David Koch: Now, The Federal Government has offered additional support to South Australia; another 45 Defence Force personnel are in Adelaide helping with hotel quarantine, and international arrivals have been diverted to other states. The Prime Minister says any South Australian’s required to self-isolate, quarantine, or care for someone with COVID-19 who can’t earn an income, are entitled to the Federal Government’s Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment of $1500 a fortnight.
Trade and Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham joins us from Adelaide where he’s based. Minister, what was your reaction to the South Australian Government’s really hard six-day lockdown? Is it the right thing to do?
Simon Birmingham: Hi, Kochie. Well, yes, this is a big and challenging time for South Australians, and it’s a huge step that the State Government has taken in terms of this extreme six-day shutdown. The State Government is describing this as a circuit breaker, and that’s exactly what it needs to be; short, sharp and effective. And so that we can quickly see South Australians, businesses, jobs here, get back to at least a sense of COVID-safe and COVID-normal as best as that can be.
David Koch: How else can the Federal Government help in South Australia?
Simon Birmingham: Well, we are willing to do whatever it takes in terms of helping SA, just as we did in terms of helping Victoria. So, that means the extra Defence Force personal as you said, the support for individuals, we have also activated support in terms of contact tracing that is happening from Canberra by teams, as well as out of Sydney and Perth, and no doubt could be elsewhere if that becomes necessary. There’s also support through additional protective equipment, particularly in terms of masks out of the national stockpile, so we are well-prepared in that sense to help in terms of extra personnel, extra financing, extra equipment, all of those things that are necessary.
David Koch: Look, once again, this cluster began in hotel quarantine, just like Victoria’s. Does the Federal Government need to start overriding the states here, and putting in national guidelines to up the ante in terms of what we do in hotel quarantine? We can’t stop Aussies coming home, this is going to be around for a while, does everyone just have to sign on with stricter guidelines?
Simon Birmingham: Kochie, this is a reminder of just how difficult the task of returning Australians is. And we ought to be mindful of that, in terms of, I know there’s frustration in quarters, that people wish it could be done faster, but the reality is; there are safety risks. And our states and territories together with our federal health officials, continuously have been reviewing medi-hotels.
There was an audit recently that South Australia passed clearly, and up until this week, no state had been testing some of those workers who were detached, in a sense, from any engagement with the people coming into the hotels. And in South Australia’s case we’re talking about a cleaner; the evidence, I understand, is that she contracted this from a UK passenger, an Australian who had returned from London. However, she never actually saw this person. This was on a contact point that had previously not been contemplated. So, new steps, clearly, will be put in place and are being put in place, not just in SA, but right across the country.
David Koch: Alright. Simon Birmingham, appreciate your time. Thank you.