Date published: 
28 January 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

LAURA JAYES:

Let’s go live now to the Health Minister Greg Hunt, who joins us. Minister Hunt, thank you for your time. As we’ve heard.

GREG HUNT:

Good morning Laura.

LAURA JAYES:

Now, five confirmed cases now in Australia. How many more are being tested and do you have fears that the number of confirmed cases will rise?

GREG HUNT:

There are five confirmed cases (inaudible) today, with the additional case of the student that you’ve just covered.

Overnight, the situation room has reported to me that there are a number of cases that are being considered in each of the states and territories.

Those numbers will literally change by the hour because some cases will be cleared and other new cases will be tested.

If there are additional cases, we’ll work with the state authorities to make those known to the public immediately.

We do believe that there is the potential for further cases to be identified and therefore to be announced.

At this stage, the latest advice from literally a few moments ago before coming on air from the national incident centre, is that all five of the patients are in isolation and all are stable and being well cared for.

LAURA JAYES:

So all five patients in isolation, as you say, stable and being cared for at the moment. Is everyone whose (inaudible) flight from Wuhan in the last couple of weeks being tested?

GREG HUNT:

So, what they’re doing at the moment is tracing back all contact with these patients, and so the national incident centre as well as border officials are working with state and territory authorities to trace back all contacts with those people who have presented and been identified, including flights where they have been- where- obviously, the people on the same flights as those who’ve identified.

LAURA JAYES:

I understand there was an urgent national security meeting with government members like yourself at the highest level yesterday.

What was that meeting for and did you make any decisions about national security out of that, or is it just a watch-and-wait?

GREG HUNT:

No, the Prime Minister has obviously chaired a national security committee meeting and the purpose of that is to (inaudible) coronavirus preparedness.

We have perhaps the world’s most prepared system as identified by the World Health Organisation in their most recent national assessment two years ago, and what the Prime Minister wanted to do was to make sure that all of the elements of that are in place, being activated and underway.

And that’s about making sure that our tracing, our treatment, our testing, our identification and our care of patients – not just within Australia but our care and support for people overseas in China – is underway and every possible step that can be taken is being taken.

LAURA JAYES:

We still had direct flights coming from Wuhan up to five days ago, from 24 January. Why did it take so long to stop those flights? Why wasn’t it done earlier?

GREG HUNT:

Well, this has been following the World Health Organisation (inaudible) the advice of the medical experts in Australia who are working together.

Australia declared this to be a disease with pandemic potential and so we have followed the expert advice at every step and what’s absolutely critical here is that.

LAURA JAYES:

But was that expert- was that expert advice in hindsight now wrong because we now have five confirmed cases?

GREG HUNT:

Well what we have is a situation of a contagious disease which has cases around the world and we have some of the strongest border protection measures in place around the world ourselves.

We have agriculture officials- biosecurity officials boarding all planes from China, providing information, also speaking with passengers, looking for signs, looking for symptoms and what we are doing is moving at the fastest possible pace to make sure that everything that can be done is being done (inaudible).

That continues to be the case with officials meeting, seeking additional information around the clock and wherever anything else is required, that’s being implemented straight from the evidence, the advice of the medical experts.

LAURA JAYES:

Minister Hunt, is it correct to say that you just simply don’t know how this disease is spread in terms of whether there- human to human contact spreads the coronavirus?

GREG HUNT:

No, there’s a strong presumption that human to human contact can and has spread the virus.

That’s the advice from the World Health Organization which led to the declaration of this as a disease of pandemic potential.

Within Australia the further advi- evidence is emerging every day and that’s why Australia’s engaged with China, with international experts from the CDC in the United States and other countries and the World Health Organization so there’s a constant engagement.

The global science on this is evolving each and every day.

But the presumption is very clear that whilst it arose from the animal kingdom and in particular most likely the Wuhan market, that what really transformed it was the evidence that this is a disease with the potential and likely with the evidence of human to human transference.

LAURA JAYES:

It’s certainly very concerning and I know you are keeping across that.

If I could just turn to one other story today – Bridget McKenzie spent $160,000 into research on the economic and social benefits of shooting. That was then handed to your department.

What does the Health Department do with such information and such a report?

GREG HUNT:

Look, I believe that this is actually about the sports component, it’s not a health element as such and so I’ll leave that to the Sports Minister.

LAURA JAYES:

Was it not handed to the Health Department though?

GREG HUNT:

I think what we’re talking about here is what are the social and economic benefits of inclusion in any sport and sport as a general principle in Australia is something that we encourage people to participate in.

With regards to that, I’ll leave the specifics to the Sports Minister.

LAURA JAYES:

No, that’s fine but if it was handed to your department, do you have any idea what the (inaudible) with such a report? Or is it $160,000 report that’s just collecting dust?

GREG HUNT:

No, in particular, any evidence provided to Government is reviewed by the specific department.

In particular, this would be the Sports Minister and the engagement there.

And that’s about how do you have people, whether it’s in sport, whether it’s in community activities, whether it’s in other activities, engaged and involved for personal contact where they’re able to deal with other people where they’re getting the benefits of participation in a community activity.

And that’s part of sport and part of community activity, part of engagement and something which as a general principle, is encouraged right across Australia with regards to developing community links.

LAURA JAYES:

This report concluded that it was not possible to conclude whether sports shooters had a greater level of wellbeing than the general population because they engage in hunting and shooting all for another reason.

Is that really what $160,000 of taxpayer funds should be spent on?

GREG HUNT:

Well I’ll leave the details of the research to the Sports Minister.

LAURA JAYES:

No, but you’re a minister, you’re in Cabinet. You are- have to hand out grants all the time.

I mean, can you accept that it’s pretty hard to stomach that $160,000 of taxpayer funds was spent on a report that’s basically useless when you’re looking at other organisations like Foodbank in recent times that have had their funding cut?

GREG HUNT:

Again, I respect the question but I’ll respectfully leave the details to the Sports Minister.

LAURA JAYES:

So you have no concerns about that money being spent on such a report at all?

GREG HUNT:

Look, thanks very much Laura. I’ve provided the answer that- I’ll leave that detail to the relevant Minister.

LAURA JAYES:

Minister Hunt, thanks for your time.

GREG HUNT:

Thanks very much.

Ministers: