Topics: Booster shoots; National Plan; Election date
Charles Croucher: From tomorrow, booster programs officially begin just days after our country hit 80 per cent vaccination. Joining me for this and to unpack the week of political headlines is Finance Minister Simon Birmingham and Shadow Minister for Education Tanya Plibersek. Good morning to you both. Birmo, we will start with you. It is a major milestone but it seems nothing, still, will open the WA border?
Simon Birmingham: Well, it is a huge milestone. Yesterday we hit 80 per cent double vax across the country. That is a huge testament to so many healthcare workers and the millions and millions of Australians who have turned out and, of course, we’re pushing that 90 per cent first vaccination and we are now one of the most vaccinated countries in the world, we are one of the most recently vaccinated countries in the world. And we’re one of the first in the world to start a population-wide booster program. All of that adds up to us being one of the most protected populations in the world when it comes to COVID-19. And that should give us all confidence in terms of opening up, opening up safely, securely, and in ways that are making sure people can get back to business and loved ones can get back together right across the country.
Charles Croucher: So we are protected but we’re not open at the moment. Is that 90 per cent figure that Mark McGowan put in place to open the WA border the right figure?
Simon Birmingham: Look, it’s really one for Western Australia to sort out amongst themselves. What we’ve seen is that Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, they are all planning on moving sooner. They’re applying broadly speaking the national plan in terms of making big steps at the 80 per cent double vaccination rate, and it’s really encouraging. Now, Western Australians will sort these matters out themselves as they always do. But what we can see in the reopening in Victoria, in NSW, the ACT, those decisions that other states are making, and the beginning of international travel happening as well, is that we are getting back to normal. But we’re getting back to normal in a safe way, because of the success of the vaccines and the fact that we have so many opportunities now for people to get out there, receive those booster doses as soon as they’re due for them, to keep up those rates of protection and to make sure Australia stays one of the most protected countries in the world.
Charles Croucher: Tanya, Mark McGowan is an incredibly popular leader, we know that, does Albanese side with his decision an should the Federal Government be doing more to get this process along?
Tanya Plibersek: Well, we had a very slow start to the vaccine rollout in Australia and arguably the second lockdowns in NSW and Victoria were caused by that slow start. Now we are doing super well. That’s because Australians, when they had the chance to get vaccinated, went out in droves to do it. I think Australians should be very proud of themselves for that. When it comes to state-by-state decisions about their borders, look, we all have people we miss interstate, overseas, especially as Christmas is approaching. I know that that’s very tough on some families not being able to see people in WA. But if you are a state premier and you’ve got no COVID and you’re looking at other states and there is plenty of COVID, I’m not surprised that they take a cautious approach. I think we need to be sensible about this. All of us are very keen to get life back to as close as normal as possible. That means being able to go out, eat in restaurants, go to work, go to the office, go to our CBDs, travel on public transport. All of that depends on high vaccination rates and it depends on having access to those booster shots as soon as the medical advice says that they’re ready to go.
Charles Croucher: Simon, this is the last week capable of calling an election for this year. That seems like a line’s gone through it. Is it possible these closed borders actually impact the timing of the next election?
Simon Birmingham: I don’t think that will really play a role. I trust that by the time we have an election, which isn’t due until May next year, that we will see all aspects of the country reunited. The only people who seem to be wanting to talk about an election is the Labor Party. Anthony Albanese has been speculating dates all the time. We’re interested in simply focussing on continuing the economic recovery from COVID, making sure that we maintain unemployment starting with a four which is a miraculous figure that Australia has achieved and the projections from the Reserve Bank, from international agencies are that the policies we’ve got in place are going to retain high levels of employment and low levels of unemployment. The likes of which Australia hasn’t sustained for a very long period of time. That’s a testament to the fact that we’ve managed to keep our economy strong through COVID, to keep businesses safe and secure, and to stop seeing those mass business closures other parts of the world have seen, and to keep job rates up indeed to levels above what they were pre-COVID.
Charles Croucher: We can all celebrate 80 per cent, that’s for sure. Thank you for your time this morning.