Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for South Australia
Date: Wednesday, 30 June 2021
Simon Birmingham: Thanks very much for coming along today. This is an exciting opportunity for South Australia in terms of announcing the establishment of two new cooperative research centres based here in Adelaide, and each of them particularly looking to leverage South Australia's green and renewable credentials to expand opportunities for cleaner, greener, low emissions technologies in our state into the future. We're going to see from Flinders University increased investment in relation to marine bio products from Adelaide University, investment in relation to heavy industries transitioning into low emissions futures. And together, these universities, leading universities in the country working with so many other industry sectors are going to provide the opportunity for so many Australian industries to transition to a low emissions future. We've seen that this state and Australia can lead the world in the uptake of solar panels and renewable energies, and the transition in energy generation is well underway to achieve a low emissions future to reach net zero as soon as possible. Industries like steel, aluminium, plastics, cement are all going to need low emissions pathways too. That's what these investments are all about, ensuring the jobs we currently have in sectors like steel and cement, manufacturing and marine bio products and their role in plastics manufacturing can also transition into a low emissions future so that we do get the benefits in relation to Australia leading the world in terms of producing these products, but doing so on the drive and road to net zero.
Journalist: The announcement of AstraZeneca being available for under 40s that's since been contradicted by, for example, Queensland's chief health officer. The Immunisation Advisory Group says it wasn't consulted. The AMA said it wasn't consulted. Did the prime minister mishandle that?
Simon Birmingham: Nothing has changed in relation to the availability and the ability for doctors to be able to administer AstraZeneca. All we're doing is ensuring that doctors have appropriate identities place so that if a patient comes, wants to sit down and talk to the doctor about having that vaccine, the doctors are empowered to be able to make those decisions consistent with the Therapeutic Goods Administration approvals of AstraZeneca for administration to anybody over 18.
Journalist: But you now have senior public health figures like Dr Jeannette Young and the AMA saying that they weren't consulted and they wouldn't give this advice. They wouldn't advise young people to take it. Why did the government act unilaterally?
Simon Birmingham: It's up for each doctor to follow the health advice that is due to consider it fully and to sit and talk to their patients. That's all that's going to happen.
Journalist: The government, going to keep going against the advice of the immunisation advisory group in the future?
Simon Birmingham: The government is acting entirely consistent with the advice from a ATAGI. The advice and decisions of the Therapeutic Goods Administration and is simply continuing the policy of enabling doctors to work with their patients in relation to the administration of vaccines.
Journalist: There was a family from Singapore that was flown into South Australia on a private plane when they were known COVID positive last week. Do you know anything about that? And do you know what role the federal government may have played in facilitating that?
Simon Birmingham: That is the first I've heard of that one. So I'm sorry if I had some information that I could assist you with I would.
Journalist: How do you think it looks to people, you know, when there's discussion of halving international arrivals caps, that people who are known COVID positive when they were blocked, for example, from coming from India, are able to rent a private plane and fly in to Adelaide?
Simon Birmingham: Without having seen or heard any details of this. Aside from the question, you're putting to me, I'd be reluctant to comment.
Journalist: Okay. Can I ask you about Human Rights Watch says Chinese students are being watched, harassed and intimidated by authorities in China who are questioning families here. Is the government aware of this? And is there anything it can do to prevent it?
Simon Birmingham: We made very firm statements on a range of levels in relation to expecting China to uphold basic human rights. We do that through the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations. We've stood with other nations in doing that in relation to the human rights abuses in Xinjiang province. We've done so in relation to human rights concerns in Hong Kong, and we expect that all nations abide by universal commitments in relation to human rights.
Journalist: But what about protecting Chinese citizens when they are in Australia?
Simon Birmingham: Everybody living in Australia should enjoy the same freedoms and rights under Australian laws, and that's certainly the expectation.
Journalist: Are you worried about the, you know, with all the lockdowns that are happening around the country? The slow rate of vaccination nationally. Are you worried about how this is going to look for the government? Does it look like the government's lost control of things?
Simon Birmingham: Australia is like everywhere else around the world, still confronting a global pandemic. The realities remain that in Australia we've saved more lives than pretty much anywhere else in the world in managing the pandemic. We've saved more jobs and businesses than pretty much anywhere else in the world. We've got seven and a half million doses of vaccine administered to date and based on the projections of vaccine availability for the rest of the year, Australians will all have that opportunity to be vaccinated if they wish during the course of this year. Thank you.