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Interview with Paul Murray on Sky News Paul Murray Live about support for Australians to return to their home states, the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and return to school

Read the transcript of Minister Hunt's interview with Paul Murray on Sky News Paul Murray Live about support for Australians to return to their home states, the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and return to school.

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

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The Federal Health Minister is Greg Hunt. I don’t know how much of that he heard, but he might be aware of this story. Minister, thanks very much.

Obviously there’s the vax fight that I’ll get to in a second. But, we have heard too many of these cases of the inflexibility of bureaucracies. And I get it, there’s a lot of people, a lot of people with good causes. But when a case is as clear and as easy as this, surely there’s an ability for flexibility to have to be built into our system now.


Look, I agree, Paul. I think these human cases remind us what’s at stake here. That this is about families being able to come home, families being reunited, people being able to receive medical treatment.

And if I can get from your producer, Jessie’s details and her family, then we’ll take that up with Queensland. We, we deal with a lot of these cases on behalf of families, and we do them quietly and below the radar because I find that that tends to work, but this is a public case, so I’d very much like to take it up.

And we’ll, we’ll do it with Queensland, and we’ll encourage them to do everything they can to show compassion, to find a way. We’ve solved a lot of these, but we’ll continue to fight. But the real goal is to get everybody home to their own states as early as possible, as safely as possible.

There's a huge role for home quarantine. We, we know that that works, we see the way that can be done. To give credit where credit’s due, the ACT home quarantine system, I've been through it twice, is an outstanding system, and, and that's a model for the rest of the country.


Yeah. Agree completely. Well, thank you very much for that. Obviously, we’ll, we'll pass it on as soon as we're finished here. Thank you. I really appreciate it.

Let’s get to the, the vax fight and the politics around all of this today. Look, my genuine belief is that, essentially, in the places that really need the vaccine bookings are, are being filled; people can turn up; no one went without a vaccine this week or last week because of different types of arrangements.

But I have to play to you the comments of Daniel Andrews giving you a rip in the past couple of days. Roll the tape.



What I didn't know was that Premier Berejiklian's in a sprint, while the rest of us are supposed to do some sort of egg and spoon thing. No, we want our fair share.

These allocations, which are totally unfair and were under the table, need to stop, and we need to get a make good. We need to get those doses that we didn't get fast track to us.

[End of excerpt]


Why is he wrong, minister?


Well, for a number of reasons. Firstly, because Victoria received 300,000 emergency doses when they had a crisis, the very thing that as humans we should be doing. Focussing on the need where there’s an equivalent of a, a flood or a cyclone, where there’s real tragedy and real hardship, that’s exactly what we did with Victoria.

We’ve done that with the Northern Territory; we've done that with bring forwards for Queensland; and, we've also done it with New South Wales. In fact, Victoria as a Government, has received more per capita, slightly, than New South Wales.

Equally, in terms of the primary care, New South Wales has had more, but that's overwhelmingly to do with uptake of AstraZeneca by the, the public. And then in addition we also recognise, as we've talked about publicly, the need to support people (INAUDIBLE) what that's done is save lives. And so it's the right thing and the human thing to do.

But we've supported all of those states that have had those crises. We provide per capita, and then with the emergency support on top of that, everybody's received their full allocation. And they're the really important things, that we're taking care of people.

We're providing the vaccines and magnificently, Australia has vaccinated more than its own full population, the equivalent. So we have done more than 21.5 million vaccines, where at this point in time, 64.5 per cent of the population that's had a first dose; we've had more than eight million second doses; and extraordinarily, over 89.5 per cent of people over the age of 70 have stepped forward to be vaccinated.

So that's what's saving lives in New South Wales right now, but it's also why we prioritised emergency vaccines for Victoria in June. Every Australian, every Australian has the opportunity to be vaccinated, and that's what we've fought for since the start of the pandemic, working to find as many vaccines as possible as early as possible. And that's exactly what's happening now, and Australians are doing a magnificent job.


Now, about that rollout in different areas and I understand urgency changes depending on what was south western Sydney , weeks ago versus what might be either western parts of Melbourne and all the rest of it that's taking place right now.

On top of that, Indigenous issues in regional communities. So, there’s many hotspots and flares that need to be dealt with here. But the arrangement with Poland, was that something specific to New South Wales? Or that has been twisted in Labor talking points today?


No. In fact, the only reason we were able to get the doses was because of the outbreak in New South Wales. The Prime Minister engaged directly with his counterpart, the Polish Prime Minister. And this arrangement came about, it was predicated because they saw that now we were in a situation where there was a genuine outbreak.

The fact that Australia this year hadn't faced that and now was, actually swung the agreement with Poland. I know, because I worked with the PM right through this. And what mattered to the Polish PM is that, in turn, these doses, approximately half of them could be prioritised to the emergency outbreak, the other half on a per capita basis for the rest of the country and that was the agreement.

And that's the only reason we were able to get the agreement, because it was about saving lives in an emergency situation.


Now, we heard today from an expert in New South Wales that, that has reaffirmed what we knew all of last year about kids and COVID. There was some concern about Delta and kids and COVID, but thankfully it seems that they are just as resilient as they have been in the past.

In fact, I'll let the doctor say it better than me, and I'll get your response about schools in a second. But here's what she had to say.



Of those 51 sites where there was a case, there was actually many that, the majority that did not have any onward spread of the virus to teachers, staff or children in the educational facilities.

The spread of the virus also occurred from adults to children, but the spread between children themselves was very low. The majority of children who have become infected have not had symptoms or had only mild symptoms.

[End of excerpt]


But the return to school date in New South Wales is going to be October 25, that could be a full week after a more general opening in the economy.

Victoria has not put any date on return to school, except in regional areas which can start from Friday. Do we have to get into an urgency here where we now know what the issue is with the kids? And basically, as soon as the teacher is vaccinated, as soon as the double dose, bang, they're back in and the kids can go back to class?

Because it's one thing for us to want to do this nice and slowly, but when kids in places like Greater, Greater Sydney who’ve already been out of school for 11 weeks, another five, six, seven or eight on top of that, depending on what age group they are, it's not good enough. What do you think?


Look, we want to get our kids back to school as quickly as possible. I'm a dad in Victoria. My kids haven’t seen school for a long while, they’ve missed a lot of face to face.

And then there are so many families, might be a single parent, they might have limited access to technology, they might have the little kids. You know, even the five and six and seven year olds, to home school them over the internet, that's such a difficult thing.

So kids lose educational attainment. So we want to get, wherever they are, kids back to school as quickly and as safely as possible.

Just to build on what was being said there. The rate of ICU admission for children is about 0.1 per cent, one in 1,000. For people who are over 70, it's six per cent, or 60 times greater. And so we have to protect every child, and the best way to do that is for every adult to be vaccinated.

And as of next week, we'll start vaccinating kids 12 to 15. So the opportunities are there to protect, protect, protect, and that means we can get them back to school as quickly as possible.


Alright, Minister, thank you very much. I know it's an impossible job with many moving parts to it, but thanks for talking to us so late tonight. Appreciate it.


Just to say to everybody, Paul, thank you. Please keep coming forward. If you haven't been jabbed yet, come forward. It can protect you and protect everyone around you and help get our kids back to school sooner.


Bloody oath. Thank you very much. Appreciate it. The Health Minister is Greg Hunt joining us there.

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