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Interview with Steve Price from Around Australia, Triple M on 8 September 2021

Read the transcript of Minister Gillespie’s interview with Steve Price from Around Australia, Triple M on 8 September 2021.

The Hon Dr David Gillespie MP
Former Minister for Regional Health

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General public

STEVE PRICE: David Gillespie is the Minister for Regional health. His seat, of course, is Lyne, not far off Port Macquarie, bit further north. How are you, Minister?

MINISTER GILLESPIE: I'm very good, Steve. And how are you?

STEVE PRICE: Here's from me giving people technical advice, which is probably not the smartest thing to do. But I did at the weekend download my Medicare app; gave me my vaccination history.

I got my daughter, by the way, to then put it into my Apple Wallet, it's there. I don't have to log on or off. It seemed to me to be a fairly simple, and I imagine you could put your partner's vaccination history on the same device, couldn't you?

MINISTER GILLESPIE: I think if you had it sent to your phone, you could. Yeah, the Apple Wallet is a pretty amazing bit of technology because I understand it can be read by a smart reader.


MINISTER GILLESPIE: Whereas if you've just got a photo in your photos, it's visually readable by someone reading it, but not necessarily by a smart reader. So Apple Wallet is a good way. You don't have to have 4G or internet coverage, you just call it up on your phone.

STEVE PRICE: Very positive comments from the Prime Minister yesterday about vaccination passports. Now, clearly, given your ministerial responsibilities for Regional Health, everyone wants to be cautious. We don't want to be seen to have COVID spreading to the regions. But there are regions of New South Wales and Victoria that are currently undergoing COVID outbreaks that have had no COVID for a long time. Should we be opening up region by region?

MINISTER GILLESPIE: I think it is a nuanced decision. Each state will have their own nuances, but I take the previous caller's points about no cases. But at the same time, there were no cases but an awful lot of positive sewerage tests.

So I think that factored into New South Wales decision making and all these arguments we take into National Cabinet, but the way the public health orders and the Constitution runs is the states have the constitutional power and always have had it, didn't just get it with National Cabinet. They behaved the same way back in 1919, '20 and '21, they put up all these barriers. So the vaccination is the way out.

It is ramping up around Australia, you know, 21.5 million doses, almost 300,000 in the last 24 hours and some of the highest rates for vaccination on the north coast of New South Wales are actually in the previous listener's area, in the Port Macquarie-Hastings district. So that's really encouraging.

STEVE PRICE: The Victorian Premier's complaining about vaccinations theft by New South Wales, Greg Hunt then put him back in his place. I would have thought that given New South Wales outbreak was the worst currently, then there would be a greater level of vaccination supply going into that state. It didn't seem to me that anybody is deliberately and we've got, you know, Lieutenant General Frewen in charge of the vaccination rollout. I wouldn't have thought he would have been looking after one state over another. And it's a national fight, isn't it?

MINISTER GILLESPIE: Exactly, Steve. You're right on the argument there.

Everyone has to move their resources where the outbreaks are, that is a tactical decision. Every day, every week, there are nuances and recalibrations being made depending on the size of any outbreak.

And there have been, during that massive outbreak in Sydney, they have suppressed the peak of it, they flattened the curve by both vaccination and testing, treating, isolation and quarantining.

So look, it will get readjusted. Already, Victoria's received 300,000 additional doses and there's another 1.3 million doses from the Polish, Singapore and UK agreements that will be going into Victoria.

And likewise, you know, Queensland got extra doses out of that same extra bring forward from overseas. But you've got to put your forces where the outbreaks are.

You know, Generals understand that. We understand that in the Health portfolio. It is a fluid situation. But in the long run, every state will get their allocation and as I said, corrections, now that they have got the rollout to a very- much better situation, both in western New South Wales and in Sydney, these catch up doses will make their way through the system. And there's another 1,900 GPs getting Pfizer in regional Australia in the coming weeks.

STEVE PRICE: I was just going to mention that - the enthusiastic uptake by GPs is all important for us to continue to get this rollout moving ahead at a rapid pace because many people, as you would know as well as anybody, are very trusting of their local GP, and that's where they would prefer to go and get a vaccination.

MINISTER GILLESPIE: Yes, that pre-existing relationship and trust is important, particularly if people want to ask questions, but we've also got it rolling out through community pharmacies.

They have had AstraZeneca but coming forward in late September, we plan to have Moderna arriving in the country, which will be run out through community pharmacies, and there's about 3,000 of them around the nation that are already signed up. And they are in regional Australia, really important, because they have, you know, walk-in bookings, walk-in vaccinations as well as your local GP. And of course, the jurisdictions, the states will be continuing with their bigger clinics and through their hospitals.

So it's a multi-pronged attack and the flying doctor service, I just looked at their figures. They've done an amazing job out there in Far Western New South Wales and around the country.

They're doing it in all the states, and they've delivered about 22,000 vaccinations into people's arms around the most remote areas of New South Wales and the other states as well.

STEVE PRICE: Just finally, with your local federal MPs hat on - you represent some of the best tourist destinations in Australia, Forster, Hawks Nest places like that, South West Rocks. Would you not like to see parts of regional New South Wales off the coast opened up to be able to come to the coast and support those businesses over, particularly the upcoming September, October school holidays?

MINISTER GILLESPIE: Depends on the vaccination rate. I would. I would. I want to do safely. I have not only some of the best tourist destinations, I have the most senior cohort of Australians in the country.

They're all very wise. They're keen and they've told me that they expect them to be vaccinated as well as, you know, their kids and grandkids who may well come from other parts of the state to visit in these holidays. But that decision will be made by New South Wales when we have a uniform uptake of vaccination on that 70, 80 per cent framework model.

And we all want to have our normal life back. The restrictions that we've put up with are temporary whilst we get people vaccinated so we can open up. There will still be cases. We've got treatment for the disease now available in hospitals.

We've got extra hospital capability lined up if it's needed. But what we've seen overseas is once you get widespread high rates of vaccination, you might have cases, but you're not getting sick people, not the really sick people, like in the first wave in Victoria, where the elderly were just being- succumbing to a really nasty illness.

With vaccination, we haven't seen that same thing overseas or here with these outbreaks. It's really only the people at great risk are those that are unvaccinated. That's why vaccination is so important.

STEVE PRICE: Great to catch up again. Thanks for your help.

MINISTER GILLESPIE: Okay, Steve. My pleasure. Any time.

STEVE PRICE: Dr David Gillespie there, the Minister for Regional Health.

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