Topics: Lifting of restrictions in Victoria; Port dispute with unions; Travel bubble with New Zealand; Funding for children’s cancer research.
Pressure is mounting on the Victorian Government to lift restrictions faster after just five new cases were recorded. That’s a number not seen since the 12th of June.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt joins us now. Greg, good morning to you. Thank you for your time this morning. Plenty to talk about with you this morning.
First up, this port dispute threatening the nation’s medical supplies, the unions say it’s not a concern. Is it a worry for you?
Yes, it is. We’ve been working with the medical companies and they’ve reported that it is a clear risk to the supply of important medicines in Australia.
I need to say, it’s not an immediate risk, but if this goes on for any period of time, then we will see potential shortages and that’s been provided to us by a range of different medical companies.
It’s tough to see how this is resolved any time soon.
Well, I think the- those that are doing the go-slow need to realise that whether it’s our farmers and the export of their extraordinarily valuable crops after drought, after difficult times, it’s just so fundamental to the health of their communities and the health of their communities and the economic health of Australia and then on the incoming side, medicines which are vital for the health of Australians are being delayed.
There’s no question about that. That’s not at issue. And that could pose very shortly a real risk to Australians.
So at the moment, the supplies are already here, but the new supplies that we need are sitting in ships offshore.
The Maritime Union absolutely vehemently denies that, they say they haven’t prevented a single tablet from getting through to the ports.
Are they wrong? Or are you?
They’re wrong. No, they’re wrong. We’ve had the medical companies state clearly publicly, absolutely, that that’s the case.
We’ve had a meeting of what’s called the Medicines Shortage of Working Group with the Therapy Goods Administration and there are delays.
There are risks and there are consequences and I would respectfully say to those in the union that are denying that there are risks to medicines, the advice they have is false, incorrect and untrue.
Okay. Well, they are strong words from you. I want to talk to you now about Victoria’s roadmap which was announced on Sunday. You weren’t happy with it. Are they going for elimination?
Well, I’ll leave it to them to explain it. The Premier says no. Most importantly, great
progress around Australia, zero community transmission cases yesterday outside of Victoria, the five cases in Victoria, but the trend is good.
We know it can jump at any time, but what we do want to see is the capacity of people to be able to move safely, to work safely.
And at these levels, New South Wales was well and truly open in a COVID-safe way with outstanding contact tracing.
The contact tracing has improved very significantly in Victoria, and we give them credit for that.
What that does mean is that they are able to handle low levels of numbers, that they are able to give people back significant measures of freedom in a COVID-safe way and that’s real success, when we can go about our lives, but in a COVID- safe way and test and trace and continue to keep the population safe, but mental health in lock down is a massive, massive issue.
Okay. Greg, just moving on, we had the Deputy Prime Minister from New Zealand on the program yesterday, he’s a regular on our program, Winston Peters.
And he suggested that we might have a travel bubble with New Zealand come Christmas. Now, we’ve all got our fingers crossed. Is that likely?
Yes, we are very, very open and keen to work with New Zealand. I spoke with my New Zealand Health Minister counterpart last week as well as the High Commissioner from New Zealand.
We are looking to allow New Zealanders into Australia, potentially in a travel bubble, as soon as possible.
We’re not requiring that New Zealand allows Australia back immediately, but they are working towards it.
So we’d like to be able to allow friends, family, tourists to come to Australia.
We think that the situation in New Zealand is very safe.
We understand they have to consider Australia’s position, so we’re happy to do it as a one-way to start, but we would expect that given the numbers in Australia, New Zealand would be in a position to accept Australians shortly without having to quarantine.
That’s a tremendous step forward.
Both countries are working well and we’re working at speed.
We know they’re going into an election, so they’ll be in caretaker mode shortly, but we should be able, with New Zealand’s agreement, to accept New Zealanders to Australia, which will reduce the pressure on hotel quarantine and increase the prospects for family reunions and friends and visitors.
Let’s certainly hope so. And just very quickly, because the Government’s providing $9 million towards research into children’s cancer, this is sorely needed.
Yes. This is the funding for children’s cancer research to look at the causes and origins of different childhood cancers and therefore diagnosis, treatments and potentially cures.
We have an Australian brain cancer mission where we’re making real program on that front, but this is looking right across the childhood cancer segment and this can save lives.
And for any family, any community, that’s just a beacon of real hope.
Great stuff, Greg. Great to talk to you, thank you very much for that.