This content relates to a former minister

Interview with Steve Price, of Triple M, 11 February 2022, on RATs and boosters

Read the transcript of Minister Gillespie's interview with Steve Price, of Triple M, 11 February 2022, on RATs and boosters.

The Hon Dr David Gillespie MP
Former Minister for Regional Health

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Dr David Gillespie, who's speaking at the regions, is the Regional Health Minister and Federal Nationals MP for Lyne. He's on the line. Good to talk to you again and happy new year.


Yeah, likewise, Steve. Great to be back.


How was Canberra?


Canberra was, as you know, a bit fractious this week. It brought back memories of doing night shift in hospitals, staying up all night, sitting in the Chamber, waiting for all the filibustering to wear off, and then we got to vote, passed the bill, and then they tried a backdoor amendment which got over the line which destroyed a lot of the benefit of the original bill. It opened yet another can of legal worms. You know how the lawyers have field days on these amendments but the ramifications of the amendment that the Labor Party snuck in with the help of the Member for Mayo, it's really neutered a lot of the benefits that 14 million people of faith in the country were relying on. I'm so disappointed but anyhow, we move on. We'll move on.


[Interrupts] Yeah, I'm going to talk to- I'm going to talk to Mark Spencer, the Director of Public Policy with the Christian Schools of Australia. He's been very strong tonight- overnight where he believes that it does leave people in a difficult situation. It does mean that you- the party, the Coalition, has had to break a Scott Morrison promise at the last election though. Do you think it's going to have any electoral impact, for example, on yourself re-standing for your seat? Do you- is it an issue in your area?


Look, it's an issue all around the country. I mean, the reason the Religious Discrimination Bill was being brought forward was because we had a two-year enquiry or so with Philip Ruddock and then we proposed legislation that went to the Senate and it got referred off to two committees. The committees recommended we bring it forward, so we brought it forward. And then like I said, this backdoor attack via a late third, you know, during the period of legislation called consideration in detail, they brought in these backdoor amendments which opened, like I said, another can of legal issues which we were lumped with. And we don't have enough time left in this political cycle to get all those analyses and the government solicitor’s advice about the ramifications.

That's what happens when you rush these last-minute things, sneak them in at the end of a long night and, yeah, the rest is history.

So, look, I'm focusing on the health portfolio. My people in the Lyne in the electorate are keen to make sure we keep opening. And the plan to treat the latest versions of Omicron, like flu, is music to my ears.

You know, it's been a huge wave running through the country. We've had over two million cases that are proven.

There's probably many, many more that weren't RAT test positive or PCR positive because you couldn't get the RAT test or the PCR up until the last couple of weeks.

And I think we've got so many people vaccinated, triple vaccinated, that if it puts its head up again, you'll either be immune because you've been exposed to it, or you'll be defended by the latest booster dose.

So, the natural history of these pandemics is they do mutate to weaker varieties over time and that's what Omicron is. Much more infectious but much weaker and it doesn't damage as many people's lungs and bodies as the Delta and all those other ones did.


We're talking to Federal Nationals MP, Dr David Gillespie. What are you hearing about the return to school in your areas, particularly, you know, the bigger communities like Port Macquarie and places like that? Has it gone okay?


Look, there's been a few hiccups, but the New South Wales Education Department got a pretty good distribution of RATs for their policies.

We've got pharmacies, we've got general practises delivering in that region, and there are a significant portion of all the kids that have availed themselves of the booster dose, but some haven't. But look, we're getting on with educating our kids. It has been a health pandemic that there has been economic and social and mental health ramifications with all these lockdowns, and we have got through it better than, you know, 98 per cent in the countries in the world.

We've had a few hiccups along the way. It's been very sad for lots of families who've lost their loved ones in the twilight years, brought forward their passing because of Delta and some from Omicron.

Compared to everyone else in the world, as a country, we've done well. And now kids are feeling much better because they're not locked up at home, they're meeting with their friends, they're getting all the social development and mental health relief of having friends. But, you know, humans love hanging out with other humans, not being locked up in your house.

So, businesses, tourism, we want to get back to normal, but we've done it in a safe way and looking forward to things getting better.


How are the regional aged care facilities coping with getting boosters into the arms of older Australians?


Look, there's over 2,500 residential aged care facilities, and all of them have been visited and had vaccines offered to them. Like, you're talking 100 per cent. There might be some people who declined it, but, again, compared to other places. But the nature of this Omicron thing, as I've said on the early shows, it's infectiousness, the way it can be transmitted, is four to five times easier to transmit it than it was for, say, Delta or for the Alpha and the early versions.

Likewise, the whole aged care system has been under pressure because we had outbreaks all over the place, but an outbreak might just be one case.

But some of them were a real stretch. We've had to get private hospital staff into nursing homes. We've offered Australian Defence Force health teams to help as well. But in terms of vaccine rollout, it's been priority number one at the federal government and as I said, we've got these high vaccination rates of boosters in aged care.


Good to catch up again. We'll talk to you next week.


Okay, Steve.


Good on you, David.

MINISTER GILLESPIE: My pleasure, Steve.


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