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Interview with Scott Emerson from 4BC Drive on 13 October 2021 on the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines for kids, QLD travel exemptions and emissions reduction

Read the transcript of Minister Hunt's interview with Scott Emerson from 4BC Drive on 13 October 2021 on the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines for kids, QLD travel exemptions and emissions reduction.

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

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And we're joined now by the Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt. Minister thanks for being on 4BC drive.


It's a pleasure.


Oh look, I just got some breaking news I'm hearing from you about Pfizer for kids. Tell us about that.


So it's the first of a two part process. The TGA or Therapeutic Goods Administration, they are our medical regulator in Australia. They've given the Pfizer COVID vaccine what is called provisional, so they have given it a provisional determination, which means that Pfizer can expedite their application, bring it forward quickly.

And it'll be assessed very quickly. And so we are hoping that they'll bring it forward in the coming weeks. And I think that's a really important development.

We've got the supply. We've got the distribution mechanism. Now, we're very hopeful and I've been speaking with the head of Pfizer Australia this week. That they will bring this application forward. So it's a really important thing.


Would you hope that Pfizer, for say five year olds and up could be approved by the beginning of November, say?


I won't put a date on it. I think their application is likely to come in the coming weeks, so then it has to, because we're dealing with safety and effectiveness for children, make sure that it's a thorough assessment.

So I think it might be a little bit longer before they actually apply, but there are no barriers. We are ready to receive their application. We've spoken with Pfizer, Pfizer is very keen to do that right now.

At this stage, they've indicated that they are making an application in the US, which is often the case that companies will go through the Food and Drug Administration there as the first path. But we ready, and what that means is there is a capacity subject to the approval by the Therapeutic Goods Administration and recommendation by our technical advisory group on immunisation.

So double greenlight process to have that available and as soon as it's been through those two stages, both of which are ready to receive and proceed quickly then, if it's a double green light, then we'll have it available for children in Australia immediately.


I am talking to Greg Hunt, the Federal Health Minister. Now Minister, I know you wrote to your state counterpart Yvette D'Ath today about the case of six year old Lenny Silveira.

Now just to bring the listeners up to date about this now, Lenny and his father, they travelled to the US because he's got cerebral palsy. They needed to get an operation over there, and they needed that because that's the only place they could get it.

They came back to Australia, they couldn't fly into Brisbane because, just the lack of flights, so they had to go into Sydney and they were put into hotel quarantine. They've applied to be in home quarantine here in Queensland, and they were knocked back.

We highlighted that on Channel Nine’s Today program this morning. You wrote to Yvette D'Ath saying this is just ridiculous, their circumstances.

Now I did see in State Parliament after your intervention and after it was highlighted on the Today program, that the Premier and the Health Minister said no, it's all cleaned up now they've been given permission to home quarantine. Now, to your understanding is that the case?


Well it wasn't correct at the time. We've just been notified by the family now that Queensland Health has finally agreed. It's one of these things where it's a combination of the work of the media and ourselves in highlighting a case. Andrew Wallace, the Member for Fisher been advocating for the family.

So it's good news. It shouldn't have had to come to this. We need a much faster track process from the Queensland Government for these humanitarian cases, to bring our people home, to allow Queenslanders to home quarantine where they have the cases and indeed, we want to open up home quarantine as Victoria is going to be doing, to allow people to come home.

But the good news is, the battle that we've had collectively, to bring Lenny home has been successful. We've been working with Queensland, with the family, with Lenny's dad, Fabio and with Little Wings.

Little Wings has just notified my office that they're ready, hopefully to bring Lenny home tomorrow or if that doesn't suit the family, the next day. But we're pretty hopeful that Lenny will now be coming home, and I just hope that the operation has done its work and he'll be able to begin his recovery at home.


Well, I mean, look, good news, they are coming home, home quarantining, that's a great result. But the thing from me is, I've just seen this story play out so many times, the exemption is only granted after it is highlighted, particularly in the media, as happened today.

It shouldn't have to work that way. We've heard these stories so many times, where people are knocked back repeatedly by the Queensland exemption unit, and only when the media highlights and it's great that you got on board as well, that there's a change.

That is just so frustrating when, of course, we've seen so many cases of celebrities and sports stars who seem to just wave their way through and get into exemptions or home quarantining or whatever it may be.


It does seem to be a particularly Queensland Government related challenge. It's not something we've faced with other states and territories.

We quietly try to resolve as they are brought to us, as many cases as possible, but we do think that there is a predilection for the famous over the families, for the famous over farmers, that I hope is something that can change.

Fame and fortune shouldn't be given priority over families and farmers to come home, you know. These are the people that make our country, and they're the ones who are in real need.

I actually have no problem with making sure that, you know, whether there are economic reasons or there are sporting reasons, that we find a pathway. I do have a problem with locking Queenslanders out of Queensland, and every Australian should be able to go back to their own state, and we want to ensure that that's allowed.

We work quietly. We do actually resolve a number of cases, but sometimes these cases need the light of day and I think that there's a way to get Lenny, and so many others home. The home quarantine system, it is working, it is working really well, it is giving a humanitarian approach to bring people home.


Now I did hear Minister that the Cabinet was meeting today to talk about the climate policy and the possibility of a net zero emission policy for 2050. Has that been resolved now?


I'll respectfully leave it in the hands of the Prime Minister and Angus Taylor, as the responsible people.

But the direction is very clear, that as a country, we have slashed our emissions, and we've come from over 600 million tonnes in 2005, and on our watch they've actually gone way down. And so what does that mean in practice? It means that we have reduced our emissions. We will go to Glasgow with a very, very constructive approach and the key thing is we always have a plan to protect jobs, to protect pressure on electricity prices but to reduce emissions, and we'll do that again.


When you say constructive approach, so are you saying that there will be a policy committing to net zero emission by 2050?


I don't want to pre-empt the work of the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, the Energy Minister and the Cabinet.


Has a decision been made?


Look Cabinet processes are for the PM. I am not dodging, it's just not one that I'm in a position, because I'm not the responsible Minister to talk about.

We're working through, and working very constructively. We beat our Kyoto 2 target, which is our 2020 targets by over 400 million times. I remember when people came in, they said, you're going to miss it by over 700 million times. We had more than a billion ton turned around from what we inherited from the previous government, so we reduced electricity prices and emissions and preserved jobs, and we know how to do this.

The other mob, what do they want? Higher electricity prices, electricity prices, electricity prices. So we'll achieve our goals and our targets. I think you will find there will be a very constructive approach in Glasgow, it’s just work that is being done and it's certainly not for me to pre-empt that.


Alright I'll wait to hear the Prime Minister and Angus Taylor, but Greg Hunt, appreciate you being on 4BC drive this afternoon.


Well thanks Scott and thanks for your help with Lenny's case and Lenny's on his way home.


That is the good news. Thank you, Minister.

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