Daily Bulletin

Politics

  • Written by Ray Hadley

RAY HADLEY: I'm going to go straight to the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison is on the line right now. Prime Minister, good morning to you. 

 

PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Ray.

 

HADLEY: Just dealing, as you would appreciate, with some of the bad stories involving rugby league and the virus at the moment. But we've got bigger fish to fry, bigger fish to fry.

 

PRIME MINISTER: Truth. Truth. 

 

HADLEY: Now, this really good news we've heard this morning about Pfizer and how did you pluck this one out of left field - a million a week by the end of the month, I'm told. Is that correct? 

 

PRIME MINISTER: That's right. On the 19th of July. That's what they've told us. So back in, last month, we were getting 1.7 million a month. This month we will get to 2.8 million and then August we'll be at 4.5 million. So that's quite a ramp up. Now, this is something Greg Hunt and Brendan Murphy, Professor Murphy, have been working on with Pfizer. We're in constant contact with them. I mean, we're always trying to get our deliveries brought forward. And so this is very, very welcome. And that work has paid off. And that means from 19th of July, we will be at about one million Pfizer doses a week. Now, we've also got 1,300 more GPs coming on stream this month. So we'll have well over 6,000 now, points of presence all around the country. Those 1,300 specifically being brought on to be able to do Pfizer. And so, you know, we've caught up a lot of ground, particularly in the last sort of five weeks, Ray. Last month, we did three and a half million doses. That was, you know, you hit that mark and you keep hitting it every month and better, then by the end of this year, it is absolutely achievable to have everyone being offered that dose and be in that position by the end of the year. So we're catching up the ground. We had some challenges early, but we've got on top of those. And this is another good example of how we're getting on top of that. 

 

HADLEY: Okay, I'm glad you mentioned the challenges, because Josh Frydenberg spoke to my colleague Ben Fordham the other day and said it has been challenging. 

 

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, it has. 

 

HADLEY: Is that and I've got to go through and dissect it. You had Dr Young saying, I don't want to be the Chief Medical Officer when someone aged 18 dies from AstraZeneca. You've had other people go on national TV and on other digital platforms saying, oh, no, AstraZeneca is going to kill you. I mean, the misinformation is almost breathtaking. Then when you come out and you recommend that people under the age of 40 go and talk to their doctors and seek advice and look at all the risks involved. You didn't say, go and get AstraZeneca, you simply suggest that people have a yarn with their GP. I've got a young bloke working with me here, he had AstraZeneca two days ago. He's 34.

 

PRIME MINISTER: 14,000 have since I made that point. And people have gone to talk to their doctors. But I mean, early on, Ray, we had three million doses of AstraZeneca that didn't show up and that was right at the start of the rollout before they were rolling off the production line at CSL here in Australia. That was obviously a big hit. That took three million doses out of our early vaccine program. And then we had the ATAGI advice, which limited AstraZeneca to those over 50 as a preferred vaccine and so are not preferred under the age of 50. Then they changed that again to 60. So that had a big hit on the pace of the rollout. And we understand that. And so we had those challenges and that slowed it down. But we've been able to now get it back to that pace we needed, which is where we are now to get ourselves where we need to get to by the end of the year. But I mean, people should always talk to their doctor. But AstraZeneca I mean, because there's millions of people right now who, you know, will have their second dose of AstraZeneca due. I encourage them to go and get it. 44 million doses of AstraZeneca has been administered in the United Kingdom. That's why their vaccination rate is so high, it hasn't been Pfizer doing that job over there. It's been the AstraZeneca vaccine that has vaccinated the UK. So it is a good vaccine. It's a very, very, very positive vaccine, it's a very effective vaccine. And so if you've got your second dose due, particularly if you're down there in south western Sydney, please go and get it. 

 

HADLEY: Okay. I'll come back to AstraZeneca in a moment, but I'm glad you touched on the UK. Now, Boris Johnson said earlier this week, July 19, we're opening up. There'll be no more regulation with it. We're barring everything. And I said yesterday and the day before, it's based on and predicated on this, he's got 86 per cent or 84 per cent, rather, of the population with the first jab. He's got 64 per cent with two jabs. So, I guess, he's saying he's throwing down the gauntlet there to people who refuse to, or won't get the jab, to say, well look I'm sorry, we're going to open everything up because, you know, more than half the population are now jabbed. If you don't want to get the jab, well, you're going to have to confront being really, really affected by the virus as opposed to mildly affected, if you've got the jab.

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think that's a fair summary of what he said. And the situation in the UK is very different to here. I mean, they had more cases in one day, the other day in the UK than we've had in our entirety over 18 months. So COVID has riddled the UK as it has through Europe and through the United States, so we're in a different situation to them and countries that have had low levels of the virus and certainly low fatalities, Australia has one of the lowest, other than New Zealand, of fatalities for COVID of any country in the world. I'll tell you what, that's a chart where I want Australia to be right where we are on. So they have had that challenge. So COVID is everywhere in those communities. And so it's a different situation. But the point is well made. That's why we want to give everyone this availability of a dose. That's why I announced the plan last Friday with National Cabinet, says we need to move from being where we're managing cases, which is where we still are now, by the way, which is why we have to do what we're doing in Sydney right now. We'll get to phase two when we start managing hospitalisations, number of people in ICU. And when I was with Boris the other day in London, they were just making a decision about extending their restrictions. And the reason they did that wasn't case numbers. It was they saw a rising level of hospitalisations. And so that is what the future mark will be. And hopefully not too far away. Not yet now. We never envisaged at any time right now we would be out of suppression, under even the best scenario planning of the vaccine rollout. All the states and territories understood that in July we would still be in suppression phase. That's why we need to keep a lid on this thing right now. But the next phase enables us to move forward. 

 

HADLEY: I know you're going to talk to health officials now and they guide you and the Premier through all of this. It was first suggested that this Delta variant is far more contagious. But if you got it, you wouldn't be as crook as you previously were. That, I don't know whether we've got a different variant than they had in India, but it would appear to me if we've got 10 per cent in Sydney in hospital and we've got 11 as of last night, there'll be more today in ICU. Is there a suggestion now that maybe where we have a different sort of Delta as opposed to the rest of the world, where, yes, it's more contagious, but you're not as crook? Is that the concern for our health officials? 

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, last Friday, the advice was that it wasn't at least the evidence at that point wasn't suggesting something more from a serious illness point of view. But there's been more data that's come through from overseas since then, which says that those sands are shifting. And that's been the case with this virus all the way through, Ray. And there's no roadmap on something like this. And you get new variants quite regularly. And the way they play out over time changes. And you've just got to be very attentive to the data. And that's why, in those, you know, the public, I get it, you get frustrated when you hear ATAGI say 50 and then 60 or, you know, this variant is not as virulent as the other ones and then that changes. The data changes because it's a virus and it writes its own rules and charts its own course. So we're dealing with the same frustrations, I've got to tell you. And then you try and adapt your program as quickly as you can to stay on top of it. And by and large, I don't know. It's really tough. I mean, we're in lockdown here, like everyone else is in Sydney. And it is tough. And I know people, Ray, they're getting frustrated. And I get it. They've really put up with a lot over a long period of time. But now is not the time to give up. Now is the time to keep pushing through. You know, like Ash last night and you just keep pushing through and we are going to crack this and that vaccine advice today I hope is a real sign of hope to all Australians. A million doses coming in on 19 July. We're going to get this done. We're hitting our marks, so let's get it done. 

 

HADLEY: So just to give people some hope and thanks for the reference to Ash Barty, because that's a great thought. I mean, the Pommies are celebrating the fact that they're into this major soccer final for the first time in 50 years. And all of a sudden since Evonne Goolagong, we've got a young Australian into the final at Wimbledon. And I'm not joking. That will lift the stocks of plenty of people by the time they get to Sunday morning, particularly if she wins. But, just on where we're headed. You're talking about Pfizer by the end of August and all that. And there are people at the moment, you know, how much they're hurting the small business people that, you know, the coffee shops all over Sydney, the restaurants all over Sydney, the various hairdressers all over Sydney. If we get the million Pfizer out and about by the end of August, and that's a week I'm talking about, say, four million a month, can you see some time between now and Christmas, and I know you haven’t got a crystal ball, where we'll have it basically not under control, but it won't control us like it does at the moment. But we'll control it, if you know what I mean.

 

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah. Look, I would hope that we'd be able to move into phase two before the end of the year. That's my hope. We're still waiting on, the Doherty Institute is doing some modelling and analysis for us, that will give us a guide as to what the threshold is we have to reach. And it's not just you know, you mentioned the numbers for the UK before. They're about approaching around 65 per cent for the whole population. I saw some data yesterday which showed that London's actually less than that. But that said, you’ve then got to dig under that and go, okay, so what's the threshold of your population over 70 that needs to be vaccinated, because they're the ones who are most vulnerable, most at risk. That's why we focus on that group so much. And we've got over 70 per cent of that population, over 70 now, 72 per cent that have had their first dose. So they're on, that's on AstraZeneca predominantly. And that means they'll all be getting their second dose within the next couple of months. I mean, my mum's getting it, I think later this week, actually. I think she’s getting it tomorrow. It might be early next week. 

 

HADLEY: God bless Mum. 

 

PRIME MINISTER: And so, you know, my mother in law, I think, has already had her second dose. So they are getting their second doses over the next couple of months. So that means our most vulnerable population in the next couple of months will have had their two doses. Now, that means that, remember what happened in the second wave in Victoria, it has been our elderly that have been the victims of the fatalities of COVID. And so it's not just the top level benchmark. It's the sub benchmarks, for your over 70s population and things like that, which are really important. So, again, I mean, I'm labouring the point, Ray, but we've got about 50 per cent vaccinations in south west Sydney on people aged over 70 on first dose. We need that up. We need people to go and get vaccinated. We're working with multicultural communities. I know the Premier was directly engaging with multicultural communities yesterday afternoon, you know, in a wide link-up and good on her for doing it. She's been fantastic talking to those communities and we're doing the same. And we need to get them vaccinated. 

 

HADLEY: Just quickly, because you mentioned mum and your mother in law. I'm waiting for my second AstraZeneca. I was due in August, but I'm now told that I don't need to wait, that I can go forward in eight weeks, which means I get it next week or the week after, I believe. Is that correct? 

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the TGA actually says four to 12 and it's most effective at 12. The reason that the Chief Medical Officer advised me this week to say from eight, is in those areas where the outbreak is most threatening. 

 

HADLEY: Okay. 

 

PRIME MINISTER: So 12 weeks is, you know, where it's most effective. 

 

HADLEY: That’s the optimum. Yeah, ok. 

 

PRIME MINISTER: If you're living in south west Sydney and you're aged over 70, well, you're living in an area at the moment where the outbreak is most threatening and you're better off being vaccinated with your second dose at eight weeks now because of the balance of risk. So that's why, you know, talk to your doctor, always talk to your doctor, just like all the other ones I’ve mentioned.

 

HADLEY: Don't ask the Prime Minister, talk to Dr Geoff.

 

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, exactly. Talk to your doctor, go and see them. And particularly, you know, I am concerned for people in south western Sydney, particularly for those who are older. And that's why with 300,000 additional doses we're providing to New South Wales next week, and that's 150,000 Pfizer and 150,000 AstraZeneca, and that AstraZeneca in particular, is for those second doses of those who are aged over 70. 

 

HADLEY: OK, I know you've got to meet health officials. One final thing, you know, I said yesterday an inspired choice, in my opinion. This is an outstanding man, Nick Kaldas. I've had a lot to do with him over the past 20 years and to name him to lead the Royal Commission into Veteran Suicide. I know there are some people this morning saying, oh, I hope it's not going to be a whitewash. I can give them a gold plated guarantee. This bloke will chase every story down every burrow. He’s forensic. He's the best you could choose. Congratulations. 

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I appreciate that. And I'm really pleased that Nick agreed to do it. And he will be joined by James Douglas, who is a former judge of the Supreme Court in Queensland. And Peggy Brown, she's a consultant psychiatrist, Dr Brown and national leader in mental health policy. So, you know, I think we're covering all those elements. And one of the sensitivities in doing this was that, you know, the veterans community and families and others were concerned that it might be someone who, you know, from a military background or something like that, and that would make them anxious. So we listen to that. And I think Nick has a good grasp of what uniformed organisations are like. And you and I both know that in the police force, they also deal with issues of stress and post-traumatic stress and from times of service, you and I both know that police see and hear and experience things every single day that the rest of us don't. And so he gets that. He gets the pressures on families. He gets the stresses. And I think he'll deal with this very sensitively and very effectively because we know he works himself pretty hard. And so I'm really, thanks for that, Ray. I think he'll do a great job. This is very important to us and I think we've got it right. 

 

HADLEY: Okay. Thanks for your time this morning. All the best. 

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