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Interview with Natalie Barr on Sunrise about COVID-19

Read the transcript of Minister Hunt's interview on Sunrise with Natalie Barr about coronavirus (COVID-19).

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

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The Prime Minister has slammed the Victorian Government’s plan for a road out of the lockdown.

Health Minister Greg Hunt joins us now for more. Morning to you. What should Victoria be doing differently here?


Good morning. Well, I think what's absolutely critical is that we have real hope and the ability to move to sensible, achievable targets as some of Australia's leading epidemiologist, Professor Peter Collignon, whether it’s Jodie McVernon, whether it’s Professor Catherine Bennett.

They’ve all indicated that the targets and the thresholds that Victoria have set may be unachievable, zero cases for 14 or 28 days, a less than five cases a day average over 14 days would have seen New South Wales under curfew, in lockdown, businesses shuttered right now.

And so we know that we can maintain a safe environment as New South Wales is doing through an extraordinary contact tracing and public health response.

And so, we want to help Victoria improve contact tracing, achieve the standards of New South Wales, and be able to bring Victorians out of lockdown and into greater freedoms progressively, but on a faster timetable with greater return to businesses, livelihoods and reducing the impact on mental health which we’ve all heard over the last 48 hours has been absolutely crushing.


So how much help do they need with their contact tracing? Because the Prime Minister was pretty scathing of it yesterday?


Well, to be fair, they have made significant improvements since the ADF arrived, over 400 in place, and we’ve seen now the work of Alan Finkel and others.

Alan is the Chief Scientist, Commonwealth, in helping Victoria to automate, their contact tracing system is being adopted.

But whatever they need from us, whether it’s more ADF, whether it’s people from Services Australia, whether it’s assistance in bringing in experts from other states, whether it’s the National Incident Centre helping them, we’ll provide that, because our number one task in Australia now is to help Victoria bring its contact tracing to the point where they have the confidence to lift their speed limits, the confidence to give people their liberties back, and the confidence to allow businesses to unshutter, because we’ve heard, we’ve seen the stories of businesses where people's lives work is now at risk where tens of thousands of jobs are now at risk.

And the mental health consequences are enormous, so we know we can do better. Around the country we’ve done this.

We’ve done it as a whole country once, eight out of eight states and territories; seven out of eight states and territories now and we know Victoria can get there and with the prospect of a vaccine, that should also be giving everyone hope and confidence and real faith.


So where do they need help? Because you are sitting there, as a Victorian, and you are seeing this state in such trouble, dragging the country down.

The Commonwealth health officials are now going to review what is wrong in this state, so what is the main problem here?


So one, we’d like to see all of the details of the modelling released, not just to the Commonwealth but to the public in terms of the assumptions, the predictions, the basis for it.

Two, what we would like to do is offer more people if they would like to accept it for contact tracing but also the ability to have a really integrated system to look and compare with no sense of pride or concern or state parochialism, the way that New South Wales is carrying out their full public health response.

The publication of sites where there have been cases discovered.

New South Wales everyday will indicate that whether it’s on a particular public transport, whether it’s at a particular restaurant, a particular shopping centre, whether it’s a gymnasium or elsewhere.

And all of these elements give the public knowledge, it allows for the contact tracing to proceed and if we can achieve that gold standard, we can give confidence to Victorians, confidence to the Victorian Government, and follow the advice of so many epidemiologists.

Yesterday, when somebody such as Professor Catherine Bennett or Professor Jodie McVernon or Professor Peter Collignon indicates that they have deep concerns with the achievability of the standards, that means everybody has to step back and say: how do we do this better?

And I think that they can listen to the experts, revise the thresholds and the timetables, adopt the National Cabinet plan which was published, implemented and brought Australia to safety.

It was published in May; that’s a road map for the whole country and that’s a basis that Victoria can use.


Right. So open up to the Commonwealth, to you and be more open to the people of Victoria. Thank you very much, Minister. We appreciate your time this morning.


Thanks, Nat.

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