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Interview with Steve Price from Australia Today, Triple M with an update on COVID-19

Read the transcript of Minister Gillespie's interview with Steve Price from Australia Today, Triple M with an update on COVID-19.

The Hon Dr David Gillespie MP
Former Minister for Regional Health

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The Regional Health Minister and Federal MP for Lyne, Dr David Gillespie is a regular on the program. He’s sick and tired, as the most of us are, of going in and out of lockdowns. We managed to get him on the program. Dr Gillespie, good to talk again.


G’day Steve. How are you?


Oh, I read the list out earlier, mate, of the LGAs now in lockdown in regional New South Wales. It’s longer than my arm.


Yeah, it is very frustrating but it is part of New South Wales’ plan. They did say if cases popped up before they got to the 70 and 80 per cent benchmark, they would have short targeted lockdowns, which is really infuriating for businesses.

They just get going and then they get whacked back down. But look, when we do get to that 70 and 80 per cent, I encourage everyone to get their jab, if they haven't booked in.

Now there's still a core of people who are a bit reluctant. Sure, it's their right. But as I say to all of them, we can't keep doing this.

We have got to get Australia back again. We've got to get businesses working. We've got to get families and kids going to school and we've got to get normal life as close as we can, going again because it’s not sustainable in the long term.


Few people have tossed up some pretty good ideas, one of which I support and think’s great, is if you are going to book in for that long awaited haircut or you want to go and get your nails done or you want to get a physio appointment or whatever, particularly in regional areas, pre-book it and pre-pay so that when everything opens up, they're ready to go, the traders, because they haven't had any cash flow. That's not a bad idea, I think.


Yeah, prepaying or paying it forward is not a bad idea at all. In fact, I'll start promoting it.


You can pinch that; any time you like.


And I'll say Steve Price came up with the idea.


No, no. Steal it. Make it your idea and then people will take notice.


Yeah, okay. Look, you were just referring to those horrible scenes in Victoria. You're right on the money. There were so many shiny, brand new fluoro vests there.

Half of them looked like they'd never stepped onto a building site.

All the builders in my area are pretty much on board. People realise that, particularly in Victoria, these building sites, some of them were super spreader events.

So they have had to restrict their building activity. But throughout the year and a half of pandemic shutdowns, the building industry has actually got through pretty, pretty well compared to, say, hospitality, tourism, travel agents and all these other industries that have really been under the pump.


What do you- what do you make of the return to education? I mean, obviously you're a Federal Minister, but the state government there has laid out a pretty concise plan on getting children back to school. Is it, do you believe, quick enough, urgent enough? And are- is the community accepting that that's what's got to be done in that staggered way?


Well, as you pointed out, the states are deciding these things. We don't run the government schools in any state. We support financially, both sides, the government and non-government schools.

Children, fortunately, don't suffer severe illness as much as adults and more senior Australians. And in fact, some exposure of the virus in kids will give them lifelong immunity. But unfortunately, they can transmit it to adults who then get really sick.

So there is a logic in vaccinating them. But I want people to understand that the chance of a really sick young person with a viral COVID infection is quite a different illness in the way it behaves compared to how it plays out in young adults and older adults.


How are you going with vaccine supply in your seat?


We, in my seat, it's a big area, but the vaccination rates in the local government areas that straddle the Lyne electorate are actually pretty good.

Some of them are better than metro. You know, the Port Macquarie-Hastings local government area is a standout. But north, it is really important, up in some of the other areas, in Kempsey, which has gone back into lockdown, is that the complacency about vaccinations has gone out the window and people are lining up now. States, north, in Queensland and in the west, there has been a bit of complacency because they've had so many long lockdowns. They couldn't see the benefit in vaccination. But I can tell you, the virus knows no boundaries.

Any state or area that thinks they're going to escape the virus, are deluding themselves. It's just a question of when it gets there and the best protection is to have your double vaccination. So get yourself a booking, go to a clinic or a pop-up or a booked general practice or pharmacy.

We have enrolled 3,600 pharmacies around the country with the Moderna turning up. At the end of this week, there’ll be 1,800 that will have received their first doses of Moderna.

And then, in a week's time, another 1,800.

So if you haven't been able to get into your general practice, there's always the pharmacy outlets.

You know, in the western part of New South Wales, we've developed a paradigm to cover these areas through the Flying Doctor Service, the AUSMAT teams and the military medical teams, they and the Aboriginal medical services all have the vaccine. And in those areas that haven't got the rates up, people have got to get on board because we will follow the national plan because as I said at the start, continual lockdowns is not sustainable.

It's a part of a plan at the moment, but that's only while we're getting up to the 70 and 80 per cent vaccination rates.


Great to catch up again. Thanks for your time again, Doctor.


My pleasure, Steve.

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