Interview with Minister Hunt on Sunrise on January 6, 2022, on Novak Djokovic, COVID-19 tests and COVID-19 vaccines for children.
January 6, 2022
For more on our latest news, tennis star Novak Djokovic’s visa to enter Australia has been canceled after being held at Melbourne Airport for eight hours.
Health Minister Greg Hunt is joining us now. Hello to you, Minister.
Well, do you have any other information? Do you know what the process is from here for Novak?
So the advice I got literally just before I joined you is that the visa for Novak Djokovic has been canceled.
Obviously, this follows a review of the exemption, which was provided through the process of the Victorian government, they were looking at the integrity and the evidence behind it.
The advice I have and if I can just quote it to you is: the ABF can confirm that Mr. Djokovic has not provided the appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements for Australia, and the visa then has been canceled.
So it’s up to him to decide if he wants to appeal, but if a visa is canceled someone will have to leave the country.
Yeah. We hear that he might try to challenge this in Victorian court, so we’re not quite sure how that will play out.
But now there is the diplomatic fallout. The Serbian president said he personally spoke to Djokovic while in detention by Australian border forces personnel.
Serbian media are also telling us this morning that our Australian ambassador is called to the government there to explain what happened here.
Do you have more information on what happened politically behind the scenes?
Look, I don’t. I apologize. I have been working on the coronavirus response where we have had a record of vaccinations in the last 24 hours.
But I know throughout, as a Commonwealth, as a national government, as an Australian government, the Prime Minister has made it clear that Australians have had to be tough and Australians have to be tough. many states and territories have to show their vaccination records in certain cases to enter premises and cafes and other things and it is not unreasonable to have exactly the same requirements for everyone who enters that country. So fair and equitable for all, and the demands could not be met.
There was an exemption that had been provided through the Victorian government process. Obviously, this did not meet the standards of proof required by the Australian Border Force. Yes it is difficult but it is fair and equitable and it is a rule for everyone under this Australian government.
Mr. Minister, let’s move on to the changes in the National Cabinet because the Australians continue to do it hard.
Epidemiologists say this decision not to order enough tests and what we are going through right now with the backlog of PCR tests and these extraordinary lineups that people have been waiting for since the summer is the most appalling public health decision since the start of this pandemic.
What’s your response to that?
Well, I respectfully reject it.
What we have seen is over 230,000 tests per day, 56 million tests in total that have been performed. All are done free for health purposes.
So what we see is that the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, for example, identified Australia as one of the most accurate test countries in the world, which is what helped our security.
Now we have Omicron and we’ve seen global cases climb to over 2.5 million a day, down from over half a million, about half a million just six weeks ago. And so, a massive global increase across the world.
The rapid supply of antigens poses a short-term challenge. The Australian government provided the care for the elderly until the end, we were in the market in August. We intervened to help the States, we bought 70 million, they have 130 million, which will be more than 200 million.
And I am introducing price hike regulations under the Biosafety Act that will begin at 1:00 a.m. on January 8, 2022 and include fines of up to $ 66,000 or jail time of up to $ 66,000. up to five years for price increases demonstrated in relation to rapid antigen testing.
Such a strong and clear action and we continue to ensure that these tests are available for free through the public health system as they always have been, contrary to some inaccurate reports.
But they are not available, Minister. People cannot get them. People have to queue across the country to even find a rapid antigen test at their local pharmacy. People can’t get them, and they’re not free.
Well, two things here in healthcare, it’s free, and always has been and will continue to be.
And yes, with many people stepping forward, the Australians have been amazing in coming forward for testing and for the close contacts and for the symptomatic cases that remain the case.
Then for the concession holders outside of that healthcare setting, we also provide 66 million tests for free and then for what you might call occasional use or social use where people are careful then it is up to them to be able to buy.
There is a short-term global supply challenge, the supply has actually increased significantly, but the demand around the world has skyrocketed. And so, that’s where we provide that extra support with these 66 million tests for concessionary cardholders and 70 million that the Commonwealth has purchased for senior care to support states.
Minister, in the UK they are free for the majority of people. Schools use them to send children back to school to make sure the virus does not spread in schools. Rapid testing, obviously, over the next three weeks could become even more vital as children return to school.
We will get to that in a moment. But I wanted to talk about school vaccination because, realistically, the return to school is barely three weeks away. The roll-out of vaccines for children aged 5 to 12 is about to begin.
Is it going to be enough time to get enough children immunized?
Well we have followed the safety protocols and it is important that we have done that I think every parent would want to make sure that is the case.
It starts in just a few days on January 10 and we have enough vaccines for every child in Australia.
We have a rate of almost 80%. 100 for 12 to 15 year olds. We would like it to go higher. But we want to encourage every parent to bring their child, to book with their GP or pharmacist or state clinic, over the next few weeks.
So, we run the callback program. At the same time, we manage the children’s program. It starts next Monday, January 10.
The supplies are being released, literally as we speak and I am very confident that there will be very heavy use, but I encourage all parents to know that the strictest safety protocols have been followed, but it will help protect your child. and it will help protect your family.
Well, I hope we can get these rapid antigen tests into the school as well, just to keep all these kids and teachers safe for free.
Mr. Minister, thank you for your time this morning. We’ll have to leave it there.
Thanks everyone. We will be fine and I want to thank everyone for all their actions to ensure their safety and that of others.
Yeah. Well said. Thank you, Minister, for spending some time with us.