Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for South Australia
Date: Tuesday, 3 August 2021
Jim Wilson: Well, Simon Birmingham is the Finance Minister. He's just popped out of Cabinet to join me for a chat. Minister, welcome back to Drive.
Simon Birmingham: Hello, Jim. It's good to be with you, as always.
Jim Wilson: Good on you. Now, I just spoke to Labor's Tanya Plibersek. She explained Labor's proposal to give people 300 dollars if they get the COVID vaccine. Minister, let's get your take on it. Good idea. Bad idea?
Simon Birmingham: Bad idea, Jim. Bad idea for a number of reasons. It's a bad idea because it creates uncertainty around what's actually happening at present. And indeed, it goes against much of the evidence and advice that we've received as the government. And frankly, that's been published in different parts of Australia and the world. You've got both academics in infectious diseases and in behavioural economics saying that this is the wrong type of thing to do, that they're very clear indeed. Someone like Professor Peter Collignon saying that this may make some needlessly defer getting vaccinated because they may think they if they defer a few months, they might be more likely to get 300 dollars. You've got others questioning other sorts of doubt that it creates. So it's unhelpful from Labor, but it's also bad policy in the sense that Australians are getting vaccinated right now for all of the right reasons, which is that the main incentive to get vaccinated, the overwhelming incentive is exactly as Patricia's daughter put it to her, it will save your life. That's what you want to get vaccinated for. It could save your life, your loved one's life or the lives of your fellow Australians. And that's why if we look at the over 80s, we've now got to a point where those Australians over sorry, over 70s, those Australians over 70, 79.4 per cent of them have turned out to have their first dose of a vaccine. Many of them, 42.8 per cent, have already had their second dose. So we've actually got Australians who are marching with their feet and getting up, getting the vaccine, demonstrating they will do so, hitting the targets that our scientific experts have told us we need to reach of 70 and 80 per cent. And as we move through the other age cohorts, I'm confident that younger Australians will be just as committed to the health and safety of themselves and their loved ones and their communities as older Australians are
Jim Wilson: What about vaccine passports? I don't mind the idea of this. I mean, obviously Germany and France are looking at this in Europe. I mean, I spoke to NRL boss Peter V'Landys yesterday who's backing in this proposal that only the vaccinator can go to the footy. Now, I like it for those big events and I reckon it should even be extended to restaurants, cinemas, other places where people gather if it means businesses can get back on their feet. It's a good thing in my book, do you support it?
Simon Birmingham: So we're building the technology for people to be able to prove beyond doubt that they've been vaccinated. That technology is important for us to particularly look at how people might in future be able to travel in and out of Australia again, recognising that we may well have restrictions in place that give preference to people who have been vaccinated and other parts of the world will quite possibly do so, too. It's quite possible that states and territories using public health orders may back in major sporting codes or other businesses to also require people to demonstrate proof of vaccination. And that's a matter for each of those as they work through it. But I think Australians should be clear that as we reopen, it's highly likely that there will be some areas of life where it's more likely that you will get greater liberties or freedoms if you've been vaccinated than not. Why is that? And not just because you're less likely to get sick, but the data also shows you're a bit less likely to transmit and transfer COVID-19 to others if you've been vaccinated. So you're not just protecting yourself. You are actually helping to slow down the pace of spread of the disease too.
Jim Wilson: Minister, as always, I know it's been a very busy afternoon with Cabinet. We appreciate your time this afternoon.
Simon Birmingham: Thanks Jim. My pleasure.