DOORSTOP: 29/7/21

July 29, 2021


MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER HEALTH AND AGEING: Thanks very much for coming out. There are a few things I want to address. The first is Scott Morrison had two jobs this year: the effective rollout of the vaccine and safe national quarantine arrangements and he’s failing on both. Still today, only 13 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated, we are still dead last in the developed world in terms of full vaccination rights, something that leaves Australians dangerously exposed in the face of this highly infectious Delta variant. 

I've also read disturbing reports over the last several hours of people being charged significant amounts of money in Southwestern Sydney for their vaccine appointments. Scott Morrison promised everyone would get their vaccine for free. The fact that people in Southwestern Sydney, in all places right now, are being charged hundreds of dollars to get vaccinated shows that that was just one more promise Scott Morrison couldn’t keep. Scott Morrison promised everyone would get vaccinated for free. He must fix this mess. He must fix it today. 

The Prime Minister also said yesterday that the Doherty Institute modelling, that long awaited modelling, that would start to point out the vaccination rates that we need to achieve to see life start to be returned to normal, will be tabled at National Cabinet tomorrow. Scott Morrison must release that modelling to the public at the same time tomorrow. He promised yesterday that life would be back to normal by Christmas. He can’t now keep secret the modelling which will show the way in which he proposes to deliver on that promise. 

Finally, I also read reports this morning of the Government patting themselves on the back for the vaccination rates we see in residential aged care facilities. A group that was after all promised to be fully vaccinated by Easter. Scott Morrison should spend less time on self-congratulation, and more time focused on the fact that there are currently millions of vulnerable Australians still not fully vaccinated. Still only one in three residents of disability care facilities are fully vaccinated. This is a group, highly vulnerable, that were promised full vaccination by Easter. Only one in three older Australians, Australians aged over 70 years of age living in the community are fully vaccinated. Compare that to the rate in the United Kingdom, which is in excess of 95 per cent. And shockingly, only 5 per cent of homecare workers delivering care to vulnerable Australians in their homes is currently fully vaccinated. Scott Morrison promised all aged care workers will be fully vaccinated by Easter. So right now today, we have hundreds of thousands of unvaccinated older Australians receiving care in their own home from unvaccinated homecare aged care workers. Scott Morrison has deeply let down hundreds of thousands of vulnerable older Australians, disabled Australians, all of their carers, and left them dangerously exposed in the face of this highly infectious variant.

JOURNALIST: You touched on the UK there but in general, where does Australia stand comparing to other countries similar to us and is it acceptable?

BUTLER: Australia still ranks dead last in the OECD. Remember last year, Scott Morrison said we would be at the front of the queue. He could expect that Australians would be among the leading nations in the world in terms of the next phase of the fight against this pandemic, the vaccination phase, and so we should have been. Australians performed marvellously last year in defeating that first phase of the pandemic - suppressing community transmission. We were better placed than any country to enter the second phase, get vaccinated and start to see life return to normal. But instead, we now know Scott Morrison adopted a “wait and see” strategy on vaccines that meant while countries like the US, Canada, Japan, European countries, signed deals with Pfizer as early as June and July last year, he didn't sign a deal with Pfizer until Christmas Eve. That is why we are so far behind the rest of the world.

JOURNALIST: The clinic in Sydney charging people $250 for a consultation and then more for the second consultation - should the Commonwealth repay those people?

BUTLER: Those people should get their money back. It's a matter for Scott Morrison to determine whether he pays them or he forces the doctors to pay them. He is responsible for Medicare and he is responsible for delivering his commitment to have all Australians get vaccinated free of charge. Not just the vaccine itself but any consultation to deal with the vaccine. At the moment it looks like this was just another promise Scott Morrison could not deliver. 

JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister says there will eventually be restrictions on people who don't get the COVID vaccine. Do you think there needs to be consequences for those who decide not to get it? 

BUTLER: These are the sorts of plans we need to make once we get to vaccination rates like the rest of the world and once we see the modelling that will be tabled before National Cabinet tomorrow. This will be a discussion Australia needs to have but it is going to be a while away when only 13 per cent are fully vaccinated. Scott Morrison needs to tell the Australian people what this Doherty Institute modelling says and he must do that tomorrow.

JOURNALIST: Some companies are making it a requirement for their staff to be vaccinated. Do you support that?

BUTLER: Obviously that depends on the sorts of businesses we're talking about. There are obviously some businesses where workers are delivering the sorts of services where you would want them to be vaccinated. We’ve had a discussion about aged care workers. Disability care workers are probably in the same position. 

JOURNALIST: These businesses, international businesses like Google and Netflix, are saying to staff you need the jab to work here. Do you think that would be an acceptable sort of thing to rollout here?

BUTLER: That’s an industrial matter. That’s a matter between the employer, their workers and their unions. We want to see as many Australians vaccinated as possible so that we can defeat this virus. Thanks, everyone.