MARK BUTLER, MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGED CARE: Thanks very much for coming out this morning to this great event organised by Diabetes Australia and the JDRF, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. The Albanese Government is committed to making it easier to see a doctor and also to cutting costs of life changing medicines and treatments.
Today, more than 70,000 Australians with Type 1 diabetes will have access to life changing constant glucose monitoring treatment at a very, very cheap affordable price. Currently those Australians are paying up to $5,000 every single year for this life changing treatment, curtailing their ability to live their lives and contribute to our community. Right now, the Australian government will be subsidising that rate to the tune of 95 per cent, so the contribution of those above the aged 21 without a healthcare concession card will just be $7.50 a week, down from $5,000 per year. This is life changing announcement reinforces the Albanese Government’s commitment to not only to make it easier to see a doctor but cutting down the costs of medicines as well. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Just on the floods in Sydney, can you give us any update on what sort of support the Federal Government has on standby?
BUTLER: This is obviously a very fast developing event in south western Sydney and deeply disturbing. New South Wales emergency services is on the ground. The Australian Government remains willing and able to provide whatever support is required.
JOURNALIST: COVID cases are high at the moment, are you seeking advice on what public health measures might be reinstated, mask wearing for instance?
BUTLER: There is no advice for the Health Ministers to introduce or re-introduce any new mask mandates. Health ministers all met in Canberra on Friday, we received updated reports from the Deputy Chief Medical Officer who met with her equivalents as well. It is clear that we expect an increase in cases over the coming months with the increased prevalence of the BA.4 and BA.5 variants of the Omicron variant. We are clear about that from the health advice. It just reinforces my call from the last couple of weeks to the almost 6 million Australians who are eligible but have not had their booster shot, which is to get out and get boosted. You are not fully protected against this subvariant with just two doses of the vaccine. It is critically important that you get the booster.
JOURNALIST: Are you seeking any advice of you know what to do when those cases rise in the new few weeks?
BUTLER: All the health ministers, including me as the Federal Health Minister, are constantly getting advice about the COVID situation. It is pretty clear that the cases are going to rise in the next couple of months. It is putting pressure on hospitals with more than 3,000 people in hospital today with COVID. We are still seeing around 300 or more deaths every week with COVID. We are not through this virus yet so that’s why I continue to reinforce to people to get their third dose of the vaccine. There are currently 6 million Australians who haven’t had their third dose and also re-energise the effort to give the fourth shot to Australians over 65. Particularly those Australians living in residential aged care facilities.
JOURNALIST: Just on that, is the department seeking advice on how to increase the fourth dose in aged care homes what’s being recommended on that?
BUTLER: I have been reinforcing to my department, and the contractors engaged by my department, to visit aged care facilities as a matter of urgency. I was pleased to see the number of residential aged care residents who have their 4th dose has risen substantially in the last ten days since I first made that call. I want to see it climb even higher even more quickly and I will be continuing to expect that of my department and the contractors engaged by it.
JOURNALIST: On a different matter, the fuel excise cut is likely coming to an end in September. Do you envision any form of extension on that?
BUTLER: I think the Treasurer Jim Chalmers has addressed these matters over the last day or two. The fuel exercise cut was always temporary. It was legislated to come to an end in September. The Treasurer has made it clear he has not seen any good reason given that we’re currently in a trillion dollars worth of debt, there are deficits as far as the eye can see stretching out several years. We are not in the position to change the legislated date of that coming to an end put in place by the former government.
JOURNALIST: I think we were all hoping that the cost of fuel would have come down by September but it’s looking very unlikely. Is it something Australians can afford at the moment?
BUTLER: I don’t have anything to add to what the Treasurer has said in the last 24 hours.
JOURNALIST: On Territory’s rights, why is Labor having a conscience vote on whether territories should be able to legislate (inaudible)?
BUTLER: We’ve had a long standing tradition of conscience vote in relation to legislation which deals with voluntary assisted dying or euthanasia. That’s been a longstanding position of the Labor party.
JOURNALIST: I guess, on top of that, do you agree with David Pocock that if politicians do have concerns about VAD being legalised in the Territory they should run for local legislative assemblies instead of federal parliament?
BUTLER: I have made my position clear over the last week. I do think that Territory parliament should have the right to legislate the right to the health of the people in their territories, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. The Commonwealth Parliament’s legislation to override that right has been substantial overreach. If there was legislation presented to the Commonwealth Parliament to reinstate the right to Territory parliaments to make that choice, their territories, particularly in relation to Voluntary Assisted Dying, I will be supporting that legislation.
JOURNALIST: And just another one from me on Ukraine, sorry to jump topics, Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia has been calling for Australia to provide more military equipment. Is that something that Cabinet is considering?
BUTLER: I’ll leave that question to the relevant minister to respond to in detail. But I will say that Australia has stood ready and willing under the former government and under the Albanese Government to provide whatever assistance we can to the people of Ukraine.
JOURNALIST: I don’t think there is anyone out today, so are you able to?
BUTLER: I’m the Minister for Health, not the Minister for Defence so I am not advised of the details of that and but our general position has been to provide whatever assistance to the people of Ukraine.
JOURNALIST: Several of the Independent Senators have said that they are happy or likely to support the government’s submissions for reduction targets, the 2030 targets. Obviously you need to get the Greens onboard, what has been done there to get them over the line to get it through to Senate?
BUTLER: I will defer to the Climate Change minister to give details about the negotiation with different members of the parliament. I will just say this Government’s climate change policy, including our 2030 emissions targets, has the support of the Business Council of Australia, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Australian Industry Group, the ACTU, a range of energy groups including the Energy Council and the Clean Energy Council. It is the right policy for Australia. It will deliver 604,000 jobs to Australia, 5 out of 6 of them in regions, and it will deliver substantial savings in power bills for business and households as well. It is the right policy for Australia and we’d like all parliamentarians to support it.
Thanks very much.