Date published: 
24 November 2021
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

DAVID KOCH:

Now, the Federal Government says travellers will be able to enter Queensland without having to fork out $145 for a PCR COVID test. It ends days of confusion over who would have to pay, and takes a big financial burden off a lot of families this holiday season.

NATALIE BARR:

Health Minister Greg Hunt joins us now. Morning, Minister.

GREG HUNT:

And good morning.

NATALIE BARR:

Now, you say the free testing program has actually been in place for 18 months.

GREG HUNT:

Correct.

NATALIE BARR:

So why then the Palaszczuk Government last night praising the move as a breakthrough?

GREG HUNT:

Well, you’d have to ask them about that. But the answer for Australians is really simple.

For 18 months, under an agreement that was signed by the Queensland Premier on 13 March, 2020, there’s been a shared arrangement where people under public health orders - and this is what Queensland’s put in place - can access free COVID testing. We think it’s arguably the most accurate and best in the world as set out by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

What does it really mean? The situation that’s been in place for 18 months, unchanged at our end. There’s a little bit of a waiver from Queensland, they're back in the tent, and what matters is that there’s certainty for families.

Our position has been completely consistent, that we’ve always shared half of the costs of all of the state and territory testing. We’re continuing to do that, and I’m glad that they’re not taking it away.

And for families, together at Christmas, together to watch carols, and most importantly, it’s about Australians coming back.

And you’ve been great as a program in helping to highlight some of these cases and I think it's a really good outcome. And I am glad they’ve accepted the ongoing position.

NATALIE BARR:

Yeah. So do you think the Queensland Premier maybe forgot she signed that agreement back in, what, March 2020? Or is that a complete back flip?

GREG HUNT:

Well, all I know is that since March 13, 2020, there’s been a, a shared agreement between the Commonwealth and every state and territory.

We’ve paid out $6.6 billion, so it would be surprise if somebody forgot that that amount of Commonwealth funding had been paid to the states and territories for all the COVID cost which are shared 50-50.

And what it means, though, for families is that the threat which was put in place for 24 to 48 hours, that’s gone.

And what I’d like to see now is that those short-term visits, where people from Queensland were visiting other family members in New South Wales, which appear to have been stopped.

And there was someone I spoke with last night who couldn’t visit her mum who has cancer for a 24-hour visit, that they review that.

DAVID KOCH:

Yeah.

GREG HUNT:

Because caregiving, families, that’s what it's actually about.

DAVID KOCH:

Yeah.

GREG HUNT:

But we’ve made progress, but these short-term visits, that’s the next thing.

DAVID KOCH:

Yeah. We just don't need any more confusion, with all the changing of the rules.

Hey, South Australia has opened its borders, of course, being one of the, the non-COVID states, there’s a bit of anxiety there of letting COVID in. Are you worried about opening the borders?

GREG HUNT:

Look, this is entirely in line, not just with the national plan, but also with the medical advice.

As a country, we’re now at, this morning, David, at 91.8 per cent vaccinated, 85.8 per cent double vaccinated. You know, one of the highest rates in the world.

And so we are a well-protected society. We’re not immune, but we’re as well protected as we could possibly be. And I continue to encourage people to stay safe.

But if you haven’t been vaccinated to please come forward; or come forward for your second vaccination; or if you’re due for your booster, join the 360,000 Australians who, well ahead of schedule, have already had their boosters.

So Australians are doing their bit, and they’re being able to reunite in, in your home state. I just think that's fantastic news.

DAVID KOCH:

Yep. Yeah. We’ve done our bit, the Australian community’s pulled together which we always do. Minister, thanks for joining us.

 

Ministers: