Press Conference - Australian Parliament House, ACT

04 Jun 2021
Prime Minister

Prime Minister: Today, we held the 42nd meeting of the National Cabinet. Our next meeting will be held in person, in Darwin in early July and we look forward to that. It was, again, a very positive and very constructive meeting, dealing with the challenges of COVID-19 together, working together to deal with those challenges and to deliver solutions and responses in a collaborative and cooperative way.

Today, the Premier of Victoria and I concluded a memorandum of understanding to develop a new quarantine facility in Melbourne. That facility will both assist with the Victorian Government who will run the operations of that facility. We will develop the facility together with the Victorian Government, but the Commonwealth Government will meet the capital costs of that and the Victorian Government will meet the operational costs and run the facility. This will both assist them and the risk management of the various groups that they are providing for in the quarantine system as well as delivering additional capacity for the quarantine system in Victoria and that is a very welcome process that we have been through with the Victorian Government. A very, very good proposal. One that I was very pleased with when I first saw it and I want to thank our officials and the Victorian officials working so quickly through to the agreement we reached today.

We also noted today, the temporary COVID disaster recovery payment that I announced yesterday. We discussed the cost sharing arrangements and have agreed nationally across the country that the cost sharing will work on the basis that the Commonwealth will provide the direct personal income support, that is through the temporary disaster recovery payment for COVID and that state and territory governments will meet the cost of business support that are as a result of lockdowns that may be put in place by state and territory governments, so it is a very clear allocation of responsibilities. We will do the individual support after seven days, consistent with a hotspot, as I announced yesterday. For business support, that will be the responsibility of state and territory governments to ensure that there is as much uniformity and consistency in those business support arrangements that has been referred to the meeting of treasurers who will seek to get some consistency in the business support provided in those circumstances. But we are all agreed that the best thing we can do is ensure that we open up states, territories, cities as quickly as we possibly and safely can and I know that is the objective of the Victorian Government and all other state and territory governments to ensure that such payments are not necessary because we are keeping Australian open and keeping our economy moving ahead as the national accounts have demonstrated as we found out over the course of this week.

We also referred to the medical expert panel, the AHPPC, the post-quarantine testing arrangements, that is a matter that the AHPPC has considered on many occasions and in review of events over the last few weeks, it was considered appropriate the AHPPC consider some uniformity between how those matters are considered by states and territories and I’ll ask the Chief Medical Officer to speak more on that when he makes his remarks in a few moments’ time.

We discussed the vaccine rollout. I would say it was a positive discussion about the vaccine rollout among Premiers and Chief Ministers and the Commonwealth today. It has been another record day, I can say 143,659 doses delivered in the previous 24 hours. We are now over a million doses in ten days. We are now over three quarters of a million doses in the space of a week and that is a significant improvement from when I brought National Cabinet back together back in April and we put in place those new arrangements, which has seen us grow from about 320,000 a week, now to three quarters of a million a week. So that has been a significant improvement. And I thank the states and territories and the Commonwealth agencies that have been involved in ensuring that we can move to that level of dosing and both the Health Minister and the Secretary of Health will make further comments on those matters. In particular, it was agreed today there will be further simplification of the arrangements on the vaccination programs and that will include bringing forward access to 40-49  year-olds for their doses by June 8 and I’ll ask the Secretary to speak more to that.

On aged care, a very clear message from all states and territories together with the Commonwealth. It is very important, it is a high priority for those who are working in residential aged care facilities to be vaccinated. That is why, both through the Commonwealth and the state and territory governments, priority is being afforded to those workers to get vaccinated through the many points of presence afforded to them and that includes fast lanes, green lanes, priority lanes that are put in place by states and territories as well as through the GP program for them to have priority with appointments. In addition to that though, we agreed to an in-principle disposition - now, what does that mean? We are leaning heavily into this, make no mistake, we are leaning heavily into this as leaders of governments and myself as Prime Minister, to see us move towards a mandatory vaccination for aged care workers. We have had further advice from the AHPPC, which means we have tasked the AHPPC to advise us how this can safely be done including a suitable timeframe by which that could be achieved and so we will be expecting prompt advice back from the AHPPC about how we can introduce such an arrangement. For vaccinations to be made mandatory for aged care workers, that has to be done by public health orders at a State level, as it's done for flu vaccinations and followed in many states and territories around the country. Ultimately, that is finally a determination of the states and territories but there was an agreement and I can assure you, I was firmly of this view is supported firmly by states and territories. But there was an agreement and I can assure you I was very firmly of this view and supported strongly by states and territories, that we need to look at how we can do this safely. But the first point is, if you're working in aged care, indeed working in disability care, I should have noted that both of those have been referred to AHPPC, we encourage you to go and get that vaccination. There are numerous points of presence, numerous places where you can go to receive your vaccination. But, the first priority of course was to ensure that residential aged care facility residents themselves were vaccinated because they were the ones most at risk and I will ask the Aged Care Minister, who is also the Health Minister, to make reference to those issues.

The vaccination certification, and this has been a topic of some conversation over the past month, the vaccination certification is already present within the Services Australia system, but it will soon be available through the Medicare app and ultimately in the form of a digital wallet that can be used by citizens. That will be available in July, there is already the Medicare reference that you can get through the Medicare app which we anticipate to be available this month. That is a tool that can be used by states and territories, in particular we discussed the many exemptions that states and territories provide, when we’re in a situation exactly like we are now, with Victoria, and there are states and territories that are providing, sorry, that are imposing restrictions on people’s ability to travel and it will be open to states and territories to include an exemption if they so choose. There was no agreement on this, there is simply the opportunity for them to take this up if they wanted to provide an exemption in those circumstances where people had their vaccination in place, then they can do so.

On the issue of caps, I appreciate the work that has been done by States and Territories to maintain the air access for people coming back to Australia. I particularly thank the Western Australian and South Australian Governments who joined New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria in welcoming back repatriation facilitated commercial flights from India and they will be joining those in the week ahead and that is enormously helpful.

We also discussed the success of the India pause. The India pause proved very effective. It came at exactly the right time and its intent was to prevent a third wave in Australia and while we have a challenge in Victoria, it would not be described in those terms and, what is important is that pause has seen the effect of reducing both the number of cases that have been presenting in quarantine and the caseload of cases in quarantine came down dramatically and that has enabled us now to move to the position where those repatriation flights have been coming in, the use of rapid antigen testing means that we are getting very high levels of occupancy of those flights, the take-up of those flights coming back in repatriation and that is a positive thing and I thank again the states and territories for their support in supporting that pause and they were also appreciative.

We also had today Adrian Schrinner, the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, representing the capital city mayors, discussing the very important issue of how we need to revitalise our CBDs. And Premiers and Chief Ministers and I have a very simple message, and that is it’s time to get back to the office. Obviously not in Victoria at present but even coming into the recent lockdown in Victoria, moving in that direction, almost entirely around the country. State Government employers and the Federal Government employers are saying it is time to come back to the office and here in the ACT in particular, with Commonwealth employers we have been saying that for some time, as other states have in other jurisdictions. But, the challenge is that we have got many corporates, particularly corporate headquarters of companies that are headquartered globally overseas, who are using US or European or UK rules regarding people's presence in the office, they are not appropriate to Australia, they should be indigenised to Australia, we have been encouraging them to standardise the working arrangements to be consistent to what is happening here in Australia and not overseas. I know the BCA supports that position very strongly. We would encourage private employers to move in that direction. That will be good for jobs, good for the beating heart of our cities and I thank very much the Lord Mayor of Brisbane for his presentation today and it was well received by my colleagues. Also following from that, is we are going to be referring to the AHPPC to review the impact of those density guidelines in offices to ensure that that is not presenting an obstacle to people coming back to the office and they will report shortly.

Now, before I hand you over to the Health Minister and Aged Care Minister to comment further, as our vaccination program is now moving into a further phase and following the pending retirement of Health Associate Secretary Caroline Edwards, I'm pleased to announce today the appointment of Lieutenant General John - better known JJ - Frewen as the head of the National COVID Vaccination Task Force. JJ Frewen, Lieutenant General JJ Frewen has been leading the operation COVID Assist within Defence now for some time and with Caroline's pending departure, and I want to thank Caroline Edwards for the great work that she has done not just during the course of these past four, five months but indeed right throughout the course of the pandemic, as Brendan would know and Brendan was in the role as CMO, she was acting as Health Secretary during that period for much of that first phase of the pandemic and did an extraordinary job and we wish her all the best and thank her for her work. This change though gives us the opportunity to step up another gear. Some years ago, you might recall, there was an operation called Operation Sovereign Borders, I put in place at that time with Prime Minister Abbott, a completely new organisational structure to for getting a whole of government effect on a very big problem. It worked on that occasion and I think moving that footing now will further improve how we’re working in the vaccination program. Lieutenant General Frewen will have direct operational control across numerous government departments for the direction of the national vaccination program and all of those working in that program, from communications to dealings with states, to the distribution and delivery of vaccines and all of these matters, and the ramp-up, the scale-up, the working with the GPs, pharmacists and others, this will all come under the direct control of Lieutenant General Frewen. Commodore Eric Young will continue in his role as head of operations at the Commonwealth vaccine operations centre. So, this is in addition to, not in replacement of, and we much appreciate the work that Commodore Young has been doing and so we're stepping that up to another level. The single goal of the taskforce is to ensure as many Australians are vaccinated as early as possible and within the available supply and so look forward to Lieutenant General Frewen taking on that role and I think that very direct command and control structure that has proved to be so effective in the past will add a further dimension and assistance as we step up in this next phase. Thank you very much. Greg?

The Hon. Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Heath and Aged Care: Thanks very much, Prime Minister, and I’ll address briefly the rollout, the taskforce and new rules in relation to aged care. In relation to the rollout, as the Prime Minister said, another record day - three record days of vaccinations in a row. Australians are stepping forward and I really want to thank them. We ask them, we challenge them to come forward and not to wait, and they’re doing this in record numbers and they’re protecting themselves and they’re protecting all Australians. As part of that, as the Prime Minister mentioned, 143,000 Australians came forward yesterday and over 4.78 million Australians so far. We have now reached 20 per cent of the adult population having had first doses across the country. Very significantly, what we see is that the states have been doing a tremendous job - over 1.75 million doses - and over three million doses delivered through the Commonwealth programs of primary health and aged care. Primary health is now at 2.66 million. Very significantly, we have seen over 37 per cent of the over 50s vaccinated around Australia, including 40 per cent in Victoria, and over 56 per cent of all Australians over 70 vaccinated, including 57 per cent in Victoria. In recognition of the rates that are occurring in Victoria, we will be providing 142,000 Pfizer doses over today and next Friday. So, 71,000 today, 71,000 next Friday, to Victoria. Our latest inventory is that they have approximately 320,000 doses on hand - 160,000 Pfizer, 160,000 AstraZeneca. And for the primary care, our GPs, we will be increasing the weekly doses available from 91,000 this week to 142,000 next week. So Victoria is doing a great job on all fronts. It’s the public that are coming forward, whether it’s the state, whether it’s the GPs, it’s a tremendous outcome.

Just in terms of the taskforce, delighted to welcome General Frewen. His work through Operation COVID Assist and leading the Defence Force where I’ve had the privilege of working with him. Caroline Edwards has been one of the great servants of the nation. She’s retiring and I’m really desperately sad about that, but in the darkest of days last year, she and others were working 20 hours, sometimes 24 hours, and the gruelling pace is just incredible. And so whether it’s Caroline or Lisa Schofield or Lisa Peterson, obviously Brendan and Paul, I want to say a special thanks. It is unbelievable, the service and the pressure that these people have given, these genuine public servants, in the best of the term, and Caroline embodies and exemplifies that. But we have General Frewen, we have Commodore Young, we have the team that’s in place, and what this does is it allows us to move to the next phase of strengthening the operations as we move in July with greater Pfizer coming on board, recognising that the over 50s, at some point, will begin to meet their demand, which will moderate the over 50s, and that’s why the Prime Minister and National Cabinet have moved to open the over 40s within the available supplies of Pfizer.

Then, finally, I want to say that to support the decision taken by National Cabinet to refer the question of mandatory vaccination and the disposition of National Cabinet to refer the question of mandatory vaccination for aged care workers to the medical experts, overnight I have taken the decision, which has been done in consultation with the aged care sector, that to make mandatory from 15 June the reporting of all aged care worker vaccinations. So we know that at this point in time we have 78,000 vaccinations of aged care workers, but aged care workers can also be vaccinated outside of the facilities and so we have asked all facilities to step forward and they will, it will be mandatory for them, where an aged care worker has been vaccinated outside that facility, to provide that information so as we have a full accounting for every facility for every aged care worker. Thank you very much.

Professor Paul Kelly, Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer: So, the epidemiology this week has, which I reported to National Cabinet, has obviously been dominated by issues in Victoria, with a twist this morning. The Victorian Public Health, Chief Health Officer and Professor Sutton did talk about this, I believe, at a press conference earlier, that the case that has been identified, the family that was travelling in New South Wales and in Jervis Bay appears to have a different genomic structure to that virus, and so that’s another mystery for us to work on, and right now the AHPPC is meeting to discuss that. There was a meeting earlier today with Commonwealth, ACT, Victoria and New South Wales Chief Health Officer's or representatives on that meeting to discuss that. But this is another new variant. It appears it’s the Delta variant, that’s one of the others that is associated with India, but different to the Kappa variant that has been circulating in Victoria over the last couple of weeks.

The other update I gave, and the PM’s already mentioned this, the issue of returnees from India. Highly successful in what is happening on the ground in Delhi, and I certainly would give credit to Qantas in relation to what they are doing with the Australian Government on those facilitated flights. And there’s further discussions with other commercial providers to do something similar. But those pre-testing arrangements, the bubble hotel in Delhi, and the mask wearing on the flights appear to be successful, in conjunction with the decrease in the cases in India over the last few weeks. And so we have seen a very low number of positives that have come in the large number now of facilitated flights that have come back from India since the pause was completed. To the point, we’re seeing less than one per cent positivity, which has been our average throughout, from all countries around the world, during the pandemic. So that was the issue.

Do you want me to talk about the aged care workers? Yeah. So just in relation to the work that AHPPC has done in relation to aged care worker vaccination and mandating that, there were a few issues that were raised and unanimous with the group, and I think it’s important to understand that. We are all, of course, wanting to protect our most vulnerable Australians. That’s largely been done in relation to the rollout throughout the country to every residential aged care facility, and high rates of vaccination there. But this extra protection is important. And I would join the Prime Minister and all the premiers and chief ministers today in really asking all aged care workers to go and get vaccinated. We need to and we are making that access as easy as possible, making that availability there as well. The issue of knowing how many people have taken up that in a voluntary capacity, Minister Hunt has spoken to. That will be much improved with that mandatory reporting from employers, and that’s important to see. But we also need to balance that unintended consequence potentially of affecting the workforce in our aged care facilities of course. And we saw this last year when large numbers of workers were furloughed because of contact with COVID-19. That can have a devastating effect on all of the other elements in relation to caring for our most vulnerable Australians in that setting. So we need to weigh that up. The Prime Minister and their first ministers have given us that task, to go back and say that, give adequate warning, and as much as possible make the vaccine totally accessible to that staff, and if it needs to be mandated after that, then that’s the task at hand. Thank you.

Prime Minister: Thank you, Paul. Brendan.

Professor Brendan Murphy, Secretary of the Department of Health: Thanks, Prime Minister. I'll be brief. I'd like to start by also saying that I welcome General Frewen, working with him. I’ve known him for a long time, he’s a great colleague, and my team in the Department of Health will be really pleased, the 400 wonderful people who have been delivering the vaccine rollout, will be very pleased to work in his leadership. And I also want to acknowledge the great contribution that my dear friend Caroline Edwards has made to basically saving the nation over the last 18 months.

Minister Hunt’s spoken most about the vaccine rollout, I'll be brief. But it is going very well. We have, we will be close to five million doses by the end of this week. People are turning up. And it is unfortunate that complacency had to be shaken up a bit by a small outbreak in Victoria, but that’s the silver lining in that cloud of our friends in Victoria, that people are turning up.

I want to particularly address a statement that I made at a press conference on Monday. I want to talk to our over 70s, who are the people who have a 10 per cent risk of dying if they get COVID. We have seen in Victoria that outbreaks can and will occur. We’ve vaccinated, as Minister Hunt said, well over 50, or over 50 per cent of our over 70s, but we need all of you to turn up. We need all of you to turn up. Don't be frightened. The AstraZeneca vaccine in the elderly, we have, it’s a very, very rare side effect. And as I said on Monday, you are 10,000 times more likely to die of COVID than get a clot from AstraZeneca vaccine if you're over 70. And all of, nearly all of the over 70s we've seen have had very mild instances, so please protect yourself and turn up and get vaccinated, particularly our over 70s who are at a very, very high risk of a very bad outcome from COVID.

Just on the changes to the rollout, it’s basically a simplification, many states and territories have started offering access to Pfizer for the 40-49s. We now have enough capacity in our Pfizer clinics to make that a nationwide process. We’re also ensuring that all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders from over 16 can now access vaccines because of the higher health associated risks even in people under 40 in that group. And we’re also allowing full access to people on the NDIS and their associated carers, if they’re over 16 years of age. So they’re simplifications. We will look at what happens over coming, coming weeks with the over 40s uptake, and in future we will make further changes endorsed by National Cabinet. So I’ll stop there PM.

Prime Minister: Thanks Brendan. Mark.

Journalist: Prime Minister, we remember you well telling us that Operation Sovereign Borders was needed because our borders are being allowed to run out of control. Why shouldn't this announcement today be seen as an acknowledgement by your Government that applying that template now means that the vaccination rollout is in crisis?

Prime Minister: I wouldn't describe it like that, Mark. That’s, I simply wouldn't accept that proposition that you’ve put forward. With the retirement of Caroline Edwards, there’s an opportunity to scale up again. And as we’re going to move into the busiest phase of the vaccination program in the second half of this year, particularly as we lead into that very significant rollout that will occur largely, we believe, from about September through to the end of the year when the Pfizer doses, and Greg might want to join me here on this, it is important to ensure that we’re got every focused effort we can have on this program. One of the reasons why Operation Sovereign Borders worked so well was because it really did integrate the whole of government approach, and as we move into that phase, this is a great opportunity to take that next step. And that’s exactly how I’d describe it. We are taking the next step and we’re going to the next level.

Journalist: [Inaudible] disposition, as you described it, and perhaps Professor Kelly could help on this, what is it that the AHPPC hasn’t already told Premiers that they need to know before they issue one of these orders, and did we see when Premier McGowan mandated quarantine workers in WA last year to get vaccinated, were there any sort of effects, adverse effects on the workforce caused by that?

Professor Paul Kelly, Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer: So I think I sort of talked through the issues that were occupying the minds of the AHPPC. There will be a formal statement published from the National Cabinet. Just to quote the last line, “AHPPC will continue to monitor the situation and provide advice to National Cabinet including on any evidence supporting a future move to mandatory vaccination.” The issues that were occupying them was, the most important one was that balance I was talking about before of unintended consequences. The last thing we want is, and this relates to your question about the security guards, there was an issue, that was mandated with security guards in WA using a public health order. Some people chose to leave the industry. Now, we know that that could be an issue so we don't want that to be an issue. Want people to come forward and volunteer to be explained what the issues are, make sure we are really focusing on our culturally and linguistically diverse workforce that are often working in these particular settings to make sure they have the full truth and understanding of the vaccine. Do all those things. Get the data, was the other thing. Is this really an issue? Are people actually coming forward? And others have mentioned that we will have much better data in coming weeks in relation to that. And then, if that extra thing is needed, we will definitely go to that point.

Journalist: What sort of a time frame are we looking at, like when will you need ...

Prime Minister: What we have asked the AHPPC to do is to advise a suitable timeframe in which a mandatory vaccination of aged care workers would be suitable and safe from a medical perspective and taking into account the balancing risks that you would have to consider and the issue of putting strain on a residential aged care in particular and disability care workforce, ensuring we have enough of those workers. If that not there then that can present other risks to residents. And so we want to be confident that that risk wasn't realised. And so what is an appropriate time frame over which you could put in place a requirement for mandatory vaccination, that is one of the specific things we have asked the AHPPC to tell us. And so we’ll let them have their consideration and advise us what would be a safe period to have such a mandatory vaccination time period.

Journalist: Will there be consideration for the aged care workers of how to get the vaccines for them, pop-up clinics or something like that so that they’re not having to try to get into see a GP? And just, I wanted to ask about the payments, the emergency payments as well.

Prime Minister: Go ahead.

Journalist: Yesterday, you said you were hoping to, that the cost sharing on the emergency payments would end up being split 50-50 on those income payments you announced yesterday and today you’ve said the Commonwealth is going to be picking up 100% of the tab for those, so what happened there?

Prime Minister: No, I think you've misunderstood me. What I said yesterday was that we would work out the arrangements between states and territories. What was important is that people understood a payment was going to be made. Now, I was clear very yesterday. There is a cost sharing arrangement. What I was proposing yesterday was there were two options that we considered, and I outlined these yesterday at the press conference. We either go 50-50 on both payments, 50-50 on the business and 50-50 on the individuals payments, or we do the individuals and the states do the business. And I was happy with either outcome because both of them involved cost sharing between the states and territories. And so it was believed that the most straightforward way to do that was simply for states to do the business and we will do the individual payments. It that was agreed that it was important we have a universal position across the country on that issue. And that reflected the fact that it is the Commonwealth who will be doing the individual payments and it is the states and territories who are actually doing the business payments. So the citizen facing side of this, people would have seen no difference to either way. It is just how the accounts were reconciled at the end of the day. So I think this is a very fair arrangement, states are looking after business payments and we will be addressing individual's payments after that seven day period. But Greg, on the other matter?

The Hon. Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health and Aged Care: So just on aged care workers, what we’ve wanted to do is make sure that they have multiple options and ways in which to be vaccinated. So there are five different channels for aged care workers. Obviously, the in-facility vaccination. Now we also have established roving clinics, in New South Wales it’s pop-up, in Victoria its roving, which is appropriate for the circumstances. There should be 50 vaccination services provided during the course of this week through the roving clinics. Then for individuals who seek to get their own, they can go to the GP, they can also go to Commonwealth clinics or they can go to the state clinics, and some states and territories, in line with the decision of 22 April of National Cabinet, have set up priority pathways and we thank them for that.

Journalist: Prime Minister, you’ve decided to go against the advice of the AHPPC when it came to pushing for these to become mandatory for aged care workers. Why did you decide to go against that advice on this occasion, and did states and territories all agree on that and I also wanted to get a question to the CMO if I could on, is AstraZeneca less effective on the Delta variant?

Prime Minister: On the first point, we have not gone against the advice. What we have said is we have referred back to the AHPPC this question, on the basis of our disposition which was the view right across all states and territories, about how this can be safely done. And so ultimately this is a matter that we are seeking the AHPPC's medical advice about how that can be safely achieved. And the issues that the Chief Medical Officer has raised are very valid issues. They are the same points that both the Health Minister and I have raised when we have addressed the issue of aged care workforce before. But there was a very strong view that whatever we can do to encourage the take-up of vaccines amongst the aged care workforce and disability workforce then we should be doing that. And this is one such option, but we want to do it safely and that is why we have referred how to do it safely to the AHPPC. So I wouldn’t share the view that the National Cabinet at all has gone against medical advice, we are actually seeking it. Paul?

Professor Paul Kelly, Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer: I think I’ve [inaudible] on that one. So the Delta.

Journalist: Is [inaudible] less effective on the Delta variant?

Professor Paul Kelly, Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer: So, the Delta variant, so back story, there is now a decision during this week by the WHO to simplify the way that these variants of concern that have been emerging around the world are being labelled. So this is the third attempt. One was where they were first being found, the second was a very long series of numbers and letters which was becoming difficult to remember even for epidemiologists. So I welcome that simplicity. So both the Delta and the Kappa variants are ones that have arisen from India. We have seen a little bit of both of those variants here in Australia, you might remember the gentleman from NSW probably about six weeks ago now, that was a Delta variant. So we have seen that but very rarely in Australia. The Kappa variant we hadn’t really seen until this current outbreak in Melbourne. In terms of vaccine, so these are variants of consent usually for three reasons. One is they are more transmissible or they’re more severe, cause more severe illness or they interfere with vaccine efficacy. This one we know is more transmissible, and that’s been discussed a lot in relation to the Victorian outbreak. In terms of severity, we’re not seeing that, we haven’t seen a large increase in hospitalisations. In fact, most of the people that have been picked up in Melbourne have been asymptomatic or mildly ill, so that’s good news. In terms of vaccine efficacy that is to be seen. There is some preliminary work out of the UK, where they have been seeing this variant which suggests that there may be a lower efficacy of AstraZeneca but it is not zero and that is very preliminary laboratory work. We know that we need to wait for that real world experience which comes only when you have large outbreaks which I'm really sure that we won’t be having in Australia.

Journalist: Prime Minister, on the vaccine rollout, it’s good that we’re having record days but we also spent $24 million on ads, millions on management consultants, and we’ve still got a roll out that’s slower than comparable countries, supply issues, vaccine hesitancy. Was it a mistake to outsource so much of that rollout to the private sector? And why are we not getting bang for our buck here?

Prime Minister: I would say that today, we have a situation with three quarters of a million doses are being delivered a week, which is more than double what we were seeing about six weeks ago, and we’ve got doses running at more than a million every ten days and this continues to scale up. And in relation to comparable countries, I mean, when you look at comparable countries to Australia's COVID experience, like New Zealand in particular, I think that is a very good comparison to make but there are others, and when you look at those countries where there hasn’t been a prevalence of community transmission and you’re faced with those challenges, you’ve seen vaccination rates which are much lower. So I wouldn’t agree with your summary and would simply say that the task ahead of us is still great and I welcome General Frewen to come and take on this role which will take us into the next phase. This is just about dealing with challenges, dealing with issues and ensure that we continue to strengthen it and the roll out gathers further pace. That’s what’s occurring. And we will use every resource, private, public, GPs, right across the country, to get the job done. And that’s what I am focused on. I am just getting the job done. Working with the states and territories to get the job done. That’s what Australians care about. Australians care about us just getting it delivered, getting it on the ground, increasing the points of presence, bringing it into as many parts of the community as we possibly can, as quickly and as safely as we can. That’s what we’re doing. Last question.

Journalist: Have any of the states raised concerns about mandatory vaccinations for aged care workers, and what were those concerns? Quick one for the Minister as well, given the current demand for vaccines in Victoria, will you ask other states and territories to redirect some of their allocation to Victoria?

The Hon. Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health and Aged Care: So we’ve just announced additional vaccines for Victoria from the Commonwealth supply. As I say, we've gone from 91,000 to 142,000 for the primary care. There are 320,000 vaccines on inventory, on supply within the Victorian Government system and as I have mentioned, we are providing 71,000 Pfizer today and 71,000 Pfizer next Friday to Victoria and so, as well as an additional 130,000 AstraZeneca to Victoria. So that is our part. If other states and territories wish to provide, if they had surplus, that would be a matter for them. But it’s our job to meet demand and to supply within the existing supplies, and that’s what we’re doing. I will just say one thing, supply determines the roll out and we are working to that maximum capacity and as supply has increased so has the roll out and so has the uptake and I think that is a very important thing. The other thing is just to say what we have done all along, what’s protected Australia, what’s allowed us to have no lives lost this year from cases caught in Australia, and of course that can change in any one day, it’s that we have always adapted as quickly as possible. We’ve followed the medical advice but we’ve led in and we’ve adapted. And those are the two things which have allowed us to be where we are.

Prime Minister: And on the other matter, there was another part to the question, all states and territories are in agreement with the in-principle disposition on mandatory vaccination of aged care workers as I described it to you today, and the reference of that matter to the AHPPC for further advice. Last question.

Journalist: I’m sure you’ve seen that report that Fairfax and Nine newspapers are reporting that the ABC bosses blocked a Four Corners episode linking you to a QAnon figure. Are you concerned the ABC is involved in so-called vigilante journalism, were the allegations put to you, and what is your connection to the man at the centre of that story?

Prime Minister: I find it deeply offensive that there would be any suggestion that I would have any involvement or support for such a dangerous organisation. I clearly do not. It is also just very disappointing that Four Corners in their inquiries would seek to cast this aspersion not just against me but by members of my own family. I just think that is really poor form. Thank you very much.