Topics: Lockdown in Melbourne Hotspots; Failures in Hotel Quarantine; Mandatory testing; Close the Gap Draft Report.
Well joining me now is Health Minister, Greg Hunt. Minister, good morning to you. Thanks so much for joining us.
So, first of all, what’s your reaction to those developments that are on the front page of the Herald Sun, this morning?
Good morning. Well, if those claims are correct, then that is completely and utterly unacceptable and we would encourage the Victorian authorities, to throw the book at them.
Either individuals or if there’s any systemic, inappropriate action, at those that are responsible for it.
As you know, the Premier talked a strong game; he told people in Melbourne and Victoria, they couldn’t even play golf.
Yet, I mean, one of the instances here is that quarantine families were allowed to play cards, between rooms.
I mean, you’re a Victorian; is there a double standard here, Minister?
Around the country, the hotel quarantine system has helped bring 60,000 Australians home, safely and protect Australians.
These are two cases where there are very strong claims of inappropriate behaviour, unacceptable action.
Then, the authorities need to investigate and there is a judicial review, which we do support. And if the claims are upheld, then as I say, throw the book at them.
What we are seeing is a large number of cases, because of what’s the DNA fingerprint or the genomic history, which have clearly come from these hotel quarantine systems.
So, many Victorians are going into lockdown again, today.
In part, the hotel quarantine system has been a contributing element to that.
So that means, that this is a highly infectious disease and each of us has responsibilities, to protect others.
And that’s really the point. Any one of us can help save a life; any one of us can risk others and we have to now go out, clean up, make sure that we’re protecting Victorians, protecting Australians.
Having said that, when you look at over 10.5 million cases accelerating around the world, we are doing extraordinarily well.
But this was an unacceptable set of breaches and that has to be dealt with.
But more importantly, we have to make sure that we protect Melburnians, Victorians and Australians.
Do you think that this proves that the Premier should have taken up the Australian Defence Force option earlier?
Look, our offer is there and it’s an offer that’s there for any state and territory.
Overwhelmingly, the states and territories have done a great job and I think we have to recognise that.
We’re not here to cast blame. We are here to assist, to support and to help Australia get to the other side of this.
We are doing that, again, overwhelmingly. So, our offer is there to support.
And the last thing I want to be doing is to get into blame.
That’s, as a national government, as a National Cabinet, what we’re seeking to do is to provide that path way to help Australians through.
You know, as we’re all being told: we’re in this together. But, you’ve got so many people who are still refusing to get tested.
Do you have any of the latest numbers, Minister, on the amount of people who, in Melbourne at least, who are still refusing to be tested?
I believe the Victorian Government was talking about a figure, approximately 10 per cent of those, approached.
But, what we have seen is almost 50,000 tests around the country, yesterday.
More than four times, what it was some months ago; over 20,000 in Victoria, with a very high concentration on the 10 postcodes, the 36 suburbs.
And so, we are having a higher rate of testing in those areas, than ever before.
I want to thank everybody for doing that, encourage all of those who are approached and this can help save your life, it can help protect family and it can protect your community and it will help us exit these new round or this new round of difficult lockdowns, at the earliest possible time.
And so, you’re saving the community and you’re protecting your family, your friends and your neighbours.
But, for those who aren’t being tested; is that acceptable that people refuse to be tested, Minister?
Well, clearly, we’ve gone to the mandatory testing or extended quarantine periods now, for people in hotel quarantine.
We want everybody to accept testing and it will be up to the individual states and territories, as to how they deliver that.
But, we overwhelmingly want people to do that, but they are coming forward, so as I say, they’re now at record numbers.
That’s helping us have the best picture, to pick up as many cases as possible.
But for those who refuse to be tested, I mean, we’re being encouraged to do it and then you’ve got so many people who aren’t doing it. Do you think that’s acceptable?
Well, we don’t want people to be refusing.
There may be some circumstances, as the Premier set last night, where despite all of the information, somebody is not aware or they’re not certain.
What they, the Victorians, are trying to avoid is people simply not answering the door.
So, by going house to house, by having the set ups in the suburbs, we are seeing huge numbers of people, record numbers of people being tested, in concentrated areas.
That’s going to give us the best outcome.
But, if somebody does approach, from the Victorian health authorities, please accept that test, it is fundamental to you.
And as I say, one of our great success stories, nationally, has been our testing, along with all of the other elements, the testing and the tracings – these are the things that have kept us safe.
Now, we’ll have to have, very unfortunately, for 10 postcodes, 36 suburbs, over 300,000 Australians, the difficult lockdown. Going back to what we’ve done for the next four weeks.
That is unfortunate, but necessary, and we’re going to get through this. We’ve always predicted outbreaks.
Now, sadly, one group of the community has to live with those consequences, on behalf of all of the others. So, I thank them.
Sorry, Minister. These localised lockdowns, this is the norm, isn’t it? I mean, what we’re seeing in these in these 10 postcodes in Melbourne, this is not going to be the end, isn’t it?
Whenever there’s these spot fires that emerge, whether it’s in Victoria, New South Wales Queensland, wherever.
This is what’s going to happen, isn’t it?
Well it could happen in any state or territory.
We’ve done this before, in North West Tasmania, where we had a ring of containment, a local lockdown around the Burnie area that helped.
And that helped wipe out those cases; protected that community, protected Tasmania.
This has now been translated to an urban environment.
It is a more difficult situation. I do agree with the Victorians, that it’s a more difficult situation, but we have the model and that’s the thing that I am heartened by, which has been put in place, where one of the inevitable outbreaks has occurred and it could occur in any state or territory.
I think that’s important to understand.
So, our behaviours, our one and a half metres distancing, the way that we cough, all of these things are critical.
But we know how to deal with this and if there are outbreaks, this is the model that we can take around the country.
Just finally, Minister, an unrelated topic. But a report this morning, on a close the gap draft report. It’s going to a joint council.
It talks about increased responsibility and funding to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
I’m just wondering what your thoughts are on that?
As somebody who’s working very closely with Indigenous communities in the health space, the job’s not done.
Until there is parity, until there is parity between the health and social and economic outcomes for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, we won’t have closed the gap, we won’t have fully finished our work.
So there are proposals, which Ken Wyatt is taking forward, after consulting with Indigenous leaders and communities and they are aimed at one single goal – parity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
And that’s our great moral task, it’s our national challenge and it’s our unwavering goal.
Health Minister, Greg Hunt, appreciate your time this morning. Thanks for joining us.