Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for South Australia
Date: Sunday, 24 October 2021
Rebecca Maddern: Let's bring in Finance Minister Simon Birmingham and Nine's political editor Chris Uhlmann. Good morning, blokes. Thank you for your time. Simon, first to you, if you were vaccine hesitant, would you get the jab after watching that, do you reckon?
Simon Birmingham: Look, I think this is just another tool to try to make sure we get across to people the benefits of being vaccinated and the benefits we're enjoying across the country, you know, it has been a lovely day for many Australians this week as New South Wales, Victoria, the ACT have reopened further as Tasmania and Queensland have released the plans of when they're opening their borders. As Qantas announced, when we're going to see more international flights come back and that's all, the dividend of now becoming one of the most vaccinated countries in the world, and we want to make sure we reach in to every population group and get as far as we can in terms of lifting that 86 per cent first dose rate even higher right across the Australian population.
Richard Wilkins: Chris, our taxes at work, what do you think?
Chris Uhlmann: Oh, look, I think every little bit helps, but there is a certain section of the population which is always going to be vaccine hesitant and some of them completely vaccine resistant. So getting them over the line will be very hard. When you look around Australia, really, the vaccination rates now are amongst the best in the world. Where I am in the ACT, 98 per cent of people have had their first dose. 86 per cent have had their second dose. And yet we're still wearing masks outside. I think Richard, what we need is to see some governments recognise the reality that it's time to get back to normal, not COVID normal, but normal.
Rebecca Maddern: Simon, the health minister, says we could be rolling out booster shots by the end of next week. Do you expect every Australian to get a third shot or should we be focussing on vaccinating our children, as we just heard in the previous interview?
Simon Birmingham: Where we can we should be doing all of the above, and so what we want to make sure is we keep following the health advice in terms of when booster shots are administered and when we can move to vaccination of children and there are expert assessments underway and government will be guided by that. We have the doses, the distribution channels and the ability to make sure that we get children done and we deliver booster shots across the Australian population. And that's most likely to start with those who received their vaccination first. So that means aged care workers, health care workers, those who we got vaccinated at the earliest stages of the rollout and then progressively going through the rest of the country. Israel is the only other country in the world at present, looking at widespread booster programs and the ability of Australia to do that means that we can be one of the most vaccinated countries in the world in terms of reach into our population, but also with some of the greatest levels of protection if we can move that booster shot right across the country over the course of the next year.
Richard Wilkins: Interested in your opinion on this, Chris? Is this the right call or should we be ramping up production and donating vaccines to developing countries?
Chris Uhlmann: Oh, certainly developing countries do need the vaccines and need them a lot more than we do at the moment. We are donating vaccines to the region, several million. In fact, doses are going out. One of the real problems we have in Papua New Guinea, though, is the vaccine hesitancy there is remarkable. So getting people to take what is the AstraZeneca vaccine, and you might recall that because of what happened here. I'm not surprised that people in Papua New Guinea might have a few hesitations because of the way that very good vaccine was treated here. But yes, the world does need to get the vaccine if we are to get through this in the long run. But surprise, surprise. Governments around the world have looked after their people first, and I don't think that any of us should really be surprised at all about that.
Rebecca Maddern: Hey, Birmo, how did you not continually changed its advice on AstraZeneca? We would have had more than enough doses for boosters. It's a bit of an issue, wasn't it?
Simon Birmingham: Well, we do have more than enough doses for boosters. There's no doubt the changing advice on AstraZeneca was a problem at the time, and it slowed down parts of the rollout and that's disappointing in hindsight that it happened. Astrazeneca has proven to be a great vaccine. It saved lives right around the world and that's why we continue to manufacture it, continue to supply it. And whilst the uptake in Australia of AZ may not have been what we initially hoped, we are making sure it is used in a valuable way to save lives elsewhere around the world.
Richard Wilkins: Hey Simon, I hope you lot have got a good plumber because the Coalition has a major leak. Text messages from a Nationals MP message group exploding over climate negotiations, accusing the PM's office of leaking the Nats demands. Did they?
Simon Birmingham: Oh, I'm sure they didn't, but I think the real the real importance for Australians is the fact that we're debating the issues that need to be debated around emissions reduction. And that is how we ensure the PM goes to Glasgow with a plan for net zero to get Australia continuing to reduce our emissions. We've already dropped them by more than 20 per cent since 2005. We want to make sure we keep reducing those emissions, but do it in ways that protect jobs, especially in regional communities. Make sure those communities have confidence in the fact that what we're doing will help them transition as the rest of the world moves to net zero in a way where they can have confidence in their future. And that's why it's so important that we don't just give a blank cheque and sign up to these agreements without thinking about all the issues. And it's right of those regional MPs to come to Canberra to say, what about our communities? And that's what we're addressing in this plan.
Rebecca Maddern: Chris, we all know a leaky ship doesn't stay afloat for too long. Will the PM get the climate deal he wants and will it go down well in Glasgow?
Chris Uhlmann: Well, look, we should find out today, Sophie and a leaky ship. Gee, you don't have to get their text messages. You can't shut them up the National Party. So I don't think we need ever wonder what they're thinking. They always tell us whether or not we want to hear it. Look, it's a very difficult time. It's been a very difficult time for the last decade in Australian politics over this. I don't think you should underestimate what's just happened here. Getting the coalition to sign up to net zero by 2050 is an enormous change in its policy. We have seen prime ministers fall over this, over the course of the last decade, so that's a big deal. But of course, the ground has shifted under their feet again, the new targets that everyone want to see the short term ones in 2030. And I think you'll find that what the prime minister will take to Glasgow, which is the targets, he said in Paris, plus a projection for an improvement will be nowhere near enough for some. But then again, whatever you do on this front is never enough for some.
Richard Wilkins: Simon, Chris, thank you for your time on this Sunday morning. Have a good day, gentlemen. Thank you.