Now, we know politics is rough and the last few weeks in Canberra have been chaotic. But there was a moment yesterday that put things into perspective.
The long-time MP and Minister, Greg Hunt, announced his retirement. Greg Hunt has been the Member for Flinders in Victoria for 20 years. He’s also had the impossible task of being the Federal Health Minister during a worldwide pandemic.
But in the end he made that choice that a lot of us can relate to. Family first.
And I am so immensely proud of Poppy, who is going into Year 11, and James, who is about to go into senior school. They said to me on Sunday, they looked at me and said, dad, this is your last chance to be a proper dad. It’s time to come home dad.
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That hits you. Anyone with kids will understand why. He also praised his wife, Paula, for raising their children virtually as a single mum while he was away in Parliament.
Greg Hunt, the outgoing Federal Health Minister, is live on the line. Greg Hunt, good morning.
And good morning, Ben.
That hit me in a place where you get hit when you’re a dad and you understand how important it is when you’ve got a beautiful wife and some lovely children.
Congratulations on that speech yesterday.
Oh, look, thank you very much. I’m very blessed. You know, I have the most amazing family, the most supportive family.
But as I said yesterday, you know, I love the work that I do, I love and believe in the Parliament and the country, but you’re only ever a part-time dad, or a part-time parent, if you’re a parliamentarian.
And the more senior you are, the more the work of the nation draws away from the time with the family.
And so it’s time. But between now and the election, there’s a huge amount of work to do. You know, we’re out this morning, back on the horse immediately, $500,000 for COVID measures to protect Australians in 2022.
And so, I focus on the job. You know, ultimately, I’ll, you know, on my deathbed, I'll be defined by my family. And you have to keep all these things in perspective, and there's a time and a season for everything.
Minister, a long, long time ago, I dreamed of being a 60 Minutes reporter. And then I did a few stories for 60 Minutes, and I went on an overseas trip, and one of the cameraman said to me, you know, I've got a 17-year-old daughter, and I've only been to three of her birthday parties.
And I realised, hang on a moment. This is not going to be for me. So that was a bit of a moment in time where I thought, I need to reassess really what I want to do. How many things have you missed out on as a dad?
Well, look, just this week, both of my kids, Poppy, who's 16, and James who’s 12, were fortunate to receive awards at school, and I’ve missed them. And I've missed a lot of ballet concerts and soccer matches. I've missed so many different school events and birthdays, but you do your best.
And fortunately, despite or because of the absences, they're growing up to be amazing young adults. And I'm so immensely proud of them. But that's Paula’s doing, that's my wife's doing, and I'd like to be there, may not be for the best interests of the kids, but I want to be there, and that's understandable.
But, you know, I also love this work. You know, I have a view that Australia is a fundamentally decent, successful, capable country. And it may not be the view that's often portrayed by many, but we have to remember that the bedrock of Australia is an amazing nation.
And so to be able to span those two worlds of the home world and the national, you know, that's been a great life. And, you know, every day I love being in the electorate when I get that chance, and I love the work that I do.
And you see incredible medical research and caring health workers and doctors and nurses, the pathologists, all of these people, we're good country.
I've got feedback coming through straight away on the text line. A true gentleman, a hard-working parliamentarian. Thank you, Greg Hunt. One here from Sue. Please tell Greg Hunt thanks and how much he's revered and appreciated. He’s my favourite politician.
I know that you don't always get that positive feedback as a poli, but I got to tell you, I think everyone just appreciates how the weight of the world would have been on your shoulders when you found out about this worldwide global pandemic.
And at one stage you were receiving 1000 text messages a day. I think during the pandemic you've received 40,000 media requests.
Can you tell me, were there times when you were on your own, where you thought, hang on a moment. I'm just not sure how we're going to get out of this thing?
Look, I always believed that as a country we would. And one of the things is, you know- yes, I'm in the same political party as the PM, Scott, but he always knew the way.
And so to be able to work alongside him and the Treasurer, they always knew the way, and that that's the thing.
And so there was great pressure, but we had a sense of belief in Australia and the Australian system and the direction. And Scott, just, would work through everything. And so to be in that environment alongside somebody who understood the country and the weight of history, and who's just capable of making decisions, you know, that's such a privilege.
And that was the comfort of working as part of the team and we back each other and support each other. And it's, you know, the Government is often derided, but I've got to say, Australia- Australian governance has stood up and we've done- we’ve done well.
There are real challenges and people have done it hard. But when I look overseas, and I look at that, I did feel in February and March last year, just the immense weight of it.
But we worked to a plan, and ultimately we were, you know, we've been successful as a nation. And this has been the hardest time for the world, but I think it's been one of the finest times for Australia.
Well, we are thankful for all of your hard work. And when you consider that when it comes to fatalities, we lost about 2000 lives because of COVID, but that's ranked outside the top 100 countries in the world.
And you compare it to other countries, obviously with bigger populations, but 770,000 COVID deaths in America, 145,000 COVID deaths in the UK.
Our vaccine rate is just fantastic, 92.6 per cent single-dose, 87.4 per cent fully vaccinated, leading the way in New South Wales as well, even higher rates than that.
We just want to say thank you to you, Greg Hunt. We appreciate all of your hard work. And I know how hard you work, because when I mentioned those 40,000 media requests that you've received, many of them have come from us, and your office will often say to us.
Yes, at least 10,000.
I know. Well, when we say, can he join us at 7.15, they often say, can he do it at 6:45? Because he goes for a run at 7.00 a.m.
So is that part of your method to make sure that you stay fit and stay on top of the brief?
It’s the indispensable part of my day and my moments for myself. But I will say this. Thank you to everybody, but the job's not done. If you haven't had your first vaccination, or your second vaccination, or your due for your booster, the thing that will keep us safe is continuing that vaccination.
So, I know there's been little bit of a self-focus today, but the key tasks, the key message, to back each other and to give each other the confidence. We'll get through this, but please keep coming forward to be vaccinated.
I love it. He stays on message, stays on the job, even when he's saying goodbye. I hope we get to cross paths again and thank you so much on behalf of everyone in Australia.
Take care, Ben. Cheers.
There’s Greg Hunt, the outgoing Federal Health Minister, who is all class.