Topics: Lockdowns; Newspoll; Moderna children vaccine trials; rapid antigen testing; Jobkeeper;




Simon Birmingham: These remain tough times for many people across Australia as they continue to face the challenges of lockdown. First message to all is to of course remain in place to follow the advice of officials in the different jurisdictions where lockdown is necessary and that is the best way for us to continue to manage. To get on top of COVID-19 to beat the Delta variant and to give us the best chance as a country to maintain our world leading position in terms of the saving of lives and management of COVID.

I thank all of you turned out in record numbers and to get vaccinated, some 13.6 million doses administered already and we see records consistently being broken in terms of vaccine rollout. Australians should have confidence logistical measures are in place to support the increased supply that we expect to have over coming months. Australia is now receiving around one million doses per week of Pfizer in addition to the supply of AstraZeneca. And we will see from next one million doses of Moderna come online, scaling up to some three million doses a month at around the same time. We also expect to see Pfizer scale up to two million doses per week. This is going to give us a strong chance to surge towards the end of the year to really hit all the vaccination targets the country wishes to see. I urge Australians to continue to make those bookings, to pursue those vaccines and thank them for the way in which they have been doing so. The government focus remains on ensuring the vaccine rollout occurs, that the logistical operations are there to support the delivery of supply, as well as the support to economic measures to Australian households, families, businesses and, of course, crucial support such as [indistinct].


Journalist: On the Newspoll out today David Littleproud says the government will take a bloody nose from this and understand it is probably coming. Is the government willing to take a bloody nose over its handling of the pandemic?


Simon Birmingham: Look, I couldn’t really give a stuff about the polls, there are far more important things for us to focus on right now. And that’s exactly where our focus is and where Australians would expect it to be.


Journalist: Minister, Moderna wants to trial this vaccine on Australian young children. Is that’s something you’d welcome?


Simon Birmingham: I’m aware of reports and Moderna is looking at what would be part of a global trial in relation to use of the vaccine on children younger than 12, I know it’s already been approved for those aged 12 to 16. If Moderna were to pursue that it would be part of, subject to very clearly health and safety standards developed as part of a global trial on children and, of course, for anything broader rollout that would be subject to the normal full Therapeutic Goods Administration approval processes in Australia.


Journalist: So the Government’s open to it basically?


Simon Birmingham: The government will, as always, rely on scientific and medical advice in this regard. COVID-19 vaccines are showing themselves to be highly effective at saving lives and reducing hospital admissions, and that’s slowing the rate of transmission. And ultimately, we would of course hope to see vaccines available to everyone, including young children. But they have to go through the usual safety checks and trials and we’ll work carefully as part of the global community and the scientific community to make sure that any such measures are safe and [indistinct].


Journalist: Minister, the Delta strain is spreading so rapidly in places. Why not roll out rapid antigen testing to businesses, it seems like such an obvious was to catch cases in the workplace.


Simon Birmingham: So you would have heard, of course, Professor Kelly and any other health advisers provide some detailed answers in relation to the role they see for rapid antigen testing, but also the importance around the privacy of PCR testing, once again this is about following the health advice. I hope we can see an increased use of rapid antigen testing as an addition to the testing regime. It has got to be done in ways that people have confidence about the results. And where one  also so clearly understands the importance of still keeping up those PCR tests and not having any [indistinct] relation to Australia’s ability to accurately identify where COVID-19 occurring and spreading.


Journalist: [Indistinct]


Simon Birmingham: The government will, as always, look very carefully at the IPCC reports and any information. Australia is one of the countries, few countries in the world to have met and exceeded our first Kyoto commitment targets, our second Kyoto commitment targets and to be on track to do so in relation to our Paris targets. We look forward to participating in global discussions at Glasgow later this year that no doubt will follow on from the IPCC.


Journalist: Minister, the government’s going to reject an amendment to, a Rex Patrick amendment, to demand businesses whose turnover increased in the JobKeeper. Why shouldn’t Australians know which businesses profited from JobKeeper?


Simon Birmingham: JobKeeper saved the jobs of many thousands, if not potentially even millions of Australians. It was a program rolled out at a time of enormous national uncertainty when every state and territory was locking down, shutting down and placing restrictions on businesses. And there’s no suggestion that these businesses were not eligible for JobKeeper under the program as it was written, they were eligible. Yes, we came out of some of those conditions a little faster than anticipated, which was good news for Australia’s economic recovery, though many of those businesses now face tough and challenging circumstances. We want Australian businesses to succeed as they have. We want them to save jobs as they have and we’re not going to stand by and encourage people to vilify those who have succeeded and saved the jobs of Australians


Journalist: We’ve seen states such as New South Wales, Victoria, move to mass vaccinations. As a way of getting out of this issue. Do you think that we need to have a conversation now about that we’re not going to reach zero cases, particularly in New South Wales when it comes to [indistinct]?


Simon Birmingham: I think the Doherty Institute modelling demonstrates that there will be cases that have to be managed carefully and that having effective supplementary regimes in place around testing, tracing, isolating in addition to vaccines is an important part of the process there. And so that’s why maintaining our support for all of those measures, including the role that our defence forces and other health personnel play in supporting New South Wales in those engagements is a very important thing. Ultimately, our desire is to get as many Australians vaccinated as possible and the doses are coming in, in their millions. And we urge Australians to continue to make those bookings as they were eligible to show patients when there are periods of high demand but to know that you will get that opportunity for everyone this year.