Media event date: 

9 August 2021

Date published: 

10 August 2021

Media type: 

Transcript

Audience: 

General public

TOM CONNELL:

Welcome back. Lockdown ending for regional Victoria tonight. Should it ever have gone into lockdown? Joining me now is Dr David Gillespie, the Minister for Regional Health.

Thanks for your time.

It’s an interesting situation because the Victorian Government says, well, we’ve made sure and it’s safe now. Some of these places haven’t had a case ever during COVID. Was it a proportionate response?

MINISTER GILLESPIE:

Well, look. I think it’s a bit over the top, is the best way to describe it. The thing that really infuriates people is these lockdowns are ruining peoples’ lives and livelihoods, both their mental health space. The existence of these rural communities relies on them being to get around and travel. Now, if there’s no cases anywhere, it just defies logic that they would extend it in such a broad-brush fashion.

So, I’m really pleased they’re lifting it tonight. I’d like to compliment the Member for Mallee for her great advocacy to get Mildura opened again in the west of Victoria. And a lot of those other regional people like the Member for Nicholls.

TOM CONNELL:

[Interrupts] Right.

MINISTER GILLESPIE:

If we’ve got cases, they’ll cop it sweet. But they weren’t getting any cases, so it’s great that it’s lifted.

TOM CONNELL:

So, the concern has been around spread and people driving places and so on. You’re hoping they don’t do this again. If they do and there are cases, will you say, well, gee, I was wrong? Are you prepared to sort of say, you’re confident in things not popping up in regional Victoria enough to say that here’s what you should do, and I’ll stand by that whatever happens?

MINISTER GILLESPIE:

No. Look, I think you’ve got to deal with the evidence. And the evidence was there weren’t cases appearing for a very long time, and just to lock up the whole state without evidence behind it of community transmission or isolated cases in that area, I think, as I said, it was over the top.

TOM CONNELL:

Okay. Interesting move on the vaccines last week where the first move from New South Wales was to take them away from the regions to [indistinct] students. We know the Federal Government ended up topping up the vaccines. What did you make of that? Is that fair enough given the outsized risks in the cities compared to the regions?

MINISTER GILLESPIE:

Well, that was their call. It was a big call, I might add, and there are a lot of people, including me, who were taken aback by it.

But I can say the Commonwealth vaccination program didn’t change. We still rolled it out to GPs, and to the pharmacies who had been approved, and to the community Commonwealth vaccination centres, and the in reach into nursing homes. That didn’t stop. But, look, I can follow the logic of the New South Wales Government, because they were thinking, gee, we’ve got all these high school students in big examination rooms, do we want to turn the HSC into a super spreader event?

So, they were focusing their guns where the problem was, and it’s fortunate that the Commonwealth has got extra doses coming in from Pfizer that we could redirect it back out into those areas.

TOM CONNELL:

See, year 12. I mean, this is a quick action to try to get people back into classrooms, but outbreaks can happen anywhere. Is there any work going on to pre-emptively vaccinate the rest of the year 12s around the country? Or are you just leaving that up to states?

MINISTER GILLESPIE:

Look, the states, it’s their allocation. It’s their call. Obviously, with the epidemiologists identifying that young people are good spreaders –

TOM CONNELL:

Interrupts] And the importance of year 12.

MINISTER GILLESPIE:

And the importance of year 12. There was a logic to what they did.

TOM CONNELL:

Which urged the other states to do it pre-emptively though?

MINISTER GILLESPIE:

Look, it’s their call. If they were in Sydney’s position, which they aren’t, they might have reached that decision. But look, everyone is very jittery about trying to prevent the spread of Delta. It’s great to keep it localised as soon as possible.

Pre-emptive, short, sharp lockdowns are making people’s businesses really suffer, and I really feel for them. The sooner we can get the whole community vaccinated, or as many people as willing to have it, get above that 70, 80 per cent, I think we’ll see that as a feature of the past.

TOM CONNELL:

Okay. And just on getting people so compulsory vaccinations, workplaces are looking to be able to do.

The Federal Government has essentially said we’re not going to pass new legislation; we’ll leave it up to workplaces. And that would be dictated by whether it’s reasonable for a workplace to demand that. So what does that mean? What’s an example of a workplace that should be able to enforce that in your view?

MINISTER GILLESPIE:

Look, it’s pretty much common sense, Tom. I think if an airline wants to say, we’ll only take passengers that are vaccinated, that’s a fair call by them. They might have some passengers that want to prove a point and take legal action against them for discrimination. But look, the government, Commonwealth Government has decided, we are not going to mandate it. We encourage it highly, it’s common sense.

TOM CONNELL:

[Talks over] Okay, but- I understand that. Yeah, I’m just trying to ascertain where the government thinks it would be reasonable. So airline, you said yes. What about a pub? It’s all- at the moment, a lot of the businesses indoors, could they do the same thing with patrons?

MINISTER GILLESPIE:

Well, that’ll be up to those businesses. I’m not going to mandate what they should but you would want to have a pretty good argument for why you’re mandating it. I believe in-

TOM CONNELL:

[Interrupts] But look- so what’s the difference there? Because you said this is common sense. So what’s the difference between a plane and a pub in that sense?

MINISTER GILLESPIE:

It’s a question of density and how close you are and all those sorts of things. Like I said-

TOM CONNELL:

nterrupts] So a sporting event then, when you’ve got the density, say?

MINISTER GILLESPIE:

Well, that’s why they limit numbers at these sporting events.

TOM CONNELL:

Should they be able to have the same right to have patrons [indistinct]?

MINISTER GILLESPIE:

Look, I want eh- I want everyone to be able to get back to normal life.

TOM CONNELL:

I understand that, we all want that.

MINISTER GILLESPIE:

The quickest way to that, is to get the largest portion of the population that’s willing to have a vaccine, vaccinated.

TOM CONNELL:

I understand that.

MINISTER GILLESPIE:

That is- and then, also maintaining those common-sense hygiene and separation and crowded, dense rooms, wearing masks, all that stuff reduces the risk, but we can’t make it risk free.

TOM CONNELL:

[Talks over] [Indistinct]… got to understand that. That’s not what I’m asking. I’m asking which under your definition of common sense, would be able to have that right for either their workers or their patrons?

MINISTER GILLESPIE:

Well, they don’t have a right, they would make that case. I mean-

TOM CONNELL:

[Interrupts] But that could still be tested.

MINISTER GILLESPIE: 

It could be tested. Like I said, they might end up being challenged in the court, but that’s their call. I’m not going to mandate that they have to or that they can’t.

Most people would respond in this current pandemic with thinking, that’s quite reasonable, but we are not going to mandate it. At the very beginning, the Prime Minister said, we highly, strongly urge everyone to get vaccinated, but it’s not mandatory. But look, some of the states are-

TOM CONNELL:

[Interrupts] People have very different definitions of what’s reasonable. That’s the issue here. Isn’t there a role for the government to decide what businesses can do this?

Rather than haphazard, one café says, you’re not coming in. Maybe that cafe gets taken to court, maybe not. I mean, which individual patron will take a cafe to court? Isn’t there a role for government heated figure out what’s reasonable?

MINISTER GILLESPIE:

Look, I believe in small government, and we have got the courts to decide these matters. What the states have done, they have enacted public health orders that they’ve always had. And I might add, Tom, you know, many people come to me and say, like why has the government surrendered all this power to the states? Why doesn’t our Prime Minister stand up? The reason is the states have had these powers since the Commonwealth was formed. And even John Howard mentioned it the other day in an op-ed in the Weekend Australian, that the states have always had these powers, they’ve just lain dormant.

TOM CONNELL:

Okay.

MINISTER GILLESPIE:

Probably since the last pandemic in 1920.

TOM CONNELL:

Can I ask you finally, a lot of opprobrium for Labor’s $300 per jab payment. The government is actually paying doctors to give the jab.

So doctors going to aged-care centres for workers and disability workers, aged-care workers. Doctors get $1,000 after they vaccinate 50 people and $20 per worker after that. Why is it offensive to offer individuals a vaccination, but good policy to pay doctors to give them?

MINISTER GILLESPIE:

Well, it’s because it’s their job.

TOM CONNELL:

But this is on top of their salary, this is incentive.

MINISTER GILLESPIE:

Sorry, I .

TOM CONNELL:

If this is $1,000 bonus. You’re a doctor and you vaccinate 50 aged care workers; you get $1,000 bonus.

MINISTER GILLESPIE:

Look, I’m not privy to those financial deals. I know we have-

TOM CONNELL:

[Interrupts] [Talks over] This was announced last week.

MINISTER GILLESPIE:

We have put forward payments to aged-care centres to get contractors in, whether they’re pharmacists or whether they’re doctors.

TOM CONNELL:

This is a bonus to doctors, though.

MINISTER GILLESPIE:

Well, doctors, every time you see another patient, you get a bonus because they deal on payment-per-care.

TOM CONNELL:

[Interrupts] But this is on top of that. They get that Medicare payment, all that sort of thing. This is $1000 bonus if you get 50 workers vaccinated.

MINISTER GILLESPIE:

Look, I haven’t seen the details of that, Tom, so I don’t want to comment about something that might just be hearsay. I haven’t seen it.

TOM CONNELL:

It’s not hearsay. It’s a government release.

MINISTER GILLESPIE:

Yeah. Okay, well, I have to see that release.

TOM CONNELL:

Well, that- I’ve just told you, though. So if you vaccinate aged-care workers, 50 of them, and you’re a doctor, you get $1,000 bonus. That appropriate?

MINISTER GILLESPIE:

Well, that’s about $20 . Yeah…

TOM CONNELL:

So, yeah.

MINISTER GILLESPIE:

So, that’s about what you get paid in a general practice.

TOM CONNELL:

But it’s on top of that.

MINISTER GILLESPIE:

But in a general practice, you don’t get a wage. You get billings per case seen. That’s how the whole Medicare system works. People in a hospital are generally salaried, but look, the contractors that also go in, like Aspen, it is- it’s a commercial arrangement and doctors are no different.

TOM CONNELL:

Well, perhaps you can take- get an opportunity to take a look at it and we’ll see your thoughts on it next time.

MINISTER GILLESPIE:

Okay, Tom, no worries.

TOM CONNELL:

David Gillespie, thanks for your time.

MINISTER GILLESPIE:

Thanks, Tom.

Ministers: 

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