Interview with Neil Breen, 4BC

22 Jul 2021
Prime Minister

NEIL BREEN: How good’s Queensland Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER: How good, how good, that’s absolutely true, Neil. It was very exciting. It was great to see it all come together yesterday. It was a Team Australia moment. Of course, great for Brisbane, south east Queensland. But of course, all of Queensland and all of the country. I mean, that’s what Olympics do – they not just put that, you know, that city on the map, but they really do benefit the whole country, and it’s a time for the whole nation to shine. It means that, you know, boys and girls right across the country can be looking forward right now – if they’re out in the pool this morning or they’re out doing their Little Athletics this weekend or whatever they’re doing – they know in 2032 they could be competing in Olympic Games in their own country, and that is just so exciting.

BREEN: I suppose the big question that Queenslanders have and Australians will have will be the cost. And, we’re talking you know, I don’t believe this $5 billion figure. They’re going to be expensive. And, the venues and the upgrade of the venues has got to come with infrastructure. It’s a massive project and the Federal Government is committed to paying half of it. Will we get our money’s worth in the end?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we’re estimating, I mean, almost $18 billion of economic and social benefits for the country. And, you know, as someone from Sydney, I know how important it was to Sydney, what will, you know, 20 years ago, more than that now. And, it just keeps kicking on. I mean, once you’re an Olympic city, you know, that’s your Olympic city. You’re on the international map. And, and I think that really just boosts not only the economic activity, but the way this bid has been put together and the way we’ve worked together is we’re substantively using the planned and existing infrastructure, and infrastructure that south east Queensland and more broadly across the state they’re going, people are going to need. And, that was a key part of the bid, that people, that they understood that these were things we needed to build. And, and it’s not just a 50-50 funding partnership, I need to stress, Neil. It’s a 50-50 partnership, and that means shared decisions from scoping of projects to running of projects. It’s going to be very different to the Sydney Olympics. And, that was basically put on by the New South Wales Government and funded by the New South Wales Government, almost in its entirety. Queensland came to us and said that that wasn’t something they’d be able to do and they needed a partner. So, a partnership is where you share decisions, and that will go, you know, out to 2032. And, so, we’re building that arrangement to how that could be delivered. And, it’s a national benefit. It’s in the national interest, and that’s why I was there from the get go.

BREEN: The Premier didn’t share the decision about The Gabba, that did blindside the Federal Government. Were you disappointed that day?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, this is, this is the point. Decisions have to be shared. They have to be shared in a partnership. And, that’s how they will be. And, the Queensland Government understands that. They understood that as the basis of our arrangement. We were very clear about that, and that’s how this will run.

BREEN: Prime Minister, last night we were able to celebrate getting the Olympics, and I saw your presentation to Tokyo, and it was fantastic the way you delivered it from The Lodge. But, it only gave you a brief respite from the battle about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Do you feel as though you’ve been unfairly put under pressure about it, considering the recommendations and the advice around AstraZeneca? That’s the thing that’s confused the public. And, if without that advice, we would have been in a much better position.

PRIME MINISTER: Oh, no doubt that we would have. But, I mean, look, we’ve had our challenges and, and we’re getting over those challenges. That’s the key point. I mean, no country in the world has got everything 100 per cent right in COVID – no one, no one has. But, you know, Australia overall, when you think about the fact that over 30,000 lives saved, a million people back in work, 3.5 million people – at its peak – we were providing income support to, to carry them through, and the biggest ever income support program the countries ever run. And, of course, now, the vaccination rates are hitting a million a week. I mean, that’s what we’re doing now. We keep hitting those rates. So, yeah, we’ve had our problems. But, you know, you get challenges, Neil. But, the question is, you’ve got to respond to them, change your approach, that’s what we’ve done. Lieutenant General Frewen – I put in there some months ago to bring it all together right across all of government. That’s had a great impact, and everyone’s working really well together. So, we’re hitting a million a week. We’ve got a million Pfizer doses now coming in every week, getting those brought forward. Our vaccination rates, Neil, you know, we’re at 14.5 for the whole population, but more significantly than that, over, for over 70s we’re over three quarters on their first dose now. For over, over 60s, sorry over 50s, we’ve got 60.45 per cent who’ve had their first dose. Of course, we’ve got every aged care centre in the country twice. And, while we’ve got these lockdowns running in three states, compared to what we were seeing last year in Victoria with that terrible second wave, so far that protection that we were able to put into our aged care community is proving to be very effective. And, I’m pleased to see that. It’s a tough time in the three southern states. But, you know, the protections we’ve put in place are being effective, particularly for those older populations in aged care.

BREEN: One of the things that’s confused the public is the advice. We’ve got the TGA and we’ve got ATAGI. And, this is, Ray Hadley told me to ask you this question because he wants the answer.




BREEN: What’s the difference between the TGA and ATAGI?

PRIME MINISTER: The TGA is the independent body that approves the use of vaccines, medicines in Australia. And, they approved the use of AstraZeneca in Australia for those over the age of 18. So, that’s like you’re approved to use any, any medicine that you have in Australia, the TGA. You know, on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme or whatever it happens to be, they’re the ones who say you can safely use this medicine in Australia, stamp of approval, done. The ATAGI is the body, which, it provides the scientific and technical advice on immunisations. So, that’s once a medicine is already approved, they meet and they provide regular guidance about how it’s being used in the country. And, they’re very esteemed scientific medical professionals drawn from a range of different backgrounds and practices, and they provide advice to the country, particularly those who are administering the vaccine, GPs and the like, about how they believe that should best be done. And, that’s, that’s how it works. It’s a two, it’s a two-pronged system. Those who let the medicine into the gate and then those who decide and advise on how it’s then best applied across the population, once it’s been approved. So, important body. I respect the body, and we have acted consistent with their recommendations. And, you know, the suggestion that we might not accept their recommendations, well, I don’t agree with that. I mean, I would, when they say that they should consider the balance of risk, you know, like if when COVID cases are rising, now that means people have a greater likelihood of catching COVID, particularly older people, then, then the balance of risk changes, and I’ve just simply said balance of risk is changing, guys, so how is that impacting on your advice, and it’s time to think about that.

BREEN: That’s right, that’s right. Were you disappointed when our Chief Health Officer in Queensland Jeannette Young, her stance on AstraZeneca and pretty much killed it off as a, well, didn’t kill it off, but dented it big time right across Australia?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, whether, rather than speaking specifically about that, what I’d probably more say is the impact of, of this advice over time has been for people to have some hesitancy. And, this is an approved drug by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. This is the, this is the vaccine that has substantially vaccinated the United Kingdom. This is the vaccine that has been approved for use in Australia. And, sure, ATAGI has made some suggestions. That’s why we say for those under 60, go and talk to your doctor, informed consent. Some 60,000 doses of AstraZeneca have been administered to people under the age of 40 in Australia since, you know, I made those comments a few, about a month ago. So, people are going and talking to their doctor, and that’s what should happen. It’s called informed consent. You know, we don’t mandate vaccines in this country. We don’t do that. That means we don’t prevent you from taking them if they’re approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration either, based on informed consent with your GP. But, in particularly in Sydney at the moment, you know, where the real challenge with outbreaks is particularly the most vulnerable. It’s, I mean, AstraZeneca has been available for those over the age of 70 right from, pretty much from the start. So, it’s from the start. So, it’s really important that they get vaccinated now. But, I’d be saying to everyone in Queensland, you know, don’t wait for what’s happening in another state to potentially happen in your state. I mean, this is the thing with the, with the Delta variant, it can move very quick and no system is 100 per cent foolproof. The whole world knows that. And, our system has been very strong. But, you know, you can’t guarantee across every single circumstance. So, please, for Queensland, particularly if you’re in the older population, please go and get that AstraZeneca. It’s a totally safe vaccine for you. The Therapeutic Goods Administration would not have approved it if it were not. Same, same body that approves the immunisations for your children is the, is the body that approved these immunisation vaccines for you.

BREEN: Righteo. Prime Minister, thanks for joining us this morning and thanks for paying for half of our Olympic Games.