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Prime Minister Scott Morrison's interview with Neil Breen, 4BC

  • Written by Scott Morrison

NEIL BREEN: Good morning to you, Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER: G’day Neil, and can I say thanks to everyone across south east Queensland for their patience. It's, it's, you know, a difficult thing to go through these lockdowns. But, as you say, people now know the drill. And, sadly, this is the drill we have to follow with the Delta variant. It's changed everything. And, and the way to get on top of these things and ensure you don't have longer lockdowns is move quickly. So, support that strongly.

BREEN: Yeah, it is different Prime Minister, because in March the Chief Health Officer in Queensland Dr Jeannette Young, who's been notoriously cautious since the start of it, said there wouldn't be any more lockdowns because we seem to be in a good space and we can do targeted things. But, then Delta came around and the entire population is accepting of the fact, yeah, we need to lockdown. They're all on board.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the difference is with the Delta variant is it just moves at a much more rapid pace. And, whereas before our contact tracing and Queensland has very good contact tracing and, and testing, but it just moves faster. And so to stop it getting ahead and staying ahead, that's why those, those short and hopefully short and strong lockdowns are so necessary, as they proved it could be done in Victoria and South Australia. Sadly, in New South Wales it's going a lot tougher than that. But, hopefully in south east Queensland, that will, you know, there'll be more of the Victoria and South Australian experience. But, making those work is really important. And as with the other states financial support will be provided by the Federal Government after the end of the first week. So, next Saturday people will be able to apply if they've lost more than eight hours and more than 20 hours of work a week, they'll be able to apply for those payments of $450 for eight to 20 and $750 for more than 20 hours. And, if you’re on a benefit payment, whether it's a pension or whether it's a Parenting Payment, Youth Allowance, JobSeeker you can access $200 payment on top of those other benefits you're getting. And that will all become able to claim from next Saturday at Services Australia.

BREEN: So, from Saturday, so we wait until we're a week into the lockdown then people who lost the work can go in, as you said $750 for 20 plus, $450 for eight to 20 hours. So, we wait a week is that correct?

PRIME MINISTER: That's right. You wait a week and for, and for the hours you lost during that lockdown, then those payments are processed very quickly. We've already paid in, already in bank accounts around the country around a billion dollars already now. And, so it's proved to be a very quick way and it's done on, based on actually what happened. And, so people know that at the end of this week, if they've gone through this lockdown, then they'll be able to get that support payment and that'll come through very, very promptly. They’ve been able to do it sometimes in as little as half an hour or a couple of days, which will happen over the course of that weekend. So, people can, will know that's there, and hopefully it won't go beyond that. But, if it does as it has in New South Wales and indeed as it went into a second week in Victoria, well, the same thing will be repeated the week after that. But, you won't have to make a further application.

BREEN: Ok, these targets you've set, they're bullish. First target 70, second target 80. Third target is everyone, and booster shots and everything. Will everyone play ball, Prime Minister? Will the chief health officers of all the different states and all the premiers who seem to be bullish about their poll prospects, the more, sort of they run their own states in their own way, will everyone get on board and say yeah, 70 per cent, we're not going to do lockdowns?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it's, it's, there may still be very unique circumstances where we understand that that may be required, but we're not talking about the sorts of things that we're experiencing now in New South Wales or south east Queensland. I mean, there are variants, they’re new variants. And so, you know, we'll be careful. But, no, that is it. They will become much less likely and much more targeted too. I mean, the sorts of things we envisage is there might be remote Indigenous communities or things like this and, of course, that might be necessary, or particular parts of the state. So, it gets a lot more surgical at that point. But you're right, we start saying goodbye to them at 70 per cent, and they become basically pretty much a thing of the past when we hit 80 per cent. I mean, the UK’s now at 72.5 per cent. We’re at, we've now got about one in five Australians fully vaccinated. We’ve got 40 per cent, two in five, that have had at least their first dose. We've seen our vaccination rates on double dose now more than double in the last month. I mean, in July we were up some 4.5 million vaccines in the month. That's 3.4 [million] was back in June. So, a big increase there. 2.1 [million] the month before. So you know, we had those early problems, we've got on top of them, we've turned it around and, we know, we've got our gold medal run till the end of the year to get this done.

BREEN: One of the key things though, is AstraZeneca. AstraZeneca has been a problem because of the, the media it got, the advice it got. The different points of view from people like our Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young. But when you get the risk process changing or the numbers changing because of what's happened in Queensland, would you expect that the position in Queensland about AstraZeneca to change now, because COVID’s going to be more of a risk to you than AstraZeneca?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think that balance of risk change is very obvious. And, what we're seeing in New South Wales now is AstraZeneca dosage rates amongst 16 to 39 year olds just rapidly escalate. And, and the risk is a very, very small risk. I mean, there are many, with any vaccine, with any medication, there are, there are small risks associated with this. But I mean, driving around your car for a whole year is more risky than, than this vaccine. The things that people do most days of their lives, whether at work or elsewhere, are more risky than this. And so it is a very low level risk. But, you do need informed consent if you're under the age of 60. And, that's why we made the opportunity available for people to talk to their doctors about it. But, you don't have to have that vaccine with the GP. I mean, you can, of course, but you can go and have your AstraZeneca vaccine whether it’s a pharmacist, a GP or one of the state-based clinics. But, it's an important vaccine, it’s saved millions of lives around the world and, and can here in Australia. And so, it's important that in Queensland that those AstraZeneca vaccination rates increase, and I’d encourage people to go and do it and talk to their doctors about that to get their informed consent.

BREEN: I know that you've been talking about people who've been double vaccinated having more freedoms than others. That'll be, that's a major policy. That'll be a major thing because a lot of people will feel as though they're being denied their freedoms by that happening. But, I do notice that New South Wales stadiums is talking about double vaccinations to get into The Ashes and NRL games. This is coming, isn't it?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, ultimately that'll be, I mean, the Federal Government can't legislate that. We don't have the powers to do that. Public health is, as we've said so many times now, Neil, the states decide that. So, if venues and things like this want to do that, my advice is then they will need the backing of, of state public health orders to achieve that, to make those sort of things mandatory. That's my advice. And, they’re issues that those venues and other things will have to work through with state governments. So, ultimately, that'll be a decision for them. But, when it comes to those arrangements, I think they'll be, there'll be a keen interest in it, because when we get to Phase B we are looking to, you know, provide exemptions for vaccinated residents. And, there's a simple reason for that.

BREEN: Exemptions, what sort of exemptions? What sort of exemptions?

PRIME MINISTER: I mean, it’s got nothing to do with politics, or liberty or anything like that. It's simple. If you're vaccinated, you're less likely to get it, you're less likely to transmit it, you're less likely to get a serious disease, and you're less likely to die. So, you are less of a public health risk if you're vaccinated than otherwise. And, if we want to protect the health of people in whatever state around the country, then, you know, if you're vaccinated, well, that is a way of protecting people's health. If you're not vaccinated, then you're at greater risk. And, as a result, if you're not having the vaccination, then clearly state governments are going to have to take decisions to protect people in those circumstances because they’re, they're basically unprotected.

BREEN: Do you mean exemptions from say, a lockdown for instance?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it can be, it can be any number of things. And, we've got the Northern Territory Government working together with the Victorian Government and the Tasmanian Government right now. They're bringing back to National Cabinet the recommendations of the options that states can pursue. And, what it really is is this, it's exemptions that would apply to people who are vaccinated because they've taken the step to reduce their risk to other people and to themselves. And, when they've done that, well, you can make a health decision. Nothing to do with politics. The virus doesn't care what your political views are. They don't care about it, it doesn't care about any of that stuff. It just cares about whether you're vaccinated or not. And if you're vaccinated, it is less able to impact on you, your family, your community. And so, where people have taken those steps, well, clearly it's just common sense that they can be exempted from restrictions that would be necessary for those who haven't got that protection and are very vulnerable.

BREEN: Should businesses be able to ask customers if they're vaccinated? Do you think that'll become a thing?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I've heard some commentary on that, and I know the DPM's had a bit to say about that. But, ultimately, that goes to the, to the legal situation, and businesses should be careful about that. And, they should make sure, talk to their business associations and groups and, and make sure that they're not falling foul of any discrimination laws. Because these things are important. We've been making our own Australian way through this, Neil, as I've talked about before. And, you know, they're important principles at stake here, for people's freedoms and what they can do. But equally, we also have a obligation to each other and not to cause harm to each other, and by getting vaccinated we are less likely to cause harm to someone else.

BREEN: Prime Minister Scott Morrison, thanks for joining us on 4BC Breakfast.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks, Neil. Just before I go, can I make one other point, just quickly.


PRIME MINISTER: If you're a sole trader, if you're a sole trader, you can access the COVID Disaster Payment. So, at the end of this week, if you know, you're not getting paid because you haven't got any work and you're a soul trader, it's just not for those who are employees, if you're a sole trader, you can also make that claim. There's, I'm sure there will be under the Queensland Government a business support in these early phases as well. But, if you’re a sole trader, the COVID Disaster Payment can help you.

BREEN: The Queensland business support, the $5,000 grant announced today, doesn't apply to sole traders, only to sole traders that somehow employ people. So, sole traders will go under your scheme. That clarifies it, because I’ve been getting questions.

PRIME MINISTER: That’s right.

BREEN: Thanks Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, if you're a sole trader, you'll get support from the Federal Government. Good on you. Thanks.


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