As we welcome listeners through regional networks on the Resonate Radio Network across rural Queensland, we go straight to the Federal Health Minister and Minister for Aged Care, Greg Hunt.
Minister, good morning.
And good morning Ray.
I'm looking for some help, I'm a person in desperate need of your help. My listeners in Queensland and New South Wales have no idea what it means to try and get into Queensland on December 17.
I know you don't control Queensland Health, but I don't think Queensland Health control Queensland Health. Because they can't tell us today with any clarity on what we require, whether you need a certificate, a text on your phone.
Is there any way you can talk to Yvette D’Ath, because we can't get to her, to ask how it's going to work, because no one seems to know?
Sure. Look, I'm very happy to approach the Queensland Health Minister and Queensland Government.
One of the important things is, firstly, that families are able to reunite, that parents and children, grandparents and little babies, people for weddings and funerals, to be there for a birth, that they're all able to reunite and be, as we hope, as a single country.
Now, in order to do that, we want to ensure that people are able to make those journeys. So we’ll approach the Queensland Government and seek clarity from them.
And a very important thing, which I think you raised with me off air, is the access to testing. We provide access, we cover 100% of the Medicare testing. And all states and territories have agreed to a national partnership where they provide what's called asymptomatic testing.
You just turn up and we cover 50% of every one of those, all of those costs, and we'll continue to do that in all states and territories.
I’ve seen that Queensland’s being considering not doing that. I think that would be very unfortunate, because that would prevent families from reuniting, and we just want to get them together.
Well, I'm glad you raised that point, because I've had dozens of emails and calls off-air today from families, who are in New South Wales and want to go and see their loved ones or have a holiday, as the case may be.
And there's a family of four; they can't afford the $600. They’ve budgeted to go up there, they can't afford another $600.
As one of my colleagues, Peter Gleeson, pointed out this morning, I can go on Jetstar for 99 bucks to fly there, to Coolangatta, for instance.
But I need another 145 to actually provide a document. And that's the other thing they don't know. Queensland Health Minister can't tell us whether we- you know, the phone I've got in front of me, when I get a text, if I get the all-clear to go there on the 17th, whether that text message will suffice or will I need a printed document from the person actually doing the test to say I’m clear, that I don't have the virus.
All those questions go unanswered, and people give, we’re on the 22nd of November. I mean, given that Queensland has been closed for so long to the southern states, people have organised holidays, organise things on these budgets, or to go and see nan and pop, mum and dad, daughters, sons, grandchildren.
And it all they need is some clarity to say: no, it's okay, It'll be okay if you get tested, and it's on a text, that will suffice, as long as you’re double-vaccinated, up you come. And none of those questions are being answered.
I will write today, and I'll provide you with a copy, and you might want to approach Queensland tonight or tomorrow, to come on and join you.
But from our perspective, we're continuing on with all of our arrangements. From their perspective, I hope that at the very time they want to bring people in, they don't reduce access to testing.
I think that would be a very unfortunate step, to be reducing access to testing at the time that they want to bring people in, because that would make Queenslanders less safe, rather than more safe.
And less chance of people reuniting with families, with loved ones, with friends, than would otherwise be the case. So we'll just work constructively.
To try to give Australians that access. And sometimes, states may float a kite. I hope this is not a kite that they'll keep flying.
Okay, so just so I'm clear, because you're talking about Queensland, and I attempted to contact Brad Hazzard this morning about the same issue.
I'm in New South Wales at the moment, I want to go to Queensland on the 17th. So I'm a case where I would go and get tested 72 hours before I go, and Mr Hazzard has assured me that that will continue, that he's not deviating from the path.
Yeah, New South Wales has been fantastic, they’ve been fantastic.
So I just go and get the test. And what I need to ascertain now, from my point of view, and all my listeners in New South Wales, whether I then need it on my phone, or a written confirmation, as the case may be, or print it out in some form, a hard copy form, as opposed to being on your phone.
But I find it incongruous that I can get my double-vax on my phone thanks to the Medicare app and the Services New South Wales app. And I can get all the other things on there, including my licence, my driver's licence or ID.
But if I wanted to go there, they're suggesting, not for sure, but if I want to go there, I'll need a printed vaccination certificate, as opposed to everything that's on my phone- on the digital form.
I mean, I just don't understand why the digital form is acceptable from a double vaccination, from a driver's licence, for credit cards, and everything else, but it's not acceptable in relation to being cleared of having the virus.
Well, I think they have a little bit of work to do. should we say. I think Queensland has been thinking through their approach. And I'll be generous and say it's evolving rapidly daily. And they may have made a little bit of a misstep in calling for, you know, in suddenly reducing access to testing, rather than maintaining or increasing it.
But with your help with the public support, I hope that they don't reduce access to testing, and will certainly be writing.
We're continuing all of ours and we've spent and happily invested 1.87 billion, so nearly $1.9 billion, on pathology testing through the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Do you know the really important thing here? The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine looked at Australia's system and ranked Australia’s system right at the top of the most accurate testing regimes across the world.
Why does that matter? Because we can find the cases, know the cases, find the contact, protect people. And testing is so important because it's protected Australians right throughout, and we're continuing on. And I just hope that there's no one state that suddenly walks back or resiles from that.
At the moment, the Northern Territory’s doing a great job, for example, so I'm not being partisan. Northern Territory’s doing a great job with their testing, with their outbreak, and that just shows why it’s so important.
All right, use all your persuasive powers, please.
All right, well, we’ll work together on the one.
Thanks, Minister, I appreciate your time.
Greg Hunt, Federal Minister for Health.