DOORSTOP: 7/5/21

May 07, 2021

FRIDAY, 7 MAY 2021

MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER HEALTH AND AGEING: Thanks for coming out this afternoon. Scott Morrison had two main jobs this year. Firstly, to put in place a speedy effective rollout of the COVID vaccines and secondly to deliver a safe national system of quarantine that would protect the community in the meantime, and allow Australian citizens who are stranded overseas to return home quickly and to return home safely and he is failing on both of those jobs. 

Over the last seven days, only 350,000 vaccine doses have been delivered in Australia Scott Morrison has been saying for weeks now that the vaccination program was ramping up. At this rate, at the current weekly rate, it will take two years for Australia to become fully vaccinated. Scott Morrison promised there will be four million doses by the end of March. There's only two and a half million well into May. We're now 11 weeks into the vaccination program. Two and a half million doses delivered in Australia, 250 million doses delivered in the United States. After Scott Morrison dropped the 4 million by the end of the March target, he then promised there will be 6 million doses by the 10th of May, which is only Monday coming and we're only stuck at two and a half million. Still half of the aged care residents in Australia have not been fully vaccinated in spite of a promise by Scott Morrison to do that by Easter, along with disability residents, along with the carers who look after them on the front line every single day. But we don't have from Scott Morrison a plan. There's no plan. There are no targets. There are no timeframes to get this vaccination program back on track. 

His second job was around quarantine and over the last couple of days we've seen the 16th outbreak over recent months from hotel quarantine, this time in New South Wales. Every single one of them, leading to some level of restriction on the community, border restrictions put in place, restrictions on social activity, impacts on business and impacts on workers’ wages. How many outbreaks have to happen before Scott Morrison finally delivers a safe national quarantine system? The advice has been crystal clear, purpose built facilities outside of our CBDs to take the pressure off hotels which were built for tourism, not for medical quarantine, and robust national standards. He has had that advice for months. The AMA have repeated the advice over the last couple of weeks particularly after the Perth lockdown but Scott Morrison has done nothing. 

Finally, can I address India. I've heard the Prime Minister say this morning that there will be some repatriation flights recommended after the 15th of May. Everyone will obviously welcome this. The question though, is while Australians have been languishing desperately in India, closed off from returning home by the Australian Prime Minister, what has he been doing to put in place safe appointment arrangements that would allow them to return home quickly and safely? The answer appears to be nothing. Happy to take questions. 

JOURNALIST: Are you happy that there's only three repatriation flights? Do you think that's enough? 

BUTLER: People supported the temporary closure of our borders, but on the expectation the Prime Minister would actually use that time carefully to improve our quarantine arrangements and make sure that after May 15th we would be able to get Australian citizens and permanent residents home from India. They’ve been languishing there now for weeks, home safely and home quickly. Our quarantine arrangements don't appear to have changed one bit.

JOURNALIST: COVID positive Australians will remain stranded in India. Are you happy with that arrangement?

BUTLER: The Prime Minister needs to explain what he's going to do to help those citizens get well and get back here. He says we can't vaccinate Australian citizens overseas. Still he hasn't explained why that is the case. So what is the plan the Prime Minister has to help Australian citizens stranded overseas, particularly languishing in India, come home safely and come home quickly?

JOURNALIST: When should the Government aim to have all 9,000 people repatriated?

BUTLER: As soon as possible. His job is to explain to the community what the new quarantine arrangements that will allow us to get those citizens home quicker than has been the case before. It doesn't appear he’s used this time properly and carefully to expand and improve our quarantine away.

JOURNALIST: What's your message to Australians also who might be concerned about blood clots with the AstraZeneca vaccine?

BUTLER: Obviously these adverse events are investigated very carefully by the vaccine safety group from the Therapeutic Goods Administration. We follow the public health advice and that is that the AstraZeneca vaccine is still a safe, effective vaccine for people over the age of 50 and we support that vaccine being delivered. 

JOURNALIST: Do you think more needs to be done to reassure people who are concerned?

BUTLER: There's no question that confidence in the vaccine program has taken a hit because of the reporting of these adverse events. And I again call upon the Government to put in place a strong information campaign to support and bolster the confidence in our vaccine program in the community. They've done nothing so far. Thanks, everyone.