Date published: 
14 October 2021
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Before we go, David Gillespie is the Minister for Regional Health, and a National, and he joins us now. Welcome.

DAVID GILLESPIE:

Hi PK. Pleased to be with you again.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Victoria has recorded its highest case numbers, 2,297 cases. What is the Government's advice on when vaccination rates will kick in to try and stabilise these numbers which are obviously alarming many?

DAVID GILLESPIE:

Look, it is disappointing but not totally surprising. What we've seen with Delta is that it does- when it gets a community transmission going, it's very hard to suppress, unlike the first wave. But look, they're up there, they're catching up with New South Wales. Once they get over the 80 per cent, you should start to see things dropping off, like we have seen in New South Wales. Obviously, the second dose gives much better coverage but I think it has got a little way to run before we'll see go down the other side of the curve. It's been demonstrated, like in Wilcannia or in the Sydney outbreak, that surging vaccination rates flattened the curve along with reducing transmission and all of those other social distancing and all those other isolation techniques. They all contribute to bringing the epidemic under control. Long-term, vaccination rates will reduce long-term spread and reduce the severity of any illness of those who do get the unlucky occurrence of getting an infection.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Let's talk about Wilcannia. There are now zero active cases of COVID-19 in the New South Wales town after local health authorities declared the last two infected people free of the virus. So it's really great news. What lessons can be learned from that massive achievement?

DAVID GILLESPIE:

Well, it is something to be really complimented. There was a team effort, literally, with the Flying Doctor Service, with local GPs, the aboriginal medical service, the AUSMAT teams, the military ADF vaccination teams, many people helped. And the State Government turned up with a fleet of mobile homes to improve the isolation of those that were affected and separate infected from uninfected.

So the lesson I think is it would have been so much better if they'd had a higher vaccination rate. And the same in Dubbo. Because they have a young, a very young population, it spread very quickly. And what the Indigenous community learned there was that a lot of the stories they had heard on Facebook were not right, they accepted it, their leaders got on board, and we got community acceptance. So you've had a good outcome. And for those states that have been reluctant or a bit complacent, it will eventually get into your areas. Western New South Wales thought, oh it's only a problem in Sydney or down in Melbourne. No, eventually COVID will make its way to the next human being that hasn't got any immune protection.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:    

I just want to talk you finally about the net zero emissions debate that we're having. The Prime Minister is preparing a new climate change strategy that's expected to set a target of net zero emissions by 2050. There's lots of reports, as you know, about the Nationals opposing this internally. Do you think that the Government should land on a deal on net zero emissions by 2050?

DAVID GILLESPIE:

Well, we have a plan now which is much more immediate and that's the 2030 target.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

[Talks over] No that wasn't my question. I'm going to interrupt; I've only got a couple of minutes left. 2050 net zero, do you think the Nationals, with whatever price tag you may put on it, should land at a deal on that?

DAVID GILLESPIE:

Well look, I don't think it is a price tag that we're putting on it. We just want a policy that won't disadvantage the whole nation. Some people have said they are just worried about regional Australia. I have some concerns about unintended consequences of this target, which could destroy the livelihoods of many industries, including our energy system, reduce agriculture, reduce mining, all the [indistinct].

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

[Talks over] But indeed the National Farmers' Federation, the actual National Farmers' Federation want you to sign up to net zero emissions by 2050. There are key voices now who want you do it. Will the Nationals do a deal and land at 2050 net zero emissions?

DAVID GILLESPIE:

Well we'll certainly consider what is put before us and I like many others in the party, are waiting to see what has been proposed. Because at the moment, it's just a catch phrase. I mean I know everyone's piling on and just shouting…

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

[Interrupts] It's not just a catch phrase. But that's not- there's tangible things that will happen to reduce emissions. It's not just a catch phrase at all. It's about saying…

DAVID GILLESPIE:

[Talks over] Which we support.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

…we need to actually deal with fossil fuels. That's what we're talking about here.

DAVID GILLESPIE:

But what we're concerned about is if you're going to shut down fossil fuels, you will need a replacement source of energy that is available 24 hours a day seven days a week. That's why we keep saying, because we've got nuclear that's off-limits, we have to rely on something that is available to the country and that is cold. And using the high efficiency versions of coal fired power stations, modern ones with carbon capture and storage, you can abate 90 per cent of the CO2 and other greenhouse gases that come out of it. So technology can address some of this imperative to reduce the dependence or the effect of fossil fuels on the atmosphere. Now if you can use it with technology, that is really good, because it means we still could have heavy manufacturing, we could still have cheap, available electricity for the whole country.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

[Talks over] So could the Nationals- could the Coalition split on this issue still? Could the Nationals walk away from this if Scott Morrison pushes for net zero by 2050?

DAVID GILLESPIE:

I don't think that is being countenanced. We will sort it out. But we have got to see what is on offer first. If you remember, we went to an election last election with reports that…

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

2019, a long time ago.

DAVID GILLESPIE:

Yeah, I know. A lot of changes in a week in politics let alone three years. But the analysis then was that it was going to cost several hundred thousand jobs and $350 billion in taxes. I know we are investing in seeing about the feasibility of hydrogen but there's two ways you make it. By electrolysis which takes lots of energy or by methane reforming using gas and coal and then theoretically using carbon capture and storage. So these are all technologies that we can do to address the biggest source of our greenhouse gases. We support all those things that the beef industry, that soil carbon...

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

[Talks over] Okay. We're nearly out of time Minister.

DAVID GILLESPIE:

Okay, well thanks PK.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Yeah, sorry, short of time. David Gillespie there, the Minister for Regional Health.