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Interview with Waleed Aly and Gorgi Coghlan on The Project about coronavirus (COVID-19)

Read the transcript of Minister Hunt's interview on The Project on 9 July 2020 about coronavirus (COVID-19).

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

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Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt definitely is a Victorian, any way you cut it. He is in Melbourne tonight and joins us now. Minister, three cases in the ACT tonight.


Thanks for having me.


These are people who travelled from Melbourne. And I noted the New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has said that probability of contagion in New South Wales, considering what happened in Victoria is extremely high, that's a quote.

So given that, how likely is that the Victorian outbreak has already escaped the state and is spreading around the country?


Well we do know that there were the three cases in ACT today and one in New South Wales, exactly as you say.

But that's why we’ve made the very difficult decision to have New South Wales and Victoria work with the Commonwealth on closing the border, ultimately a decision of the Premier's, but the Prime Minister has supported it.

And it is why we recognise that Victoria, in terms of people who live within the Greater Melbourne area and nearby, are going to have to face more restrictions, and this is about saving lives and protecting lives.

We are well-prepared, we've done this before.

Seven out of eight states and territories now are in an exceptionally strong position, a globally leading position, but we do have to take steps to protect people right across Australia by protecting people within Victoria and then within Melbourne.


We've heard that dozens of passengers on board a Jetstar flight travelling from Sydney to Melbourne last night weren't screened at all. Minister, how does this happen?


Although the domestic travel is managed by the states, I have immediately referred that to the medical experts.

I have asked my department to approach both states to have an explanation.

These actions are being put in place to protect people, so I want to make sure that they are administered and that there are no excuses.


Minister, I know there has been a reluctance from governments to make the mandatory wearing of face masks compulsory, but do you think it's time in Victoria for this to happen?


So we've provided 50 million face masks to health care professionals around the country.

It's up to any of the local health authorities, the state and territory health authorities, if they think that there is a sufficiently high concentration.

We will be making more masks available to the local health authorities or what are known as primary health networks in Victoria.

If they choose to go further because they think there is a very high concentration of cases, that's an appropriate thing for them to do, but they have to make that decision.

And certainly we have brought in now 250 million masks, we have provided 50, we will be making more available.


So the masks are there, but do you think as the Federal Health Minister, do you think- if it was your call, would you make them compulsory?


The answer to that is very simple: It’s about local decisions based on the health need.

One of the things I never try to do is to substitute my judgement for that of the doctors.

And they are on the ground, they are assessing the level of cases, the level of transmission and so if they think that the community transmission is sufficiently high, then they are empowered to either recommend or to mandate.


Minister, do you think the current situation in Victoria is a result of mismanagement by the Victorian Government?


Well, the Victorian Premier has already said that there were significant breaches in hotel quarantine.

Seven out of eight states and territories have done a magnificent job on that front. Clearly there were breaches in Victoria.

That has led to a very significant number of cases, coupled with the fact we want to see Victoria tracing every case, every day, tracing every case, every day.

They have been the fundamental things, as well as some relaxation in behaviour amongst a small number of people.

Victoria is holding the judicial inquiry.

We now have a job as the Commonwealth not to focus on blame for any individual state, but to focus on the support, to say to the Victorians, the masks, the testing, the capacity is there for ventilation.

We've gone from 2200 to 7500 ventilators, so as we are prepared in a way that we weren't previously when this broke out.

We were well-prepared but we had to ramp up. Now we have the elements in place to do this.

And I say to Victorians and in particular fellow Melburnians, I know this is hard, but we have done it.

Sadly, we do need to do this, but we will get through this, and it will ultimately help to save lives and protect lives, because if we don't, many lives would be lost.


Thanks for your time tonight, Minister. We do appreciate it.


Take care.

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