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The Prime Minister's interview with Neil Breen, 4BC

  • Written by Neil Breen and Scott Morrison


NEIL BREEN: Good morning to you, Prime Minister.



PRIME MINISTER: G’day, Neil.



BREEN: So, we bought 300,000 doses of this. It doesn't seem many, but I suppose we're waiting for the TGA to give it the tick.



PRIME MINISTER: Well, when you think that only 113,000 people in Australia have actually contracted COVID in the last two years, 300,000 doses - that's courses, I should say, because there’s 10 tablets in a course.



BREEN: Oh, ok.



PRIME MINISTER: Almost triple the number of people who've contracted COVID in the past two years. And that's in addition to Sotrovimab and Remdesivir, which are the current treatments that are used, and they're done in the hospitals. There’s about, over 30,000 courses of that, for Sotrovimab, and then more for Remdesivir. But, the new drug, Molnupiravir, as you say, it’s a tablet, so you don't have to go to hospital for it. You can get it from the pharmacist, if it's prescribed. You can have it at home. It stops you developing that serious illness that can put you in an ICU. But, what I want to stress is, though, the best protection against COVID is the vaccine. That is the first, that is the first way to ensure that you're protected, and that will reduce your chance of ending up in an ICU by 86 per cent, and 90 per cent on fatalities. So, the vaccine is number one. But, for those who do contract it, that means it will reduce the pressure on hospital systems for those who actually can still contract the virus into the future. It still has a couple of months of clinical trials to go in the United States, but the results have been very positive. And, as you say, because it's a tablet and you don't have the cold chain storage refrigeration issues, any of that, it just shows how the medical science is moving very quickly to help us live with this virus. And, so, it's important that we get on and live with the virus because, you know, we've got to move on as a country. The National Plan enables us to achieve that, once we particularly hit 80 per cent. New South Wales is doing very well, and we'd love to see Queensland and other states see those vaccination rates increase.



BREEN: Well, I think, when you talk about vaccination rates, Prime Minister, you copped a lot of heat about the rollout of vaccinations, but the story today in Australia truly is astonishing. Ninety five per cent of over 70s had a first dose, 95 per cent. Almost 80 per cent have had a second dose. That's the most vulnerable - over 70s. Then 90 per cent of over 50s have had a first dose. I doubted that we’d get to 80. We're going to sail past 80 in Australia.



PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think we will get above 80 per cent and it'll keep growing. And I think Australia will end up having one of the, one of the higher vaccination rates anywhere in the world, eventually. And, look, we had to overcome some challenges. There's no doubt about that. Early on, those doses didn't turn up from overseas. Then we had those who were, you know, talking down AstraZeneca, and even some suggesting that people shouldn’t even take it, which was really devastating for vaccination rates. But, we turned that around. And, you know, I take responsibility for the challenges we had, and I said that at the time. I said I'd get it fixed, and we have got it fixed, because we're basically back now where we hoped to have been, pretty much, by this time of the year when we started the vaccination program. And today we'll go past, we expect, 80 per cent first dose vaccinations right around the country. And, of course, you know, in New South Wales, they're up at almost 90 per cent now, on first doses. So, people are really responding and I really want to encourage people right across Brisbane, right across south east Queensland and the whole state, to keep going and get those vaccinations, because we want to see the country open up. We want to reunite people with their family. We want people to be able to travel overseas. I mean, next month, New South Wales, Australians and residents, will be able to travel overseas and return. People who are overseas, Australians and residents, they'll be able to fly back into Sydney next month. I'd love to see that happening in Queensland, and I'd love people to be able to take a holiday in Queensland and before they can take one overseas. But, it would seem that they’ll get the chance in Fiji or Bali before they will in Queensland at the moment.



BREEN: Well, the crazy situation is, Prime Minister, that people in New South Wales will be able to travel overseas and back. Yet Queenslanders who are interstate, and we’ve brought many stories here to 4BC Breakfast, and the media in Queensland has, about Queenslanders who lost loved ones interstate, who are stuck interstate, are not able to return to their own state. As Prime Minister, how do you feel about the fact that people can't even go back to their home in this country at the moment?



PRIME MINISTER: Well, I'm devastated by it. I mean, we've worked hard to save lives, over 30,000 lives saved. We've worked hard to save livelihoods. A million people have been able to get back into work since COVID started. But, I want people to have their lives back. That's what I want, and that's what the National Plan is designed to achieve. That's what getting to 80 per cent vaccination rates and a soft opening at 70 per cent is designed to achieve. That's the deal, and I'm going to keep my side of the deal with Australians on this, and it's important that we’re able to move forward. Sure, that comes with, you know, that comes with some changes, and yes, there will be additional pressure in, particularly in the short term, as we move through that. But, we have to move through it and we will get through it. The Chief Health Officer in Queensland made that very clear, that their system can cope. And, you know, we've increased our funding to hospitals up in Queensland significantly, ever since we came to Government. We've increased our funding to hospitals in Queensland, since we came to Government, by 99.2 per cent.



BREEN: But, our Premier still wants more money. She’s saying that it's up to you to give her more money.



PRIME MINISTER: Well, we're not going to respond to shakedowns in a pandemic. And, you know, what we've done is we've showered the states in money, whether it's in JobKeeper and economic support payments. The Federal Government, and not to mention partnering on the Olympics 50-50, the infrastructure funding. We've been stepping up. Now, we’re living up to our responsibilities. I said we've increased hospital funding by 99.3 per cent, 99.2 per cent. Over the same period, the State Government has increased it by 55.3 per cent. Now, they’ve had 18 months, two years to get ready for this. I welcome the comments by the Chief Health Officer there that says they’re ready. The work that we've seen shows that the Queensland hospital system can deal with this, but it's important that we move forward, because we've got to bring the country together. There's the opportunity to do that. Vaccination is the path. Queenslanders are getting on with that and I'm just encouraging them to keep doing it, and they've got to have the encouragement which says, okay, we get vaccinated, that should mean we're able to do the things we used to do.



BREEN: Yeah, because the messages have been conflicting. The Premier says we're not ready. The Deputy Premier Steven Miles said the hospitals are ready. Jeannette Young, as you said, were that we're ready. The AMA Queensland’s holding crisis meetings today about the ramping in in Queensland hospitals. They're saying we're not ready. So, whenever these problems are around, everyone turns to you in Canberra and says, you fix it, Prime Minister.



PRIME MINISTER: Well, public hospitals are the responsibility of the Queensland Government, and what was it, Queensland hospitals are for Queenslanders, I think the Premier said. And, but, you know, they're funded, you know, jointly by Federal and state governments. But, look, I have confidence that they can deal with this, and they've got to obviously set their priorities and make sure that they're providing support needed in the hospitals. And, if they, you know, they need to increase funding there, from their own resources, I mean, they're in the same position to borrow money as the Federal Government, if that's what they believe they need to do. But, we've provided considerable support right across the pandemic, which I'm sure Queenslanders understand, because they, you know, they received JobKeeper, they received the economic supports. And we just announced some more supports most recently with the Queensland Government, supporting into the tourism sector, particularly down into that, in that Gold Coast region, where they've been so hit by the borders. So, we've been stepping up and look, I believe that Queensland will be able to deal with those pressures based on what, as you say, what Janet has said. And I think we've got to get on with it and move forward, but we can't allow, sort of, shakedowns to occur on funding. That's politics. What needs to be done is just getting on with the job, and we're certainly doing that and we've provided, you know, considerable, incredible support over a long period of time.



BREEN: Politics plays with climate change as well. It's a big issue for you. The Glasgow Climate Summit is coming up. Are you going to attend?



PRIME MINISTER: Well, we haven't made a final decision on that. Australia will, of course, be represented at that Summit. I note that the New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is also not attending. She's going to make her contribution in other ways. I mean, she's got things to deal with back in New Zealand - the APEC Summit, they’re still dealing with COVID. I mean, it's going to be a very important time, and the point I'd make to Australians is this: the first people I need to explain what we're doing on this issue is to Australians, not people overseas. I need to explain to Australians our plan for how we can go forward to this new energy economy, the risks that are there that we're trying to deal with, and make sure that we will remain competitive over the next generation and more. I mean, the world is changing, and we've got to ensure that we put Australia in the strongest possible position to keep our jobs, to keep our industries, and to ensure our regions, in particular, are able to be brought through what is a global change that's occurring. So, the people I'm most interested in aren't overseas when it comes to this issue, it’s people in Australia, and I want to ensure that I'm in a position to be able to explain to them about how our plans work. And, on top of that, at that time of year, we'll be dealing with opening up, issues around COVID, international travel starting, bringing people home, students. There’ll be a lot on here. So, I've already been out of the country a few times this year. I’ve, in the last 12 months I've spent about 50 days in quarantine, and I've got another week to go now. So, you know, we've got to prioritise where's the best place for me to be. But, Australia will definitely be represented at a very senior level. It's an important conference, but equally, you know, we've got to make the judgements about where my responsibilities are first and foremost, and that’s to the Australian people.



BREEN: Maybe you can quarantine at home for seven days with a negative test. That's where we're heading, aren’t we?



PRIME MINISTER: Well, yeah, home quarantine is what's going to enable international travel to start, because you can do that at scale. I mean, hotel quarantine has a use by date on it and, unless you're unvaccinated, that will continue. That will continue in New South Wales, by the way, for those Australian residents or citizens. They'll be caps still on unvaccinated returns to Australia, but very soon in New South Wales - love to see this happen in Queensland, I think it’ll happen in Victoria second - there will be the lifting of caps for people to return to Australia, as Australians, if they're, if they're vaccinated. And I'm looking forward to that, because it's very hard to get people home under these circumstances and a lot of them want to come home, particularly for Christmas. I'd love it if they could fly into Brisbane for Christmas. But, really, that's up to getting to those vaccination rates up to 80 per cent, and having a home quarantine model in place and working in Queensland.



BREEN: Prime Minister Scott Morrison, thanks for your time this Morning on 4BC Breakfast.


PRIME MINISTER: Thanks a lot, Neil. All the best.

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