The Hon. Greg Hunt MP
Minister for Health and Aged Care
3 December 2021
INTERVIEW WITH NATALIE BARR AND MICHAEL USHER
Topics: Greg Hunt’s retirement, Omicron variant
But, first at 7.30, Health Minister Greg Hunt, has tearfully confirmed his retirement from politics at next year’s election to spend more time with his family.
After a 20-year career in Parliament, Mr Hunt will not recontest the next election, and will depart as the member for Flinders in Victoria.
This is your last chance to be a proper dad, and it’s time to come home, dad.
[END OF EXCERPT]
Now, Mr Hunt wiped away tears as the PM paid tribute.
He would be so proud. He would be so proud, as Paula, I’m sure, is bursting with pride in you, and our loss is their great gain.
[END OF EXCERPT]
Well, for more, we’re now joined now by the Health Minister, Greg Hunt. Greg, good morning to you. I’ll tell you what, you were moved to tears. I watched it yesterday
Thank you, good morning.
I watched it yesterday and felt a bit teary for you as well, particularly when you were referencing the kids, and time to be a dad again. Has it sunk in yet, that decision?
Look, there’s something I’m very reconciled with, that when I came into Parliament, I agreed with my father, I said: the great task here is to do everything you can, but then to leave without anything in terms of regrets about what you haven’t done, or the things that happened, just to focus on being positive about life, and being positive about the country.
You know, I’m privileged to be able to have had this job, but I’m so, you know, pleased to be able to be there for the last two years of my daughter’s schooling, and my son going into secondary school.
There’s a lot to do between now and May. We’re announcing half a billion of COVID extension measures today for pathology and research, and other things, but, the combination of working for the national measures but then knowing that soon enough I’ll be able to be a dad again, that’s a nice balance.
Greg Hunt, I think politicians cop a lot. You’re out there in the public eye every day, we know that don’t we. How hard has it been?
Look, the hardest part is probably the most obvious part, it’s the time away from your family.
I said yesterday that, you know, my two beautiful kids, I’m just so proud of them, Poppy and James. They’ve largely been raised though, by Paula, my wife, as effectively, a single mum for so much of the time. It’s probably why they’ve turned out pretty well.
But, the real point is that, you know, the work is endlessly meaningful and powerful, and in this role you get to help a lot of people, and in the health role, you know, I’ve loved that perhaps more than anything else, as well as being a local member.
There are lots of individual cases that you help quietly resolve: compassionate access, and I mentioned little Bella yesterday, and being able to help a parent and a child access a medicine that just wasn’t in Australia, and those things are always motivating, and when you see a human outcome like that, it makes you remember why you do it, and it also makes you think: this is a great country, we sometimes forget that. It is a really fine nation, Australia.
That’s a good message Greg, a really good message. I want to ask you about Omicron, but I did a bit of digging on you last night, if you don’t mind. I rang one and your best mates, and I said: tell me something we don’t know about Greg Hunt behind the scenes, that the Australian public wouldn’t know.
This unnamed source, the Federal Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, and he said: holes in his lycra, runs every opportunity he can get, and has cereal for breakfast. Is that the Greg Hunt we haven’t seen- has cereal for dinner?
Unfortunately, it’s completely true. Josh and I are absolutely best mates, he was my best man, and he very modestly said: there’s no need to call me the best man, just the better man.
We get on fabulously, we’re godparents to each other’s daughters, and we’re so close, and to have that bond, to have that bond, is really important, and, you know, I see him, and I see the PM, and you know, these last two years have been immensely challenging, but they’ve always known the way.
And, I think because we’ve got this immense trust in each other. And here we are as a country, and to have, you know, Josh, and the PM, people who just have this quiet understanding of Australia and where we have to go. That’s, you know, it’s great to be alongside them, and I’ll have words to him about telling the secrets about the lycra.
My staff have been trying to get me to get new lycra for a long while now, so maybe that’ll be the going away present.
You’re probably eating cereal for dinner because you have no time to cook, because COVID has been, you know, obviously a 24-hour a day job. Now, Omicron. How concerned are you about it?
So, Omicron, we’ve been very cautious. We’ve made some difficult decisions about, obviously, closing the borders to the southern African countries.
Sadly, having to make sure that people who are coming back to Australia who have been there- Australian citizens and residents will have to have the two weeks of quarantine. So we’ve been very cautious.
The earliest advice, and it is too early to draw a final conclusion: it may be more transmissible, the vaccines are likely, still, to have very good protection, but we do need more information, and it could be milder.
And, so, Paul Kelly, the Chief Medical Officer of Australia, Professor Kelly, is cautiously optimistic. And, you know, this is the thirteenth major variant, and most people would either know the Alpha or as it was probably better known, the UK variant – the Delta variant, and now Omicron. And so, other variants have come along.
There are almost 30,000 variations of the disease on the Australian database known as AusTracker, but the thirteen big ones and so this disease will continue to evolve. Often with diseases, the course of direction is they become perhaps more transmissible, but milder, or less severe.
Now, if that’s the case, then that might be a positive direction, but, it is too early, which is why we’ve taken precautions. But, at this stage, on the Australian cases we haven’t seen anything other asymptomatic or very mild.
Well, it’s good contexts about the variants, because there are so many of them as well, and you’ve still got quite a few months left in the job, so we’re going to be talking to you more about them all in your Health capacity, but Minister, good luck for your retirement anyway, and thanks for joining us today.