6.31pm | July 05, 2021



SUBJECTS: Government’s failures on vaccine rollout and quarantine; Greater Sydney lockdown.

MATT WORDSWORTH, HOST: To talk over the vaccine rollout and all of the other issues of today, I'm joined by Jenny McAllister and Jason Falinski. Welcome.Thank you so much for your time.


WORDSWORTH: We heard from the Queensland Premier this morning and she said anyone booking for Pfizer now won't get their appointment until October or November. And then in New South Wales Liberal Health Minister Brad Hazzard saying people are chasing jabs like The Hunger Games. Jason Falinski, is that a fair description?

JASON FALINSKI: No. It's not. It's really disappointing again to have State Governments just not getting on with the job. In Queensland, we know that last month they got 55,000 Pfizer jabs. This week alone they will get 95,000. And per week by the end of August 127,000 jabs per week. After that they'll be getting many, many jabs more than that. Every Australian who wants to have a vaccine should be able to have had that by October, the first jab. That's an extraordinary rate. We know in Queensland, the Queensland Department of Health is throwing out 1 in 10 vaccines they've been given. I think they should be focusing more on how they're delivering the vaccines than focusing on how much vaccine they're getting.

WORDSWORTH: Is that particularly higher than any other state or just Queensland that you see the problem at?

FALINSKI: That is a particularly high rate of vaccines being thrown out. In New South Wales, 99% of vaccines are being utilised. In Queensland it's only 90%.

WORDSWORTH: Jenny McAllister, the Federal Government says when asked about the slow pace of the rollout, 9.1% we're up to now of the Australian community fully vaccinated. There are worldwide issues at play here. Is that fair?

MCALLISTER: The problem for the Government's argument is that of course across the world other countries have achieved significantly higher rates of vaccination. Both the US and UK, countries we like to compare ourselves to, have managed to achieve nearly 50% of their population fully vaccinated. The problem is that this has real life consequences. This is a Federal Government responsibility. 12 months ago was the time to security a proper portfolio of vaccine options. Unfortunately, this Government only secured two viable options and Australians are paying the costs for that. The costs include an inability to travel, continuing lockdowns, like both Jason and I are experiencing right now in Sydney, problems for businesses in terms of attracting personnel into their businesses, problems with universities in bringing international students back in. We are at real risk of falling behind. And this is the point being made today by the business community. Until the Commonwealth Government, Scott Morrison's Government, taking responsibility for its own vaccine program, stops trying to shift the blame and pick fights with states, we are not going to be able to resolve this. This is a Commonwealth responsibility and Scott Morrison really needs to step up.

WORDSWORTH: Just while you're talking about the lockdown in Sydney that both you and Jason are subject to at the moment. Given last Friday we heard National Cabinet say lockdowns are a last resort. Does that make you confident the lockdown will be lifted in New South Wales?

MCALLISTER: The premiers across the country have largely stuck to the health advice. They’ve listened to their chief medical officers and acted on that advice. And I'm hopeful that's the approach they'll take here in New South Wales. Australians have been terrific in pulling together when they've received good, strong, clear medical advice. And we're seeing here in the lockdown in New South Wales that people in Sydney I think are willing to comply because they know we're all in this togethers and doing it to keep the people we love healthy and safe.

WORDSWORTH: Jason, do you think the lockdown is going to lift?

FALINSKI: I hope so. I'm from a part of Sydney where we basically had zero cases. And same with the Central Coast and large parts of Sydney. I would hope at the very least we will see lockdowns lifted for certain parts of Sydney. And looking at the numbers, as Jenny says, she is quite right, these numbers have to be left for the health professionals and the people who were looking at these things but my hope would be that certainly parts of Sydney that haven't had any positive cases and many exposure sites would be allowed to go about their business and come out of lockdown on Friday.

WORDSWORTH: Are you happy the premiers of Queensland and Victoria successfully lobbied at National Cabinet to cut the number of international arrivals?

FALINSKI: No. I'm pretty distressed about it to be blunt. I think our policy of limiting overseas people returning to Australia is cruel. And I can't put it any other way. There are too many families that have been kept apart for too long and it is just cruel. And we shouldn't have been limiting the number of people coming back. We should have been increasing the number of people who can return to Australia.

WORDSWORTH: Jenny McAllister, can I get you to respond to that?

MCALLISTER: Well, the Commonwealth Government, Scott Morrison, had two jobs. One was to roll out the vaccine properly. The other was to establish a national quarantine system. And he's failed on both of them. That leaves the country with only bad options. It is a problem that there have been 26 breaches of hotel quarantine and they have led to lockdowns. It is also really a very big problem that so many Australians are overseas, stranded and feel abandoned by their government. But it has left the National Cabinet with only bad choices. They have chosen to reduce the number of Australians that can come home each month and that will be enormously distressing for people who have loved ones overseas who want to come home or themselves overseas. But it is a consequence of a failure to properly plan for this pandemic. It's been months, 18 months of the pandemic, 12 months since the vaccines were being negotiated, months since we learnt about the Delta strain and it's only this week that Scott Morrison chooses to release a plan about how we will navigate this. It's really not good enough.

WORDSWORTH: It seems like everybody seems to agree that hotel quarantine isn't working. We need a purpose...

FALINSKI: Well, I don't. Matt ,let me make it very clear. On the numbers Jenny just gave us then, that is 26 people out of 380,000 people that have returned to Australia. That's a success rate of 99.999%. How much more success do you want? Just explain to me what is a program that is working? I mean, this is an absurd situation that we are in where apparently when we are having to deny people the capacity to see family and loved ones that they care about because we view that in this country a program that has a 99.99% success rate isn't good enough.

WORDSWORTH: I take your point, Jason, it's a small number of breaches but unfortunately those small numbers of breaches has led to all these lockdowns.

FALINSKI: And there's another argument. I'm sure, like you, sorry like me, you know a number of people in London and other parts of the world. So, when I'm talking to Latika Burke on Thursday, and saying we’ve lockdown, six million people because we had 25 or 24 cases that day. And she turns around and says – “well our Freedom Day is coming up and we’ve just had 11,000 cases”. I know it's not equivalent because there are 60 million people in Britain, etc. But it does seem we have taken an extraordinary case -- extraordinary level of safety to this thing. And I understand that it seems to be where Australians are comfortable.

WORDSWORTH: Before we run out of time, given what you're saying...

FALINSKI: Sorry, Matt.

WORDSWORTH: I want to develop that point one more step before we run out of time and just quickly, it seems like then that the purpose-built facilities are our next step. Yet we just got told today one of them won't be built until the start of next year. Can we speed this up?

FALINSKI: To what end? We'll have purpose-made facilities. What are we hoping, the success rate on that will be 99.9999%? We have what we have now. It has worked incredibly well. In New South Wales, the failure rate has been so close to zero it's not funny.

WORDSWORTH: I’m sorry Jason, I have to jump in on you. A lot of people would appreciate the end to the lockdowns, but I appreciate both of your time today. Senator Jenny McAllister and Liberal Member Jason Falinski.

MCALLISTER: Thanks Matt.



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