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Prime Minister Interview with Natalie Barr, Sunrise

  • Written by Scott Morrison

NATALIE BARR: Scott Morrison, good morning to you, Prime Minister. Now, I'm going to get to the payments in a minute. 


PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Nat. 


BARR: But I want to talk about how on earth we have got to this point. Earlier in this pandemic, you said the vaccine rollout was not a race. Now you're saying it's like a gold medal run at the Olympics. If you treated it as a race from the start, would we be in this mess? 


PRIME MINISTER: When Professor Murphy and I made those remarks, we were talking about the regulation of the vaccines, Nat. I'm not sure if people are aware of that. And my critics have used them against me, but we've always been treating this with the greatest of urgency. That's why we've been able to turn around the vaccination programme from the early setbacks, which were the non supply of vaccines. And, of course, the advice we had on AstraZeneca. And we've been able to scale that up now. We went from about two and a half million to three and a half million, this month we'll be well over four million in vaccinations. We are now vaccinating at the rate of more than a million a week. Yesterday, we had another record day, 196,000 vaccines. There are pop up clinics all around, and particularly for AstraZeneca with those walk-in clinics there, particularly in south western Sydney. And the vaccination programme is hitting the marks we need it to do now. And if we weren't treating it with that urgency, then certainly we wouldn't have been able to turn this around and catch up that ground that we're catching up every single day. 


BARR: But that's the message that was put out to the public. That line is still in people's minds. People are still saying, I think I'll wait, aren't they? That messaging was what was put out? 


PRIME MINISTER: Well, no. We were talking, as I said, about the regulation of the vaccines. I don't think anyone would have wanted the Therapeutic Goods Administration, those who regulate whether vaccines are safe to cut corners. I don't think anyone would have wanted that. That's very important for the confidence of the vaccine programme. And that's why they didn't cut any corners. And that's why I can tell you the TGA didn't do any emergency approvals. They did the the normal appropriate approvals, didn't cut any corners, made sure everything was done properly so we could assure the public that the vaccines are safe and indeed they are. And it's important that people take those opportunities to get those vaccines. And as we move towards the end of the year, it's up to all of us to go and join that national effort. And that's what I'm encouraging people to do, to look forward to get it done, particularly if you're in Sydney to abide by that lockdown. The sooner the lockdown works, the sooner we're out of the lockdown. That's the truth of that. And we've all got to push through, get tested, get vaccinated, stay at home if you're in Sydney and across the country, we can't be holding back either. That's why it's important the vaccination programme all around the country keeps pressing forward. 


BARR: But you can say that it was bad luck that the AstraZeneca didn't work out and now it's branding isn't that great, although I know it's a great vaccine. But while other countries like America were ordering one hundred million Pfizer in the middle of last year, we didn't put our order in until early this year, did we? 


PRIME MINISTER: Well, what we did is we went from 10 million to 20 million to 40 million and we were able to bring forward the Pfizer doses to a million a week earlier than we'd originally contracted. But, you know what, Nat now it's just about getting the job done.


BARR: Very late though.


PRIME MINISTER: I mean, no country gets everything right. And the vaccination programme is hitting the marks we need it to hit now. I think Australians, we just got to focus forward and get this job done, Nat. 


BARR: Are you sorry that it's happened like this, for mucking it up while other countries ... 


PRIME MINISTER: I made those remarks last week. 


BARR: We've got a rescue bill of a billion dollars a week and rising. The major banks are saying that 300 jobs are going to be lost in greater Sydney. People are on their knees in Sydney at the moment. This is a disaster. 


PRIME MINISTER: This is why we're providing that economic support in the same way we did last year. The Delta variant is not unique to Australia. It's impacting countries all around the world, regardless of where their vaccination programmes are. That's what's happening all around the world. So Australia is, is fighting this like any other country and will continue to do that. And where people need that support, they're getting it just like they have when they've needed it in the past. And those payments of $750 for more than 20 hours, $450 for less than 20 hours and $200 on top of welfare payments, where you have lost more than a day's work a week. That is what is going to help people through these difficult weeks and the next month ahead, just like it did last year and our economy bounced back incredibly strongly. You'll probably note that those countries that have had low death rates, those countries that have had low case rates are the same countries, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan. These same countries are the ones whose vaccination programmes are in similar space. And so when it comes to managing COVID, the table that is very important is a low number of deaths. And Australia has one of the lowest death rates in the world and it has one of the highest economic success rates in the world. And so now we're going for the third of those key achievements, and that is to ensure we get our population vaccinated. 


BARR: So those payments, the $750, will that be subject to tax? 


PRIME MINISTER: No, it won't and I've made that very clear this morning, back through the system, they won't be taxable. JobKeeper, by the way was. And we are treating this as a disaster in these areas where this has befallen people in the same way the payments that we make for bushfires and the payments we made for floods and other natural disasters, we are making these payments under that disaster payment framework. And so they are rolling out incredibly quickly, over $400 million already out the door. And in particular, those payments are getting made into cases of within a half an hour of people making applications. Now, next Tuesday is the day if you're on a pension or a JobSeeker payment or parenting payment or youth allowance, that you can start making those claims next Tuesday at Services Australia. If you're already receiving a disaster payment in Sydney, then your next payments will just be updated next week. You'll get the $600 payment this week and next week it'll go up to the $750 and $450. And for those viewers in Melbourne, your payment, your second payment on Friday that will be coming through. And if you're in South Australia, you've made your applications this week, those payments will be flowing through to you very, very shortly. 


BARR: Prime Minister, we know you've got to go. But one last thing. How good are our Aussie athletes? 


PRIME MINISTER: Oh, look it's wonderful. I think it's lifting the spirits of the nation and inspiring people. I spoke to the Titmus family last night to Robyn in particular and up there, and we had a great chat. And it's wonderful seeing all those families up there together in Queensland watching the Games. But I can tell you that they're both pretty, pretty happy Tasmanians as well. They're very, they may have adopted Queensland, but I can tell you they're pretty passionate Tasmanians. And we had a great chat about that yesterday. So Ariarne is just, you know, she's the Queen of the pool. But to our rowers, to everybody, they are just doing us incredibly proud. 


BARR: Yeah, such a long road for them. And it's great, all of our athletes are to be congratulated aren’t they. Thank you very much for joining us. 


PRIME MINISTER: Absolutely. All of them. 


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