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Canberra Press Conference, 5 February 2022, Minister Hunt and Professor McMillan, on vaccination rate updates and Medical Research Future Fund

Read the transcript of Minister Hunt and Professor Alison McMillan at the Canberra Press Conference, 5 February 2022, Minister Hunt and Professor McMillan, on vaccination rate updates and Medical Research Future Fund.

The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Former Minister for Health and Aged Care

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General public

GREG HUNT:         

Welcome everybody, I’m joined by the Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer of Australia, and I'm pleased to be able to report that Australia has now passed the 95 per cent vaccination rate for everybody 12-plus right across the country.

This this puts us right at the forefront of the highest global vaccination rates. And just to repeat, 95 per cent of Australians 12 and over have had a first vaccination.

Very significantly, over the course of today, we will also pass one million children between five and 11 years of age who've been vaccinated. And that of and in itself, with approximately 44 per cent of children having had their first vaccination, is also one of the highest rates in the world.

So, I want to thank Australians for coming forward and continuing to be vaccinated, continuing to be boosted. In particular, what we are seeing is a decrease in pressure on ICU. So, in our intensive care units, we have had a significant reduction in the total number of people.

We had a peak on the January 19, of 424 people. We now have 315 people in intensive care on yesterday's figures, and that's a reduction of 109 or approximately 25 per cent. So, a quarter reduction in the number of people.

And each case is obviously a matter of great concern for the families involved, but for the country as a whole and for the system to have seen a peak on the January 19, which was significantly below many of the predictions in December, indeed, below the not just the worst case, but below the best case predictions and now to have dropped again.

Well below that, I think, is an important cause of hope for all Australians because the critical thing has been maintaining the capacity of our system. So as every person who needs to be treated can be treated.

We have never seen in Australia the terrible and tragic circumstances that we've seen in other countries of people being unable to receive support for their COVID-19 treatment, their care, their ICU or ventilation needs. And what we have seen is the absolute peak in numbers.

And yet our ICU system has held strong. Our hospitals have been tested. There's no doubt about that. But to see that reduction of 25 per cent from the peak to now, I think is an important part. Heartening sign both for the health system, for the health of individuals and for the country as a whole.

Nevertheless, one of the things we're always focussed on is helping to take the pressure off emergency departments. Telehealth, now with over 92 million consultations, has been an important part of that, but it's also significant to assist with systemic reform.

And today I'm announcing that we are commencing a national program to look at systemic reform for new innovations to reduce the pressure on our emergency departments.

We'll be opening a program for eight national pilot research initiatives for reducing pressures on emergency departments. One in every state or territory, with up to $3 million in funds being available for each of those, hence the $24 million.

And under this Medical Research Future Fund initiative, we're looking at things such as urgent care triage centres, nurse led initiatives, and Alison might add more on that. Looking at some of the best of the models from around the world to complement and support that which is already occurring in our emergency departments.

Across the country, just in terms of vaccinations, we've had 248,000 vaccinations in the in the last 24 hours and we're now at 1.55 million approximately over the last seven days. And all up where it almost 51 million. Today we’ll pass the 51 million mark, and we have a first dose rate of 95.7 per cent, and second dose rate of almost 93.7 per cent. So that gap between the two has been closing and closing and closing.

The boosters, over 200,000 yesterday, to now well over eight million and approximately 53 per cent of the eligible population. So, the boosters are also at the forefront of global uptake, but we want to encourage people to continue to come- to continue to come forward.

With our children, today we will pass one million vaccinations amongst our five to 11 in only a matter of weeks. The 44 per cent rate is one of the highest rates in the world, but we want to continue to encourage parents and children to come forward to have that conversation.

There are spaces available, whether it's in general practises, whether it's in pharmacies or whether it is in state and Commonwealth clinics in particular. There's significant capacity available in the state clinics.

And so wherever you can have your child booked in, please continue to do that and help protect them. It can help protect their classmates. It can help protect mum or dad or in particular, grandma or grandpa.

So each of us can play that role. And just giving children that confidence, I think, is really important that it's safe, it's effective, and that it can help protect them.

Eliza, happy to take any questions.




Oh, I apologise. Professor McMillan, Professor McMillan first.


Thank you, Minister. I think, just in, in your announcement today around the investment in emergency departments, I think we know for a very long time that emergency departments have been based on excellent team based care.

Our emergency departments provide some of the highest quality care in the world and their work continuously to provide that timely, high quality care. I particularly welcome your commentary around further opportunities for nurses to lead care.

We know that this has been successful for a very long time, but we continue to innovate and find new and better ways to care for patients, often in extreme circumstances when they're presented emergency departments.

So this is an exciting opportunity to continue to deliver the highest possible care to those, as I say, often in extreme need.

Thank you, Minister.


Great. Thanks, Alison.


All right. Minister Scott Morrison has now been called a horrible person, a psycho, a fraud, a liar and a hypocrite from people close to him. If they don't trust him, why should the Australian people trust him?


Look, I think the strongest reason to believe in this government, to believe in the prime minister, as I do deeply and absolutely, is the fact that over the course of this pandemic, in a world which has suffered agonisingly, we’ve had one of the highest rates of vaccination, one of the lowest rates of loss of life and one of the strongest economic recoveries.

I believe in the PM, personally, I believe in his capacities. And of all of the people to lead the recovery, he and Josh Frydenberg, I think, are the strongest possible team Australia could have.


Back to those text messages, should Barnaby Joyce resign now?


He’s apologised and it’s been fully accepted, and I think that’s the start, and that’s, I think, how it should be seen. An apology, a full acceptance, and they continue to work together incredibly well.

Only this week helping to put together the land bridge for Western Australia, to put together the work to protect the South Australian areas that have been affected by floods, working with Steven Marshall and his team.

Working right around the country on making sure that the logistics are in place to support the delivery of goods and services during the course of the peak of the Omicron wave.


[Inaudible] the Prime Minister, though, if the person standing next to him thinks he’s a liar and a hypocrite.


No, I think he’s addressed that this morning, and I’ve addressed that.


Can Scott Morrison repair his image before the election with such serious questions about his character?


Well, firstly, I respectfully but categorically don’t accept the proposition about that. This is somebody who is a good man, in whom I believe deeply and profoundly, and who has worked night and day to help protect this country.

And when you stand at the start of the pandemic and look forwards, imagine a world in which we’ve seen well over 300 million cases, in which we’ve seen over five and a half million lives lost globally, officially, and well over 10 million in reality, if not significantly more.

Then, to look at a country which has not gone through this without pain and loss and tragedy, but which does have one of the lowest losses of lives in the world and one of the highest vaccination rates and strongest recoveries.

That’s something which has protected Australia in a way which almost every other country would seek to have replicated, and the person who has most driven, been most responsible for, protecting lives in Australia, above any other person, is Scott Morrison.


Can you give a guarantee today that you’ve never privately criticised the Prime Minister in conversations with anyone?




You’ve never had any bad words to say about the Prime Minister?


Firstly, I actually believe in him, and everybody works through ideas. But honestly, this is somebody who is a deep personal friend, somebody that I believe in, and with whom I also serve in a Cabinet, and I’m immensely proud to serve alongside and to support and work with the PM.

He’s one of the finest human beings I’ve ever had the opportunity to meet or work with. And I say that as having worked with many people, and parliament is a place where you have those that come with the highest of aspirations in many cases, and some who have different approaches.

But the PM, as a person, as an individual, Scott Morrison, as a person and as an individual, in all my experiences is one of the finest people I’ve ever had the opportunity to know or to work with, and I count him as a friend. I expect to count him as a friend for my entire life.


Minister, can you agree that the Coalition is in chaos?




When the Deputy Prime Minister has had this to say about the Prime Minister the week before parliament resumes, months out from an election, it’s not a good look. Can you concede that?


Look, I think every one of us, I suspect that there may have been people in the gallery who from time to time might have had thoughts about others or said or done things which they would subsequently review.

The really interesting thing is the strength of the partnership. I’ve often said that, in my view, this is the most unified cabinet since the early 1960s.

The partnership between the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, arguably, has few parallels in terms of the strength of the relationship and the common purpose and unity, since federation.

And I know this having served in many Cabinets, having served in many different Shadow Cabinets. And to see that relationship and that strength and to see the common purpose.

What’s our task? Our task is to focus on the Australian people. And that’s literally what we do. And so that is the real thing that I take away from this.

You know, it can be tough and challenging dealing with the pandemic, and for everybody that creates pressures. For families, that creates pressures.

But our task is not just to keep people safe, but to deliver the recovery, and that recovery in terms of jobs, in terms of systems, in terms of economic opportunities, that will not ever be, in my view, in any stronger hands than in Scott Morrison’s hands.

Of all the different people, he’s the person, if I were starting with a blank slate, joined by Josh Frydenberg, that I would want to be leading the country over the coming two years. They’re certainly the ones I would have wanted to have led it in the last two years.

And they’re the same two people who are best equipped, in my judgement, to lead the country through the recovery, to give people opportunities, and through the immense national security challenges that not just Australia, but the world, is facing over the coming years.


The Prime Minister’s personal polling is already in bad shape. Could this latest leaked text cost the Coalition the next election?


No, I don’t see it that way.


How distracting will it be as Parliament returns this week?


Not for me, not for us.


Thanks, Minister.


Thank you everybody, take care.

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