Interview with Sabra Lane, ABC AM

Transcript
19 Aug 2020
Prime Minister
E&OE

Sabra Lane: We’re joined now by the Prime Minister Scott Morrison, good morning welcome to the Programme.

Prime Minister: Good morning Sabra.

Lane: Just on that story, you didn’t have the benefit of hearing all of it, but a man basically couldn’t see, go to his mum’s funeral, you have been frustrated about closed borders for quite some time, Tasmania’s is keeping it’s closed now until December, Queensland says its borders are closed until there is no community transmission, that could be a long time, National Cabinet’s meeting on Friday, what’s your message to the Premiers?

Prime Minister: Well we’ve got to be practical about these things, and we’ve got to act on medical advice and that has to be transparent. The suppression strategy is to ensure we get no community transmission. I think what’s been demonstrated particularly in NSW is that outbreaks can be addressed and they’ve got another challenge at the moment, but the cases have come right down there. I’m pleased that we are turning the corner in Melbourne and Victoria. But you know, people have got to get access to medical treatment. I mean we fund hospitals, and Medicare, and services all around the country so Australians wherever they live, can get to those services. I mean, I am making some real progress, I mean I appreciate the work we’ve been doing with Premier Marshall with a lot of those cross-border issues, particularly for medical needs. Premier Berejiklian, we’ve been getting some good movement on agricultural workers, shearers and others having to do various work and so on. We just need to be practical about it and ensure that we only need to do what is needed, and that we’re obviously concerned about the spread of the virus, but we’ve also got to look at the medical evidence of what’s occurring on the ground.

Lane: Alright. We’ve got a lot to go through, to the flu vaccine agreement you’ve got for the Oxford vaccine made by AstraZeneca, there are still some big hurdles, you acknowledge that, it’s not known if it’s safe or it’s effective, it’s stage 3 now when many vaccines do fail, how long before you know for sure?

Prime Minister: I think it’ll be a few months yet. And if that clears that hurdle then we will be able to manufacture the vaccine here, have 25 million vaccines available to everyone in the country. And, but as you rightly say, Sabra, I mean, it is well advanced. It is one of the best prospects in the world today. That's just not me saying that or Australia saying that even, when I was Speaking to President Macron recently, we we talked about it. And so it obviously is one of the more favoured of 160 projects that are around the world today. But we won’t be putting all our eggs in one basket. Our expert medical panel that's been set up to deal with this, which Professor Murphy leads, will be identifying and already doing the work on identifying others that we can take positions on to ensure that Australia is best positioned, and well positioned to get that vaccine to Australians as quickly as possible. 

Lane: Yeah. On this, though, you've said all Australians will get it for free. It is the Oxford vaccine. If it works, it's a two dose process, meaning two jabs for each person to be effective. How long could a staggered national immunisation program take? And when would it start? And how would you ensure that people would actually get both jabs? 

Prime Minister: Well, this is why we've not only entered into this agreement, we’ve got a, obviously for the syringes and all those things we've gone into the agreement with Becton Dickinson, on top of that, there's the manufacturing arrangements, we will obviously be taking clinical advice on the rollout program for how that's achieved, that will take several months to rollout in terms of getting that underway. And so look, at at this stage, there are more questions than answers when it comes to the vaccine, because it hasn't obviously gone through all of its stages and there'll be information learnt in that process that will inform its rollout. So at this stage, what's needed is to have the agreement, to have the manufacturing capability and the other things that are needed to roll it out. And now we need to wait to see those trials complete, which will inform the next stage of the process.

Lane: And how mindful are you that this vaccine needs to be safe? Because if there are side effects, anti-vaxxers will jump on this.

Prime Minister: Well as as concerned as I am with any vaccine that's out there. As people probably know, I've been I was the one who introduced ‘no jab, no play’. I've always been very heavily in favour of ensuring we get safe vaccines out in the community. They save lives and this vaccine will be the same. But it obviously has to clear all the tests. That's why we have to be patient to ensure that it does do that. And we have the best medical advice to to authorise that.

Lane: The Aged Care Royal Commission has said that the Federal Government should be listening to it closely, that you should appoint a dedicated national coordinating body right now to work with all homes to advise them and the Government on handling COVID, that you shouldn't wait. Are you acting on that idea?

Prime Minister: Well, we already have been. I mean, what we have already in place in Victoria does exactly that, I mean the expertise and experience of geriatricians, to to specialists in diseases and how they transfer in facilities, I mean, that that is the advice we have been taking. And where we need to supplement that, then that will be done. And and that is, they are the things that Professor Murphy and Professor Kelly and his team have been leading now for months.

Lane: Commissioner Pagone, though, said last week that the Government could implement this right now, that it was a practical improvement that didn't need to wait?

Prime Minister: Well, that's what I'm saying. I mean, what they're suggesting is is effectively already being mirrored in the actions the Government is taking. I have no doubt that where Professor Kelly and Professor Murphy need to supplement what's going on at the moment, then they would certainly do that and they’d do it straightaway.

Lane: Will the Federal Government mandate a requirement for more qualified staff, especially registered nurses in aged care, along with ratios of staff to residents?

Prime Minister: Well, I'm going to, the reason why I appointed the Royal Commission into aged care is, as we have known, that for, you know, a generation, decades, that this has been an issue that despite putting a billion dollars extra into it every single year, that it is an area that still really struggles and it struggles because the demands on aged care have changed so dramatically in the last 10 years. Let alone the last five years and so what that means is, is that when people are going into aged care these days, their needs are very different. I mean, effectively, sadly, that when people are going into aged care now, families know that they're effectively engaging in a pre-palliative care. Now, that is completely different to what was happening 10 or 20 years ago, when, in many cases they are more akin to a retirement village. So the clinical needs, the staffing needs, all of this is is why we need to get the structure and the resourcing right. And that's why I called the Royal Commission. So we won't be just waiting on the Royal Commission. We've already been putting significant additional resources into in-home aged care facilities. We've done that at every statement, I think, since the 18-19 budget. Every update we just did that again, recently, you can expect more of that,

Lane: Sure Prime Minister. Sure, but if if if the Commission actually says that these mandates, these things should be mandated. Will you accept that that finding?

Prime Minister: Well, I'm going to wait for the Aged Care Royal Commission to make its recommendations. I'm not going to speculate about what they are and give speculative responses at this point. I mean, we want to ensure that we get the right resourcing and structures into aged care. We've been making many improvements now over many years. But the reason I called the Royal Commission is I wasn't satisfied with the progress that we were making.

Lane: Alright. China's latest decision to open an anti-dumping enquiry into Australian wine has been described as a weapon, the Chinese ambassador said in April, his country would take action on barley, beef, wine and students, and that's all come to pass. And that was threatened in response to Australia calling for an enquiry into the origins of the COVID virus. Is this coercion? Is it punishment?

Prime Minister: Well, look, we'll deal with the challenges as they present and whether that's on barley or whether that's on meat or whether it's on wine. Well, I do know, is Australia’s education, Australia's wine is much sought after in the Chinese market and that has been reinforced by any number of surveys of the Chinese population themselves. And so there's a high demand for Australia's products, just like is, whether it's for iron ore or other resources or these sorts of products as well. And that gives the consumer a lot of pull. I think in the trade relationship, this is a mutually beneficial trade relationship. China benefits from it. Australia benefits from it. And that's why our trade with China at the moment, both in volume and in value, is at an all time high. And we want to see that continue,

Lane: And we may be the case, but what do you think of this action? Is it coercion? Is it punishment?

Prime Minister: Well, Australia would never respond to anything like that. We would maintain our positions as we always have, and be true to who we are and protect our national interest. So if that's the suggestion, then Australia would never be influenced by anything like that. But it is for others to to to label this as as they might and for others to defend any suggestions they might be doing that.

Lane: There are concerns that milk powdered products are next? What’s your plan to end this?

Prime Minister: Well, we will just in our relationship, continue to be true to who Australia is. See Australia's position hasn't changed, Australia's actions right across the board, whether it's on our national security or whether it's how we deal with our infrastructure, foreign investment, all of these things, we do on Australia's terms. That has not changed. It's the same position today, we’ve held for a very long period of time. And so we will continue to look out for Australian's interests and put that first, our sovereignty, and and our national interests and our defence and our protections. That's what we'll do and Australians can rely on that.

Lane: Just quickly, the Department of Social Services said yesterday on the aged pension, pensioners won't get the automatic boost to their bank balances they're used to in September because inflation has gone backwards. Are you going to try and review that? 

Prime Minister: Yeah, this is just very recent information. And I would point out that there's already been $1,500 dollars of additional payments that have already been made to pensioners this year on those one off payments that were made as part of the pandemic response. But on top of that, the Treasurer and I will work through the implications of what was not really a foreseen event when budgets were put together for the for the moment. I mean, the idea that you'd have had negatives in that quarter is not what the estimates would have taken into account. So the Treasurer and I will work through those issues. But we've already demonstrated that we've been stepping up when it has been, whether it's the need of pensioners which includes disability pensioners, or those through JobKeeper or JobSeeker, or businesses needing support to keep people in jobs. So it is one of the, the impacts that we've seen flow from the pandemic. And we will just deal with that in the orderly way that we have with so many of these issues.

Lane: Prime Minister, thanks for talking to the program this morning.

Prime Minister: Thanks a lot, Sabra. Good to be with you.