Topics:   Vaccine rollout; Mandatory vaccination for health workers;



Karl Stefanovic: Today’s meeting with the PM and the premiers will see a nationally agreed upon vaccination target aiming to end lockdowns and border closures for good, or so we’re being led to believe. Joining me now is Federal Finance Minister Simon Birmingham and Deputy Opposition Leader Richard Marles. Good morning, chaps. Nice to see you. Simon, your first up.


Richard Marles: Morning Karl.


Simon Birmingham: Morning, Karl, good to be with you.


Karl Stefanovic: What is our magical vaccination freedom number?


Simon Birmingham: So Karl the modelling work, particularly with the Delta variant is still being done. There was some work done around the alpha variant and obviously circumstances have changed-


Karl Stefanovic: It’s a buzz kill, Simon.


Simon Birmingham: Karl, what we want is to give Australians the certainty. They are embracing the vaccine roll out in record numbers, a record number more than 160,000 people had a dose yesterday. That’s got us to more than 7.8 million doses, more than 70 per cent, or around 70 per cent of the over 70s. More than 50 per cent of the over 50s. Around 30 per cent of everybody over 16 are having their doses. And that number keeps growing each day. And we want them to know that as they do that there is an endpoint which is going to see those freedoms return and that all that work is happening, and we want to get states and territories on board with it.


Karl Stefanovic: Ok, Richard, I know that you’re sitting there scoffing at Simon Birmingham because he failed to come up with a number that you would have a number, wouldn’t you, Labor?


Richard Marles: No, we’re not in government, we’re not the ones being given the advice. But we do need a number for sure.


Karl Stefanovic: But you must. What is the number?


Richard Marles: But I- well, I’ll tell you what the number is right now, we’re at about six per cent of the population being vaccinated and we are stone motherless last on the OECD table-


Simon Birmingham: That’s just not true.


Richard Marles: -and that’s because this Prime Minister said there wasn’t a race. And in fact, there is a race, there’s a race against the virus. And we do need to have a target. It’s taken this long for the Prime Minister to work out that we actually need to get there. But most of all, we need to get the vaccine rollout happening. And that is on Scott Morrison.


Karl Stefanovic: Bill Shorten 15 minutes ago on this show said between 70 and 80 per cent. Bill said it. Simon, it’s in all the papers today that you are going to do a deal on this in terms of vaccinations and that number? Is that true or is that just made up fake news?


Simon Birmingham: Well, of course, I’ll take my advice from Dr. Bill Shorten. No. Look, what we’re going to do is work with those-


Karl Stefanovic: At least he’s gutsy enough to put a number out there.


Simon Birmingham: And what he’s just plucked it out of the air has he? The number is obviously going to be a high-


Karl Stefanovic: No, he’s got that from medical advice.


Simon Birmingham: Well, I’m not sure which medico he’s talked to, but, you know, what we’ll do is sit down with the nation’s health leaders as we’ve done at every step of this pandemic. As I said, that work has been done previously around the alpha variant, but Delta variant changes these things. And so we’ve got to sit down, do that, work again, and make sure that we give Australians the confidence that when we take those steps to reopen, which will be when all Australians have had a chance to be vaccinated, and contrary to the type of misleading statistics there that Richard’s trying to peddle, we’ve got vast numbers of Australians now who are embracing the vaccine rollout and the negativity coming from the opposition and some other parts of the country. It’s quite shameful. We should be continuing to encourage Australians. around 30 per cent of the entire eligible over 16 population has had a jab. And of those who have been eligible the longest, the over 70s, around 70 per cent of them have had a jab. So we can see that we can push those cohorts into those very high numbers, and that’s going to give us back the freedoms.


Karl Stefanovic: For the Australian people there are some things that don’t add up, but let’s turn to the rollout with major concerns this morning about unvaccinated frontline workers in two states. A receptionist outside of Brisbane COVID ward testing positive and two Sydney nurses exposing wards and aged care to the virus, all three unvaccinated. Now, this is what former deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth told me on the show yesterday about mandatory vaccination. Take a look.




Nick Coatsworth: Carl, I’ve always been an advocate of voluntary vaccination and I remain so. I think it would be very legitimate for any administrator if there was an outbreak in their facility. You know, we have alternative steps like removing frontline workers and putting them on alternative duties. That’s something that is all available.



Karl Stefanovic: So there is a very, very smart man saying to the Australian people, ‘everyone get vaccinated, everyone get vaccinated’. But if you’re a health care worker. Nah, you don’t have to. Simon, do you support compulsory vaccination for aged care workers and nurses in our hospitals?


Simon Birmingham: Well, yes, in relation to aged care workers, that decision has already been taken and now the expectation is there that it will be mandatory and that people are going to have to meet that test. And look, frankly, the states and territories in terms of the administration of their hospitals, clearly should be making sure that especially those who are in the wards working proximate to the wards that actually are treating people with COVID clearly should have been vaccinated by now and must be vaccinated going forward.


Karl Stefanovic: Good. Richard. Your- some Labor unions are out there this morning saying it’s not going to happen. They don’t need vaccinations. They need money. How do you respond? Should it be compulsory for health workers in our hospitals and aged care homes?


Richard Marles: Yes, it should. The main game, though, Karl, is we need to actually get those who want to get vaccinated, vaccinated. And right now, the majority of those in health care have not- in aged care, have not been vaccinated. And this government said that it was all going to be done by Easter. So, yeah, it should be mandatory. But first of all, what needs to happen is the government needs to get injections into the arms of people who want them. And that was meant to have happened by Easter. You know, they were meant to have 13 pop up clinics. They haven’t got them. Wherever you look, his vaccine roll that is botched.


Karl Stefanovic: But here’s the problem, too. There are a lot of health care workers who don’t want this vaccine. And that to the Australian public, that’s hard to take. That’s hard to overcome in terms of the cell. Right. I mean, I don’t know how you do that. Anyway, we have to move on with the program. Thank you for your time today. Good to have agreement on that mandatory vaccinations for health workers. Let’s hope it happens somehow.


Simon Birmingham: Thanks, Karl.