic and some of those decisions that were taken yesterday by National Cabinet.