MARK BUTLER MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGEING
MEMBER FOR HINDMARSH
WEDNESDAY, 9 JUNE 2021
SUBJECTS: Scott Morrison’s failures on quarantine and the vaccine rollout; Medicare Benefits Schedule.
MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER HEALTH AND AGEING: Scott Morrison had two jobs at this year. A speedy effective roll out of the vaccine that's running dangerously behind schedule and a safe national quarantine system to protect the Australian community in the interim. And what we've seen over the last 24 hours is confirmation of the 22nd outbreak from hotel quarantine. We're seeing an outbreak from hotel quarantine of COVID-19 every week or two, and it's having dramatic impacts on the Australian communities. State-wide lockdowns, city lockdowns, huge economic disruption and business uncertainty. Scott Morrison has known what he's had to do for months. Firstly, put in place national standards for hotel quarantine to the extent we have to continue to rely upon it for a while, but secondly, to put in place and purpose-built facilities. Facilities that are built for medical quarantine not for tourism, which is what hotels are built for. But Scott Morrison has done neither of these things.
How many more outbreaks from Hotel quarantine do Australians have to endure before Scott Morrison just does his job and delivers a safe national quarantine system?
Also, I want to address the 900 changes to the Medicare Benefits Schedule that the government is rushing through over the next three weeks. What we've seen over the few days since this was first released on the weekend, is no one is able to explain what it's going to mean for patients. The Government, the Minister - Greg Hunt, the Prime Minister - Scott Morrison are not even trying to explain to patients what these changes are going to mean for their life changing surgeries that are planned for in just three weeks’ time.
The only thing that is clear is these changes will see patients ambushed with higher bills to pay for these life changing surgeries.
Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: The AMA and other health-care workers have raised concerns about states taking inconsistent approaches to the vaccine rollout with young people vaccinated before health care workers or aged care workers. Would you like to see a more consistent approach?
BUTLER: This is about Prime Minister Scott Morrison stepping up to the mark and taking responsibility for a vaccine rollout plan. What is clear is that the national priority should be vaccinating the most vulnerable Australians. Older Australians, particularly Australians in residential aged care, on residential disability care and the hundreds of thousands of workers who care for them.
That was agreed back in January as the priority for the vaccine rollout strategy. All of those people were supposed to be vaccinated by Easter, still far too few of them have received two doses of the vaccine, so that should be Scott Morrison’s priority.
Now, if states have enough doses to start to vaccinate, different age cohorts, that's fine, provided that Scott Morrison takes responsibility for doing his job, which is to vaccinate the priority groups as soon as possible.
JOURNALIST: So you think the priority should be getting the vaccines to the most vulnerable people, even if it means the rollout is much slower?
BUTLER: The priority must be the most vulnerable Australians get vaccinated. That was agreed by everyone back in January as the right strategy and yet the Commonwealth has failed to deliver that outcome. They had responsibility for vaccinating aged care residents. They failed. They had responsibility for vaccinating disability care residents, about 1 or 2 per cent of them are fully vaccinated and we’re already into winter, and they had responsibility for vaccinating the 360,000 aged care staff who care for our most vulnerable members of the community and they failed them as well. So Scott Morrison needs to do his job, vaccinate the priority groups and with the additional doses we have we can start vaccinating the remainder of the population.
JOURNALIST: Do you have any concerns about the new Alzheimer's drug approved by the US FDA this week? Would you like to see it approved by the TGA?
BUTLER: That's a matter for the TGA. We are very lucky to have one of the most outstanding medicines authorities in the world through the Therapeutic Goods Administration and I hope at some point they might be able to turn their mind to approval of this new drug. Obviously Alzheimer’s has been a really difficult nut to crack for researchers and for pharmaceutical companies around the world who for decades now have been trying to find a cure or a treatment for this devastating condition that impacts so many people here in Australia and across the world.
Any new in-road is something to be welcomed, but obviously it's got to be subject of expert analysis by our own medicines authority, the TGA.