Press Conference - Australian Parliament House, ACT

Transcript
04 Feb 2021
Prime Minister
E&OE

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you for joining us. I’m joined by the Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, and the Secretary of the Department of Health. We'll be making a number of announcements on vaccines and I'll come to that in a moment.

But let me deal with two other important issues. First of all, the bushfires that are threatening lives and property in the Perth Hills. I provided an update to the Parliament yesterday. The further update I have today is the situation is going to continue to be very dangerous. The bushfire has impacted northern and north-east suburbs of Perth. There still remains the potential for gusts of up to 60-70km/h, which may cause embers to carry ahead of the main fire, which we have been seeing, several kilometres ahead, those embers were blowing forward previously and those weather conditions continue not to be assisting. As I said yesterday, confirmed reports of at least 71 properties and two firefighting vehicles have been destroyed. The burn scale now 10,000 hectares. Over 1,300 homes and businesses are without power and there is significant damage to the electricity network, including 800 poles and 100 transformers and there are disruptions to telecommunications due to the loss of power. Residents have been evacuated in some WA communities, but fortunately there are so far no reports of serious injuries. Our concerns remain, of course, for those who are fighting the fires, noting that a number of firefighters have received injuries, minor injuries, which does occur in the course of their dangerous work and they understand that. But we nonetheless are concerned for their safety. There are two large air tankers that will be assisting with fighting the fire in Western Australia, under the National Aerial Firefighting Arrangements. There were meetings yesterday that further addressed those issues, and taking the advice on what was necessary. Those arrangements ensure that those large tankers and other assets, which are either owned by states or shared between states, and they're deployed in accordance with the expert advice of where they need to be, and other issues regarding further reagent and those sorts of things are also addressed through that process. There are some more than 500 career and volunteer firefighters who are out there working together against the fire, and the aerial support has been sent to support the ground crews. So, it remains a concerning situation. We're working closely with the Western Australian Government, amongst all of our officials and myself directly with the Premier, as needed. But they know they will get what they need and I think they're doing a very good job, as well as dealing with the other challenges that they're presently facing in Perth.

On a more positive note, today I had a very warm and engaging call with President Biden. And we appreciated the opportunity to have that conversation in an early phase, amongst the many nations that have been engaged with early on in that process. As he said to me again today, he sees the Australia-US relationship as providing the anchor for peace and security in our region. And that is true. We share that view. In terms of our relations between Australia and the United States, there's nothing to fix there, only things to build on, and we intend to do just that. We talked about the stewardship we share, a stewardship that has been held by prime ministers and presidents over a very long time, and particularly this year. Some 70 years of the ANZUS Alliance that we will celebrate in September of this year. I spoke to former prime minister Howard when we were at Doug Anthony's funeral the other day, and he reminded me that it was 20 years ago in September, when he was in the United States to address the Congress on the 50th anniversary of ANZUS and, of course, while he was there, it was September 11. And so we spoke about that today, remembering that it is 20 years since September 11. And we stood with the United States then, as we always have and always will. We spoke of the fact that Australia looks to the United States, but we never leave it to the United States. We do our share of the heavy lifting in this relationship, and that is absolutely respected by the President and appreciated. And so a very warm call.

So, we affirmed our commitment to the things that absolutely always matter - those relationships, particularly the alliance relationships, but also the Five Eyes relationships and the broadening of that agenda on the Five Eyes. The Quad relationship, a high priority for the Biden Administration as it works with Australia and its partners within the region. And what we refer to now as the G7-Plus dialogue. Australia is not a member of the G7, but that's not the point. We have now been invited on three occasions while I have been Prime Minister, and there have been other occasions in the past. And that G7-Plus dialogue enables a broader discussion of issues amongst like-mindeds, liberal democracies, market-based economies, and this is a very positive move and deals with everything from technology, partnerships, supply chains, the security of those, the economic recovery, COVID issues, and cooperation. So, we will continue to work together on the key global and regional challenges in the Indo-Pacific, and there is an absolute affirmation and understanding that we are in this together, we are absolutely in this together. Whether it's on COVID and whether it's on the economic recovery, global and regional security issues, the multilateral initiatives and reforms that we are partnering in, but also, as we discussed today, achieving a net-zero pathway through technology, and the cooperation that is needed to do that, and the work that has already begun from the discussion between Special Envoy Secretary Kerry and Minister Taylor, we picked that up today and we're very keen on pursuing that relationship and the technology partnership. And I had the opportunity to discuss how the United States, and as Secretary Kerry said the other day and I said it in the Parliament, that it is a game-changing statement to understand that our goal is global emissions, not just emissions in some countries. Global emissions reduction, and that is how you solve the problem. And so appreciated their leadership there.

So, a very warm and engaging conversation. We're looking forward to further engagements over the course of this year. Again, he was invited to join us for the celebration of the 70 years of ANZUS. He told me he needs no special reason to come to Australia, he loves the place. But they would very much like to be in Australia at some point, and we'll see how that progresses. But a very keen enthusiasm to come back to Australia, which he knows so well, with Dr Biden and, of course, the other summits and various things coming up over the first half of this year. So, that was the very warm and engaging call that we had between myself and President Biden.

Now, to the issue of vaccines. Australia has secured an additional 10 million Pfizer doses. We have been able to contract securing those vaccines. That brings to now 150 million doses, what Australia has been able to secure, to not only vaccinate Australia but to ensure that we're doing our bit in this part of the world. Yesterday I joined the Pacific Island Leaders' Forum, and we were able to give the good report of how we're working with them, together with the United States and France across the Pacific, and this as much potentially assists that task as it certainly assists our task in the rollout of our vaccine. These additional vaccines have been secured consistent with our requirements under the Strategy. I want to commend again Minister Hunt and Professor Murphy for the great job they and their teams have done in continuing to fulfil our commitments when it comes to delivering this vaccine in Australia. It is the big agenda item for us, obviously, because it provides the pathway to so many of the other things we wish to achieve this year. They can speak more to the details of that. We are still, though, on track to commence later this month. That puts us in a very good position, particularly with our sovereign vaccine production capability, ahead of many countries, like New Zealand, for example, we understand, won't commence until April, I think it is. We're working with them as well and I had a good discussion with Prime Minister Ardern on that just the other day.

But Greg?

THE HON. GREG HUNT MP, MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGED CARE: Thanks very much to the Prime Minister and Professor Murphy. We know that the pandemic continues to rage around the world. Fortunately, we have seen some reduction in global numbers in recent weeks in terms of the daily cases, but sadly the number of lives lost continues. In Australia, one community case today on the advice that we have from the National Incident Centre, obviously within Victoria, and no lives lost. No lives lost in January against a global figure of approximately 400,000. And those figures put into perspective the situation in Australia. Safe at home but challenges abroad. And against that background, the vaccine rollout is the next critical step in protecting Australians. As part of that vaccine strategy, we have followed the advice on purchasing from the scientific and technical advisory group, or SCITAG, led by Professor Brendan Murphy. They provide the advice and we implement. As part of that, they advised from the outset that we should build an option, subject to the determination by the TGA, into our contract to purchase additional doses if the TGA were to approve the use of Pfizer, because it's an mRNA vaccine, because the world has never had an mRNA vaccine. We did that, we did that quietly behind the scenes. Once the TGA approved the Pfizer vaccine, we triggered that option, and I am pleased to be able to announce that Australia has purchased an additional 10 million doses of Pfizer. That is the advice that was provided to us by Professor Murphy's Vaccines Committee and it's been implemented in full. That's important for Australia. It provides additional support over and above that which was already in place. As the Prime Minister said, a total of 150 million vaccines. 20 million Pfizer, 53.8 million Oxford-AstraZeneca, where we've seen some very positive results, which Professor Murphy will take you through from around the world. 51 million Novavax. Again, positive results in recent days. The strategy in terms of the choice of vaccines set by the Vaccines Advisory Committee is proving to be very valuable and well-informed. And then, of course, 25.5 million units under the COVAX International facility. All of those things are coming together. Shortly before joining you, I spoke with both AstraZeneca Australia and Pfizer Australia and both have reconfirmed that, at this point in time, the vaccine rollout remains on track, respectively for the last week of February for Pfizer and the first week of March for AstraZeneca, subject to the TGA, in terms of AstraZeneca. Subject to shipping in both cases. But both have reaffirmed their guidance only within the last two hours. So, I think that's very important.

Finally, there are two other elements that I want to highlight. Uptake of the vaccine is very important. And the more Australians we have vaccinated, the better. In particular, we want to work with culturally and linguistically diverse communities and we will accordingly be allocating $1.3 million for additional funding to multicultural peak bodies to assist in information to culturally and linguistically diverse communities to support the vaccine rollout. That will include advertising into 32 languages, a vaccine explainer in 29 languages, the campaign builds on 63 languages on the Department of Health's website. That's very important. But the last element which we considered is that we need to make sure that everybody who's on Australian soil is safe, and everybody who's on Australian soil has access to protection. So, on the advice of the medical experts, the Government has determined that we will offer vaccines to all people living in Australia to achieve the maximum level of coverage. That means the Government will provide COVID-19 vaccinations free to all visa holders in Australia. And this will include refugees, asylum seekers, temporary protection visa holders, and those on bridging visas. People currently residing in detention facilities will also be eligible, including those whose visas have been cancelled. So, that's making sure that there is the maximum possible coverage in Australia. And today is another important step in the vaccine rollout and in building on that work that Australians have done, of keeping each other safe. They've done an amazing job, but the vaccine rollout is what will help us in a world of enormous numbers of global cases, and sadly lives lost daily.

Professor?

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY, SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH: Thanks, Prime Minister, and Minister. So, this additional purchase gives us additional insurance and additional options. On the advice of the committee that I chair, there was always an option to increase our stake in the mRNA vaccination, should registration and trials be successful. We are now in the wonderful position of having three vaccines rolling out this year - two of them early, the Pfizer and AstraZeneca, depending on the TGA registration, of course, of AstraZeneca, and then Novavax later on. All of these three vaccines have now been shown to be highly effective at preventing clinical COVID disease, and particularly severe COVID disease. That is a position that we wouldn't have dreamt of a year ago, six months ago. It is a very, very nice position to be in. As Minister Hunt alluded to, there is also some early encouraging, yet unpublished information from the UK suggesting that the AstraZeneca vaccine is showing some evidence of preventing transmission. We always expected the vaccines would do that, but we haven't got really good data on that at the moment. So, this additional purchase, as I said, is insurance and options. It won't change the strategy which we've outlined. We're starting initially with Pfizer later this month, and then with AstraZeneca in March, and then our local supplies of AstraZeneca from CSL come online in later March, and we'll have plentiful supplies and we'll be scaling up with the aim to vaccinate the population by October. I am incredibly pleased with the position we're in with vaccines at the moment. Thanks, Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks, Brendan. Yes, Phil?

JOURNALIST: In your conversation with President Biden, two things. Did the current difficulties with our relationship with China come up and did he invite you to his climate summit I think in April and do you intend to go if he has?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, as you would expect, we discussed regional issues in the Indo-Pacific fully. And in relation to the other matter, there are invitations coming, and we'll be addressing those once they're received. We spoke positively about these initiatives and so we look forward to being able to participate.

JOURNALIST: Just further on that, did President Biden ask you or discuss any further, I guess, more ambitious climate targets, and Australia committing to net zero as a target?

PRIME MINISTER: No. We had a very positive discussion about the path we're on, and the commitments that we've made and, more importantly, how we have been able to exceed those commitments. The strong level, particularly of solar in households take-up in Australia, which is the strongest in the world. And also to talk about what we've achieved in terms of our emissions reductions since 2005, which indeed is higher than what has been achieved in the United States and almost double that of the OECD. We're very focused on the technological challenge, and joining together not just Australia and the United States. I mean, they are going to be investing significantly in those technologies and I was pleased to be able to say we were doing exactly the same thing, some $18 billion over the next decade, and that we would achieve even more through partnerships between the United States and Australia. And I was able to talk about the way we are pursuing those same partnerships with the United Kingdom, and with Germany, most recently, in the discussions we've had, where we already have those relationships with places like Japan. So, you know, they're very focused on the big challenge here, which is the technologies which transform our economies, so you maintain and build on jobs, support your industries, so people have that future to look forward to, and address the broader global climate challenge.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, from that conversation, do you think that the Biden Administration will have a different attitude towards China, or will it be a similar view of China? Can you give us some more specifics on that part of your conversation?

PRIME MINISTER: I believe strongly that the position that has been taken by the United States over quite a period of time, obviously there are differences in how that's expressed and the nuances that are there. But I think in the United States, Australia has, and remains to have, a very, very strong and effective partner on these issues of Indo-Pacific security.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on hotel quarantine, we've got another case of a hotel quarantine worker being infected in Victoria today. Is the hotel quarantine system sustainable as it stands? Do you need to consider more bespoke arrangements, like Dan Andrews is suggesting, such as emergency housing?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, let me make a couple of comments on this, and Greg and Brendan may want to add to it. Some 210,000 - to be specific, 211,550 people - have returned to Australia through hotel quarantine arrangements since 31 March last year. 211,500. Now, there have been a number of cases, in a handful of cases that have resulted in those quarantine arrangements not always being 100 percent perfect. But one of the things that have characterised our response to the pandemic is that we have been proportionate. We have understood the context. We have sought to calibrate what is a reasonable risk that we have to manage. To give you an understanding of the difference in the risk situation Australia is facing to overseas, last month 30,000 people died in the UK because of COVID. In Australia, no-one did. And so I think we've got to get a bit of perspective on the challenges that we're facing.

Our hotel quarantine arrangement, which was what was agreed at National Cabinet as the most effective way to ensure that we could continue to receive Australian residents coming home to this country, and enable the public health orders that state governments had put in place regarding quarantine - very sensible public health orders - that was the most effective way of meeting those objectives of public health, but also ensuring that Australia could continue to function. Now, the Commonwealth has put in place, at some significant cost - some $243.7 million - for the provision of COVID quarantine arrangements at the Howard Springs quarantine facility for organised national repatriations of Australians. We did that last October. Now, we’re working on that having a capacity of having 850. And the Commonwealth is open where there are good proposals, very comprehensive proposals, where that supplementary capacity to deal with emergency situations, or indeed the repatriation flights that we ourselves have organised for those other facilities to be used rather than having to draw on the hotel quarantine arrangement. But when we discussed this as a Federal Government, and took the advice also from our agencies, whether it was Home Affairs or Health or others, it remains the case that the most effective way to deliver at the scale that Australia needs to deliver these arrangements, that hotel quarantine remains the most effective way to do that. And that remains the advice I have from my experts and the alternative is not that clear to me.

I mean, we could go and try and rebuild the Labor Party's immigration detention network that they put in place during the border protection crisis under their administration, and we all remember what a debacle that was. And so if that's the option, then I don't find that as persuasive. But when there are specific proposals, and we're working through one in Toowoomba at the moment. We're not working through and we've looked at the Gladstone option and we don't believe that is a sensible thing to do. There wasn't a lot of detail on that, but the broader risks were not ones that we thought were ones that were economically, or particularly from a health point of view, could be appropriately covered off. But the Toowoomba option we're looking at as a supplementary capacity, and writing back to the Queensland Premier today about that. But this idea that you can replace the hotel quarantine system, bring Australians back home, manage your health agenda effectively through some other mechanism, I think we have to keep a sense of realism about this and a sense of proportion. 211,500 people have come back, we've had a handful of cases that haven't been completely contained within that. But I can tell you what, if Europe achieved that, if the UK achieved that, if the United States had achieved that, they wouldn't be looking at the situation they're looking at now, they'd be looking potentially at the sort of situation that we as a nation have achieved.

Greg, did you want to add?

THE HON. GREG HUNT MP, MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGED CARE: Yeah, I will. Look, very briefly, as I mentioned, in a world of in the last 24 hours, 439,000 cases, there's a pandemic. And yet we have to keep a perspective. One community case. We just went through a period of 12 days with no community cases. The world looks on at Australia and says, "How have you done this?" And that perspective, I think, is very important, because that translates to lives saved. And so long as there's a pandemic, and unless Australia were hermetically sealed, no Australians returning for funerals, for families, for work, no Australians returning for weddings or births, no Australians being able to go overseas with the expectation that they'd come back after meeting up with their own families, no trade, no wool, no wheat, no iron ore going abroad, no critical medicines or fundamental foods that weren't available in Australia coming in. That's the only way to hermetically seal Australia. I'm not sure anybody is actually proposing that. In that situation, we have to be aware as to how we bring people home. And that bringing Australians home is what we have to do, and to do that safely. And to think 211,000 Australians have come home through this system, most days we're getting zero cases. Sometimes there will be challenges and anybody who says there won't be cases in Australia isn't understanding the nature of the pandemic. But if we do that, then what we've done has saved lives and protected lives. But we'll always work on continuous improvement.

PRIME MINISTER: We’ve had a few over that side, I'll come over this way. Katharine?

JOURNALIST: Accepting your very valid points about proportionality, isn't the moving part in the risk assessment, though, that now people returning to Australia are returning with more contagious strains of the virus? And does that influence the risk assessment? And does it make the case for arrangements that you were not prepared to countenance in the past, for the reasons you've articulated?

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, look, I've asked Professor Kelly to work with the AHPPC to give me an update on the risk assessment from what was advised a month ago, when we had the Brisbane case. Now, when that occurred, both his advice - and, indeed, Professor Murphy's advice on that occasion - was fairly stern about the risk that presented at that time. But since then we've come through Brisbane - extremely well. Thank you, Brisbane. We've come through Victoria. Thank you, Victoria. We're there with a case there today. We've come through the Northern Beaches. We've come through all of these situations. New Zealand has come through theirs. Without those risks being manifest, and the systems have held up extremely well. And so I've asked for that, sort of, updated assessment of a risk that looked very unknown and very concerning a month ago. But I think the experience of the past month, if anything, has shown that the systems have been able to mitigate that risk. Brendan?

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY, SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH: So I think it's important to note that whilst these strains are more transmissible, the management in quarantine is essentially the same. It's containment. And the states and territory health authorities have done a huge amount of work in tightening and improving hotel quarantine. The most particular advances have been daily testing of all the quarantine workers, so you can pick someone who might pick up the virus very quickly, insisting on PPE, good-quality CCTV, moving some people in some states when they are positive to a hotel that doesn't mix them with negative people. So, there's continuous improvement in that space. I would just reiterate what the Prime Minister and Minister said. Given the volume of people returning, a 1% positivity rate in returning travellers now, a very small amount, small amount of cases that have escaped, and all have been brilliantly managed by the state and territory response.

PRIME MINISTER: Clare?

JOURNALIST: When do we get those 10 million extra doses, and when will we find out beyond that first shipment of 80,000 what the rate of delivery is going to be for the Pfizer vaccine?

PRIME MINISTER: Brendan, Greg?

THE HON. GREG HUNT MP, MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGED CARE: The 80,000, that's for the early weeks. And we'll receive additional advice from the company. I spoke to them today. They're still looking to provide advice in the middle of the month, globally. So, what they're doing is understandable. They're looking at their global numbers. What we've seen out of Europe in the last week has been a significant improvement both with the flows of Oxford-AstraZeneca and with the flows of Pfizer. So, some of those issues which caused global challenges both with regards to supply and the diplomatic relations between the UK and EU appear to be under way in being resolved. Secondly- so we'll get guidance in the coming weeks. Secondly, we'll receive guidance on the time frames from the company over the coming weeks and months. But the guarantee is that all of those doses will be here during the course of 2021.

JOURNALIST: Can you explain how, to Australians, how it will be decided what specific jab they get, can they go to their doctor and say ‘I would like the Pfizer jab’ or ‘I would like the AstraZeneca jab’? How does it actually work?

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY, SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH: So at the moment, as we've said, the Pfizer vaccines will be distributed via dedicated state and territory-run Pfizer hubs. And they will be prioritised to the highest-risk population at the moment. So, in the initial strategy, we will be offering the Pfizer vaccine to border workers, quarantine workers, very exposed front-line healthcare workers, such as ICU, emergency department, and most importantly, the most vulnerable people - people in residential aged care, residential disability care, and those workers. The majority of the population on our plan will have access to the AstraZeneca vaccines, which will be run then in a much larger number of clinics, through GPs, eventually pharmacies, other state-run clinics. So, in the main, there won't be a choice, and I think both vaccines are extremely good, and I would be very happy to have either of them.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, do you know which vaccine candidate you'll be receiving? And will you receive that first dose before the end of this month?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the plan is for that to occur, and that would mean the Pfizer vaccine.

JOURNALIST: It's been reported today that you had a conversation with the global head of Alphabet, Google's parent company. I wonder if you can give us insights into that conversation? And also do you support Microsoft's CEO today saying that it's important that technology companies engage and support the press in sort of being an important part of democracy?

PRIME MINISTER: I do, in relation to your second question. And in relation to the first question, I thought it was a constructive meeting. I have been able to send them the best possible signals that should give them a great encouragement to engage with the process and conclude the arrangements we’d like to see them conclude with the various news media organisations in Australia. And that is the best way to enable that matter to be settled. We discussed some of the specifics of elements of the code. They raised those matters, I think, very respectfully. But I think we have been able to get that into a much more positive space about the ability to continue to provide services here in Australia. But at the end of the day, they understand that Australia sets the rules for how these things operate. And I was very clear about how I saw this playing out.

Hang on, one on- you had one Andrew, to be fair I’ve got to go to...

JOURNALIST: Just on the vaccine, the Minister spoke just before about getting more advice over the coming weeks. You're talking about getting a timetable by the end of February with this vaccine. Where is the first Pfizer vaccine that Australia is going to get? What date is it going to get here? When it comes to distributing it, we know that in particular areas, you’re looking at aged care, as Professor Murphy said moments ago. What about remote aged care facilities? Places like Queensland, if they've only got six facilities set up along the east coast in major cities, how do you propose getting the Pfizer vaccine to vulnerable people in those remote communities?

PRIME MINISTER: Well I would urge those who have those sort of questions, these issues are addressed in the vaccine strategy. They are addressed, I think, in myriad occasions in the questions that we've answered on this matter. Of course, there are some uncertainties that are obviously there regarding supplies, particularly from overseas. And they relate to some issues that sometimes are beyond our control. But at present, our advice is that this is holding, so I can- Greg and Brendan can speak to that. But you raise good questions. And that's why these materials, that's why the information campaign that we are, will be rolling out - and you've already seen elements of that already - that is there to answer the very genuine, real, sensible questions that Australians will be seeking to understand as they make their decisions. And we encourage as much vaccination as possible. But Greg?

THE HON. GREG HUNT MP, MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGED CARE: Thanks, Jonathan. Two things. Firstly, we said late February. Reaffirmed today by the country head of Pfizer that we're on track for that. The second thing is with regards to remote areas - I think that's a really important part of the strategy. And remote areas can be supported in a number of ways. There are five principal vehicles. Firstly, general practices. Secondly, pharmacies. Thirdly, Aboriginal and community-controlled health organisations, they're really stepping up. And we thank them. Fourthly, what we're able to do up there is to ensure that there are state vaccination clinics. And fifthly, we have a surge workforce. If there was a community which wasn't covered with one of those, then the surge workforce - the contract which Professor Murphy and the department put together, with four providers - assists with outreach. And that, in particular, relates to - whether it's the Pfizer or the AstraZeneca, Pfizer comes in temperature-controlled remote-sensor storage vessels. Or as John Skerritt from the TGA famously said, "dry-ice eskies". And so they can be transported around the country. That system was specifically designed so as we could address rural and remote Australia. So, you can see the layers of planning that have gone into this. Rural and remote Australia was something that the PM said very early on, absolutely equal access. In the same way - and I've mentioned this before - when Brendan and I were with him in February of last year, he said, "No Australian will go without a ventilator." In this phase of the fight against the pandemic, it was equal access. And that's what we're doing.

PRIME MINISTER: James, last one.

JOURNALIST: PM, look, a question, while Australia has a relatively good handle on this pandemic compared to most countries certainly in the region, there's a developing view amongst experts that it's going to be here, the pandemic in a global sense, well beyond 2021. Particularly given the sort of mutating strains we're seeing developing around the world. What work has the Australian Government, the Federal Government, done to enable CSL to be able to manufacture mRNA vaccines going forward? I mean at the moment obviously AstraZeneca is not mRNA, and that's the only one we're making?

PRIME MINISTER: Well I will let Brendan speak to that specifically. But your broader point, about how long is Australia looking at this? The first key thing that's going to determine I think longevity on this will be the success of the vaccines that are currently being produced, and distributed around the world. We had that discussion around Pacific nations yesterday. That will depend on their success in countering transmissibility of the virus. Now, there's been some good data that's come through just in the last 48 hours which is indicating something a lot more encouraging than where we were about a month ago. If the vaccines continue to show that sort of successful path on transmissibility then that obviously has a big change in terms of what the future management of the virus is not just here in Australia but all around the world how people can travel, how they can move about, how they can go to concerts, how they can- life can potentially return to normal. So that is the next big question that will be answered, but beyond that, you make a good point about sovereign capability, when it comes to the production of vaccines. Now not only are we producing the vaccine here in Australia for AstraZeneca but we are also investing with CSL in their products and capabilities not just on virus vaccines but anti- venom vaccines and a whole range of other vaccines so here in Australia we can have a much greater confidence about our vaccine production capabilities but mRNA vaccines are a particular challenge. And I’ll let Professor Murphy speak to that.

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY, SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH: Thanks PM. So mRNA vaccines have surprised the world in how successful they have been, so clearly they will have an ongoing role beyond COVID-19, maybe with COVID, we don't know how long the successful vaccines we are getting will last, or whether people will need more doses, and so it is obviously sensible to plan for that and clearly CSL who are our sovereign manufacturing company are looking at that, government has commissioned some research to look at that, to look at what the potential is, so it's an active consideration matter at the moment.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks everyone, thank you very much.