Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for South Australia
Date: Tuesday, 3 August 2021
Lisa Millar: Parliament returns today as millions of taxpayer dollars are made available in additional COVID support payments and to bail out the ailing aviation sector. Finance Minister Simon Birmingham joins us now from Canberra. Good morning to you. Minister, welcome to News Breakfast.
Simon Birmingham: Good morning. Good to be with you again.
Lisa Millar: Can we jump straight into this idea that Anthony Albanese is going to be putting forward today? Three hundred dollars for everyone who is fully vaccinated by December the 1st. What do you reckon?
Simon Birmingham: Well, the most important reason to get a vaccine, the most important incentive to be vaccinated is that it could save your life, save the lives of your loved ones, save the lives of your fellow Australians. And that is what's driving Australians in record numbers day in, day out now to get vaccinated-
Lisa Millar: But it hasn't been driving it. That's why we've been talking about incentives, hasn't I mean, you've we've got 19 per cent fully dosed up. You don't like the idea of a three hundred dollar cash incentive?
Simon Birmingham: No, because we've looked at it and the evidence says that it's unnecessary and unlikely to work. And indeed, if you do look at the different age cohorts of Australia in the over 70s who were the first group of Australians to be eligible to get a vaccine, we're now exceeding 79 per cent of over 70s have had their first dose. So if you looked then right through all Australians over the age of 16, around 41 per cent of all Australians over the age of 16 have already turned out for their first dose. And we're seeing daily records set in terms of the number of Australians turning out and getting vaccinated. And we're now at around 12.4 million doses that have already been administered as part of this program. So it's clearly unnecessary in the sense that Australians are responding. They do want to get their vaccines. And frankly, it's a little bit insulting to the many millions of Australians who already are doing the right thing, who are planning on doing the right thing and know full well that the reason they should get vaccinated is to protect their health and to protect the health of their loved ones and their fellow Australians.
Lisa Millar: Well, reports today that the federal government's thinking about some kind of freedom incentive, including maybe dealing with businesses to try and get people into rock concerts, into museums, frequent flyer points, what is being considered?
Simon Birmingham: So if you look at countries like the UK and Canada who have pushed past the 80 per cent mark in terms of first doses in those countries right across their adult population, yes, they've used some targeted incentives in careful, targeted ways to help get people over the line, but not this type of broad brush scattergun approach. It's very reminiscent of old labor approaches to just splash cash everywhere and hope for the best. What we've been doing is building the vaccine program and we've seen supply now step up and it will continue to increase in terms of the availability of different vaccines over the next few months. Distribution outlets growing from GP's and the state vaccination hubs to now increasingly include pharmacies and to give more points where people can get vaccinated as we get that greater supply in place and making sure we've got the payment agreements in place to incentivise all of those GPs, pharmacies, states and territories to be able to hand out and administer vaccines in a safe in an informed way. And that's what's building, I think, the confidence in Australians to want to get vaccinated. And that's what we have to continue to drive home as a message to all Australians. And I think we can see in the numbers they're turning out. They hear it, they understand it and they respect it.
Lisa Millar: Yeah. Could I just stay on vaccines? Because we've had a stack of people messaging in Minister, who've been trying to get vaccinated in regional New South Wales and are now having appointments being cancelled because the vaccines are being sent to school students in Sydney. Isn't that another example of how this rollout has just not worked? I mean, Labor yesterday was calling it the mismanagement of this public health crisis has been a national catastrophe.
Simon Birmingham: Well, the decision there was made by the New South Wales government.
Lisa Millar: Was it a bad decision though?
Simon Birmingham: New South Wales is dealing with some difficult decisions at present and difficult situation. So I don't want to get into a political slanging match with them. I absolutely understand the frustration of Australians who in those circumstances have done the right thing. They've made a booking. They're planning to get vaccinated and they want to do so as soon as possible. And I urge them to make sure they follow through despite the inconvenience of having to reschedule. And I hope that New South Wales can ensure those spots are available for those individuals who face that disruption as soon as possible. We are seeing increased supply coming through. There's ample AstraZeneca available across Australia right now. We've got around two million doses of Pfizer coming into the country every week. And there will be a further time where that increases further in terms of the volume of that vaccine, whilst we also then see the Moderna coming on stream during the course of the rest of this year as well. So the country will see plenty of vaccines available. Our aim, based on the Doherty Institute evidence and modelling, is to drive towards those rates of 70 per cent and then 80 per cent of the eligible population being vaccinated. And that, crucially, is going to give us the confidence under that modelling to be able to move beyond the type of lockdowns and restrictions we have in place at present safely to other measures that still apply, some safeguards which will continue to be important, but do so in ways where we've got that baseline of a very high population vaccinated, which we're seeing Australians choose to do of their own volition at present with eagerness and strong demand.
Lisa Millar: All right. Simon Birmingham, thank you.
Simon Birmingham: Thank you, my pleasure.