Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for South Australia
Date: Wednesday, 28 July 2021
Michael Rowland: Now, as we just heard, there are plenty of calls persisting for the federal government to reinstate JobKeeper as New South Wales contemplates another month in lockdown. Finance Minister Simon Birmingham joins us now from Adelaide. Minister, good morning to you.
Simon Birmingham: Good morning, Michael. Good to be with you.
Michael Rowland: I want to get to JobKeeper more broadly in a moment, but understandably, people in Sydney are quite distressed about what is facing them this morning, particularly those who happen to own a business in terms of business support. What is the government considering front and centre this morning?
Simon Birmingham: Michael, these are certainly tough times for people right across Sydney and other parts of New South Wales. That's why we've been providing something close to 500 million dollars in economic support per week flowing into New South Wales. And it's also why over recent days, knowing this decision was likely to have to be made by the New South Wales Government. We've been having discussions within the Morrison Government about the type of additional support that may need to be provided to ensure that New South Wales individuals, households and businesses get through this lock down, that they make this lock a success in terms of suppressing COVID-19 and that they're in a position where the economy comes back strongly afterwards, as it has right across Australia, following every other COVID disruption to date. And so we've been looking very carefully at the types of measures in terms of household support and business support, which is already seeing up to ten thousand dollars per week going into businesses, already seeing significant payments going into households. And there'll be further said today from the Prime Minister in relation to the plans that he's outlined to the New South Wales Government on these matters.
Michael Rowland: OK, and will JobKeeper come back? Yes or no?
Simon Birmingham: No, what we've done is managed to tailor something that builds on the legacy of JobKeeper indeed the Victorian Labor, Premier Dan Andrews has likened the COVID disaster payments to being the new form of JobKeeper, and that is exactly how they're intended to operate. But JobKeeper was designed to work right across the whole Australian nation, as it did effectively for a period of time. Now, under the Delta strain, we're dealing with these localised lockdowns and that's why the COVID disaster payment can apply in those local settings. It actually has a broader reach, particularly in relation to certain casual employees, in providing financial assistance for people who have lost hours at work. And we've been making sure we continue to refine that payment and we'll continue to do so to ensure it gives the financial assistance to individuals who are losing work as a result of lockdowns.
Michael Rowland: So having looked at all the announcements and listened to everything the Prime Minister and yourself and the Treasurer have had to say over the last few days, we still have the New South Wales Liberal Treasurer Dominic Perati, so desperate about not getting JobKeeper that he's taken to the pages of the Daily Telegraph to write an opinion piece arguing that you should bring back JobKeeper. What do you say to him this morning?
Simon Birmingham: Well, indeed, the Prime Minister and Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, had lengthy discussions last night with Premier Berejiklian and Mr Perati and the Prime Minister's maintained discussions with Premier Berejiklian right throughout this crisis, as he usually does with premiers in these circumstances. We, as I said, Michael, have over recent days in particular, been looking at what else may be necessary as a result of the decisions we expected New South Wales would have to make. The PM will have more to say on that later today. They're the types of things he was outlining to the New South Wales Government last night.
Michael Rowland: We await the Prime Minister's announcement. Now, New South Wales, Sydney is in this situation. And in fact, Australia's in this situation because of Delta, it is highly transmissible. We just showed our viewers figures only 16 per cent of Australians are fully vaccinated. We could spend the entire show Simon Birmingham talking up the merits of AstraZeneca. I'm more than happy to any day of the week. I got my second AZ jab yesterday. I think it's great. I think it's safe. But we have this cohort of Australians, for whatever reason, refusing to get AstraZeneca, preferring to wait for Pfizer. We now know that we've known for some time that the bulk of the Pfizer shipments won't happen until the last three months of this year. That's from October onwards, two months away. In that two month period, given this cohort of people not taking A.Z, Australians are pretty much sitting ducks aren't they as this Delta strain runs rampant?
Simon Birmingham: Michael, thank you for the attitude you've brought to A.Z, and you're one of many millions of Australians who have had the AstraZeneca vaccine and of course, one of many more people right across the world who have had what has been a very successful and is a very successful vaccine at saving lives and suppressing COVID that is helping to ensure that people-
Michael Rowland: But we need Pfizer. You had the New South Wales Health Minister, Brad Hazzard, pleading again, as he's done several times now with the government for more Pfizer. Will the government take Pfizer off other states in the national interest and pump it straight into south west Sydney?
Simon Birmingham: So what we're seeing now is that Pfizer deliveries are coming in at around a million doses a week. And that's a big step up in terms of the availability and the supply going into New South Wales as it is going across the country. Now, it's important that we make sure the vaccine rollout has access points across the country, and that's why we'll see more chemists come online in New South Wales. We'll see more availability of both vaccines at New South Wales pop up hubs. What we're trying to make sure is that it's as easy as possible for Australians to get the vaccine at a time now where we're seeing more than a million doses being administered across the country a week, eleven point four million doses that have been administered in total. If you look at how we've worked through the target age groups in the over 70s, we've got more than 77 per cent of people have had their first dose. And the rate of second doses is climbing very strongly in that cohort as it is right across the population. So the vaccine rollout is there for people in an escalated stage now. And we want to make sure that as we get those further increases over the coming couple of months to take us to even higher levels, the Pfizer coming into the country that we have even more distribution points to give certainty to Australians that can access it.
Michael Rowland: Got to leave it there. Finance Minister Simon Birmingham, thanks for your time.
Simon Birmingham: Thank you, Michael. My pleasure.