The Hon. Greg Hunt MP
Minister for Health and Aged Care
24 November 2021
INTERVIEW WITH NEIL BREEN
Topics: Asymptomatic testing in Australia
The Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, joins me on the line now. Thanks for joining us this morning, Minister.
And good morning.
Yes. Well, Greg Hunt, this whole situation about the $145, $150 test, you wrote to Yvette D’Ath on Monday night and said that the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee’s updated statement on asymptomatic testing stated that large scale non targeted asymptomatic testing in Australia should be strongly discouraged, basically that it was a waste of money and a waste of time.
Now, after the state government got into the brawl with you, it becomes clear that both parties are going to pay for these tests together.
The public is utterly confused, Greg Hunt.
Sure. Look, very simply, we’ve been covering these tests on a joint basis since the Queensland Premier, on March the 13th last year in 2020, signed the shared funding agreement with the Commonwealth.
What does it mean for the public? Tests have been covered as they always have been. The Commonwealth has paid half throughout.
There was a little bit of a waiver this week where the Premier was looking to impose costs on individuals. We resisted that.
They’re back in the tent. It was a slightly odd position that they took, but our position hasn’t changed and that is that these tests have been covered.
The health advice on that testing comes from all of the chief health officers, including Queensland. And so, it’s a matter for Queensland, whether they follow that.
What matters for families is they’ve been able to get tests, they’ll continue to be able to get tests. And our Australian testing is, you know, arguably the most accurate in the world.
The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has reviewed it and said that it’s right at the top of the global list in terms of accuracy.
So, no change from us, and I’m glad that Queensland has not changed and not imposed costs on their own families.
Because that issue was whether travellers would need a printed certificate as opposed to a text message that is sent to you.
Look, we’ve all had a COVID test and then the text comes and says you’re clear or you’ve got COVID. And then the Government said, no, no, no, no, no, you can have a text message.
They never made that clear till yesterday. Was it when they made that clear, Greg Hunt, that the Commonwealth said, well, we’re already doing that, so you’re getting your test paid for?
We said that from the outset that right through this process, people received their response from the testing processes, which are being led at state level. We share half the costs of those and that’s been continuous.
Suddenly a few days ago, I wonder whether it was inadvertent, they said we’re going to change that entire system and that would have imposed a cost burden on families.
We said there’s no need to change that system in terms of notification because it’s working, it’s protecting Australians. It’s providing a safe, easy, convenient approach to notification and then they’ve reversed their position.
So, I’m really happy about that. And we’ve been funding and will continue to fund 50 per cent of the costs to the states.
We’ve provided $6.5 billion of support for COVID testing, treatments, hospitals. About $1.8 billion of that has been specifically Commonwealth payments for COVID testing across the country, and that’s what’s kept us safe.
So, I’m glad that that sort of risk, which appeared for 48 hours, has evaporated and common sense has prevailed and the ordinary system remains ongoing.
And that’s good for Queenslanders simply to get together with each other and to see family and friends.
Just really quickly, Greg Hunt, I’ve got to get to the 7:00 AM news, but $1.8 billion spent already. Asymptomatic testing, there’s going to be tens and tens of thousands of them possibly a day for people to get into Queensland.
Is it an unnecessary waste of money? Asymptomatic testing?
Well, look the health advice I set out in my letter to Queensland, where the state chief health officers were advocating a greater use of rapid antigen tests – it’s a matter for Queensland as to whether they follow their own health advice.
But what is clear is that we are keeping Australians safe and you know, my advice to them is we’ve got a system that’s been working. I’m glad you’re continuing it.
And now, we have the access to rapid antigen tests and there’s a greater role for them going forward on the basis of the state chief health officers themselves.
Okay. Greg Hunt, Federal Health Minister, thanks for your time on 4BC Breakfast this morning.
Take care. pleasure.