Interview with Peter Stefanovic, Sky News

16 Aug 2021
Prime Minister

Peter Stefanovic: Prime Minister, thanks for your time this morning, appreciate it. So, when it comes to the Pfizer vaccine, Poland answered the call. Are you disappointed that the US wasn't there for us in our hour of need?

Prime Minister: What we have to recognise is that, a) I'm very pleased that we were able to secure those just over a million doses, they arrived, the first shipment of those, last night, and that means they'll be getting out there into the New South Wales systems, targeting particularly those 20 to 39 year olds in those most hotspot areas of Sydney. And, we believe that will have a slowing impact on the transmission of the virus in Sydney. That will support the lockdown. It doesn't replace the lockdown. I want to stress again that for the lockdown to work, the lockdown has to work. And, we all need to stay at home in Sydney and follow those, follow those restrictions, because that's the way this will work. The vaccines will certainly help that that task. And, of course, the balance of those vaccines will go to all the other states and territories because I don't take anything for granted in any of those other states and territories. Here in the ACT we have a lockdown. Victoria, there's a lockdown. And, I don't take anything for granted in the other states and territories. In the United States, they're facing their own Delta wave. I mean, Delta is wreaking havoc all around the world and they have very pressing and urgent needs there. And, we've, of course, been talking to them and many others. But, the point is, is that Delta is causing a strain, not just over in Europe and other places, but particularly in the United States, where the situation is seeing hundreds of people dying every day.

Stefanovic: Mark McGowan told Andrew Clennell yesterday that he wants to pursue zero COVID, even after 70 per cent vaccination targets are reached. That's not the National Cabinet agreement, is it?

Prime Minister: No it’s, no it's not, and the National Cabinet agreement was made on three occasions. First of all, that when you move to Phase B, you move from moving, managing cases to ensure that you're managing hospitalisation, serious illness and things of that nature. And, that was done in our first discussion on the national plan, and it was then agreed in principle with the targets that were set by the Doherty  Institute, which made it very clear that once you get to 70 per cent and 80 per cent, at that level, particularly at 80 per cent, then you are managing the virus just like you would the flu. And, so, that's what the national plan was about. It gives people that hope and the path forward. It is the path out and that is the national plan, and and that was the plan that was agreed to.

Stefanovic: So, are you disappointed by Mark McGowan's comments then?

Prime Minister: Well, let's just see what happens. But, the national plan is very clear. I'm sure premiers and chief ministers want to see people, Australia come out of this. That is the way forward that we agreed, based on the best scientific and economic advice and modelling I think that is available to any country in the world. And, it's, so it's a clear plan based on very good scientific, medical and health and economic advice ...

Stefanovic: Ok, well …

Prime Minister: That's the way through this. I mean, I want to encourage all Australians to get vaccinated, whether they're here in the hotspots of ACT and in New South Wales, or in Western Australia where they haven't had the cases, but they're just as exposed to those cases. They're just as at risk, as any other part of the world is. And, that's why it's important that Western Australia, like all the other states and territories, continue to push forward on the vaccination program.

Stefanovic: Gladys Berejiklian wants to live with the virus. Mark McGowan wants to keep it out. And, in fact, he's even threatening to keep the borders closed after 80 per cent vaccination targets are reached. Is the federation hanging by a thread at the moment?

Prime Minister: We've been keeping the federation together now for over 100 years, and we've seen many challenges before. In fact, it was one of the big challenges of the Spanish flu pandemic 100 years ago. And, the fact that we've been able to keep the states and territories talking to each other, working together. I mean, the commitments that are made in the national plan, they’re not commitments just made to each other, they’re commitments made to our own people. Australians are working hard, making sacrifices, getting vaccinated, being subjected to lockdowns. Now, they're all doing this for a reason - to get on the path out, and the path out is set out in that national plan. And, that's a, that's a compact with our own people, whether in our own state or nationally.

Stefanovic: Just finally, on to Afghanistan. Boris Johnson says no one should bilaterally recognise the Taliban. Do you agree?

Prime Minister: No, we have no plans along those lines, that's for sure. And, we're dealing with what is a a very dangerous and a very distressing situation in Afghanistan. Already, since April, we've been able to extract some 430 Afghan locally engaged employees and their families. We already shut down our mission back in May and to ensure that all Australian diplomatic personnel were able to be safely exited from that region. We still are working to transfer people. I can't go into the operational details of that. We're doing that with our partners. But, the situation has been declining rapidly over the last few days. We'll be meeting again this morning and getting an update on on our operations. I spoke last night to the Prime Minister of New Zealand, and we're working closely with them. The Foreign Minister is speaking to Secretary Blinken this morning, also. So, there'll be further updates there. But, it is a very distressing and concerning situation, and we've been moving swiftly, and in partnership with our allies and partners, as quickly as possible.

Stefanovic: The war in Afghanistan, Prime Minister, was it all a waste in the end?

Prime Minister: It's never, it's always Australia's cause to fight for freedom, and whatever the result, whatever the outcomes of that, Australians have always stood up for that. And, I think that's very important. That is always important. That's what we've always done. And, that's why Australia is respected in the way we are. Anyone who’s fallen ...

Stefanovic: It didn't achieve anything though, did it?

Prime Minister: in Australia's uniform. Everyone who has fallen in an Australian uniform, for our values and under flag, has died in the great cause of freedom, and they are great heroes.

Stefanovic: All right, Scott Morrison, appreciate your time. Thanks for joining us.

Prime Minister: Thanks, Peter.