The Times

The Prime Minister's press conference on Covid and Novak Djokovic

  • Written by Scott Morrison

Morning, everyone. Well I’m looking forward today to the bilateral meeting I’ll be having with the Japanese Prime Minister, Prime Minister Kishida. I had the very good fortune, along with a very small handful of other leaders, to have a one on one meeting with Prime Minister Kishida when I was in Glasgow, and I’m looking forward to our bilateral discussion today.

 

Unfortunately, of course, Prime Minister Kishida can’t come to Australia. He was actually due to arrive this evening. But Japan, like Australia, is dealing with this latest Omicron strain and I fully understand that in those circumstances that coming to Australia at this time would not be possible, and I extend to him and all those in Japan our very best, as they deal with the exact same challenges that we’re dealing here with in Australia. And I’m sure that will be part of our discussions later today, when we do those discussions virtually.

 

Japan is our only Special Strategic Partner. This is one of, the next level is an ally, so this is one of our most important partners. They’re our only Special Strategic Partner. That is above a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. And the landmark treaty that we will commit to today, the Reciprocal Access Agreement, as it is known, will usher in a new chapter in advanced defence cooperation between Australia and Japan to deal with a new and even more challenging environment, particularly within the Indo-Pacific.

 

Japan’s, this will be Japan's only reciprocal Status of Forces Agreement in the world. And that says something very significant about the level of trust and partnership, a partnership of equals, standing up for the security of the Indo-Pacific, and the values, as democracies, that we hold very dear, and the partnerships we have with so many countries in the region, particularly throughout ASEAN, for whom Japan is also a very important partner with ASEAN, as indeed Australia is.

 

I have been working on this Agreement, together with Defence Ministers now and the Foreign Minister, for over three years. When Prime Minister Abe first came to Australia in Darwin many years ago, I picked up those discussions from my predecessors and have worked through this now through three Prime Ministers in Japan, and I want to thank not only Prime Minister Kishida, of course, for bringing us to where we are today, but Prime Minister Suga and Prime Minister Abe, who with whom I had a very good relationship with both of those prime ministers. And off of our first discussion in Glasgow, well, we are in exactly the same space. So I’m very much looking forward to my discussion with Prime Minister Kishida later today.

 

This complements the suite of defence, security and partnership agreements that our Government has been building over the last three years to keep Australians safe, and to keep our region secure. We have concluded, as you know, the AUKUS agreement. We have concluded the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with ASEAN. We were the first country in the world to have a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with the nations of ASEAN. The India Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and related security and intelligence agreements. And of course, with President Moon here most recently, concluding the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with Korea.

 

This meshes together, it weaves together, this suite of agreements, with the Quad and Five Eyes already there at the start, to ensure that Australia works with our partners to ensure that our region can be prosperous, can be safe, and can be open and can be free.

 

It backs in, also, in most recent history when we were able to participate in Exercise Malabar, which was a defence exercise that we had been absent from for around about a decade. And so this is just further evidence of how our approach to securing peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region, keeping Australians safe, and the web of partnerships that we’ve been building is contributing to that objective.

 

The second point, yesterday was a record booster day. Some 222,565 boosters were provided, were given yesterday. Now to put that in context, that is more doses of a booster that has been given in one day than was achieved on first dose in any one day, or second dose on any one day. So the booster program is up and running.

 

It was a topic of further discussion yesterday, as I said in my press conference yesterday afternoon, with premiers and chief ministers, as those state hubs continually come online. The full Commonwealth distribution system is up and running and in place, and has been for some time, through our GPs and pharmacies. Both those GPs and pharmacies are doing an excellent job, and as you know we made some changes to the payment arrangements for both GPs and pharmacists to support that over this summer period, and I want to thank those GPs and pharmacists who are out there giving people their jabs over this summer period.

 

And particular, as we go into next week, because the five to 11s vaccine program, that starts next Monday, and we’re all on track for that. Those vaccines are being rolled out and distributed across the network over the course of this week. That will continue up until the day that those vaccine programs commence next week.

 

Now, I want to stress again, that the decision made by the TGA and ATAGI were essential before commencing that program. As a parent, there’s no way, I mean, my kids are older than that now, they, they’ve already had their vaccinations under the 12 to 15-year-olds, but parents want to know that the vaccines that their children are being given are safe and have had the best regulatory expert panel in the world looking over it to give them that assurance. As a parent, I wanted it, when I had Abbey and Lily go and get their vaccinations, and I would ensure the Treasurer who's, both of his kids are in that, in that age group, that he will want the same, as all parents of children of that age will want. And so that is very important that we had that in place first, and that is in place, and that program will begin next week.

 

And that enables the program that we have to have schools come back, stay back, day one, term one. That is what we agreed yesterday as premiers, chief ministers and I. That is our target. That is our objective. Many states are already well advanced in their plans for achieving that. I know New South Wales, in particular is and Victoria, and I have no doubt the other states are moving quickly and they'll put their plans on the table now and we’ll seek to harmonise those. And I'm looking forward to that report coming forward from Secretary Gaetjens next week, and hopefully we'll be able to conclude it soon after that, because getting kids back to school is very important, and getting their vaccination next week, from next week is very important. So on the back to school list, on the fridge, you know, get the, get the pens and the pencils and the, and the staplers or whatever you need. But on there says, get vaccinated. So off, after you've been off to the other retail outlets, make sure you pop into the pharmacy or the GP and and you get that vaccination for your kids.

 

Now, finally, on the issue of Mr Djokovic, rules are rules and there are no special cases. Rules are rules. It's what I said to you yesterday. That's the policy of the Government and has been our Government's strong border protection policies, and particularly in relation to the pandemic, that has ensured that Australia has one of the lowest death rates from COVID anywhere in the world. We were one of the first countries to move on shutting our borders. We were criticised at the time, but it was the right decision, and we have maintained those important border controls over the entire period of the pandemic. We have tightened them even further on occasion. Again, we were criticised for doing that, but it was the right decision, and we’ll continue to make the right decisions when it comes to securing Australia's borders in relation to this pandemic.

 

Now our Government has strong form when it comes to securing our borders. I don't think anybody doubts that and they know that I, both as Prime Minister, Treasurer and particularly as Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, have a very strong view on this. And I want to thank the Australian Border Force officers for doing their job, implementing the Government's policy. And the ABF has done their job - entry with a visa requires double vaccination or a medical exemption. I'm advised that such an exemption was not in place and, as a result, he is subject to the same rule as anyone else.

 

I also want to stress that ultimately this is the responsibility of the traveller. It is for the traveller to be able to assert and back up their ability to come into the country consistent with our laws. So they’ll take advice from many places. No advice was provided by the Commonwealth Government, I underscore, but they will take advice, but it's up to them at the end of the day. And if they don't comply with the rules, then the Australian Border Force will do their job, and they have done their job. This is nothing about any one individual. It is simply a matter of following the rules and and so those processes will take their course over the next few hours and that event will play out as it should. Happy to take questions.

 

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, can you just explain to us, first of all, the logistics of this at a federal level. Novak Djokovic was able to get on a plane, which means that he had had a visa. So and he had to have this exemption, as I understand it, registered with Services Australia. Can you just explain to us how it was that he was able to actually travel here? And does that mean that these these bits of paperwork aren't actually processed before somebody boards a plane?

 

PRIME MINISTER: No. The way it works is this - people try to run the border all the time, by the way. You know, people come with a visa but may not satisfy other requirements for entry, and people are put on planes and turned back all the time. Anybody who's watched the Border Patrol shows will understand that. This is not an irregular thing to happen, if someone is put on a plane and told to return to their country, even if they may have come with a valid visa. A visa is one issue, but you have to have a double vaccination because that's the country’s’ rule for entry into the country, and that is assessed at the border. And we don't have Border Force officers in every airport around the [world]. And he provided information to the airline to allow his entry onto the plane. But people get on that plane. That is not an assurance that they will be able to come through Australia's border at the other side. It wasn't a problem necessarily with the visa. There are many visas granted, and if you have a visa and you’re double vaccinated, well, you're very, very welcome to come. And I think this what this says to everybody in Australia, people are welcome in Australia. But if you're not double vaccinated and you're not an Australian resident or citizen, well, you can't come. And many countries have those rules around the world and we have them, and they've been very important for securing Australia during the course of this pandemic. And so it is on them to have the proof to show why they wouldn't have to be vaccinated. Now he was unable to furnish that proof to the Border Force officers at the airport last night and they’re the rules. And it happens many, on many occasions, and that's what's now happened.

 

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] so the different movements, the argy bargy at the airport, which seemed to be about sort of a group visas that have been processed somehow. And this suggestion from the Federal officers to the Victorian bureaucrats that it could be a get around if Victoria was prepared to sponsor an individual visa application from the tennis player.

 

PRIME MINISTER: No, no, I mean, the Border Force has already rejected that scuttlebutt, as I understand it. There was no enquiries being made about support for a visa application, I'm advised. There was enquiries being made about whether quarantine was going to be waived. And to my knowledge that's- I still don't know whether Victorian Government were proposing to waive quarantine. I'm not making any comment on that. And that wasn't the basis of any decisions taken. And in relation to any advice he may have received from Tennis Australia, well, I'm releasing the letter. I mean, the letter makes very clear, that was written back to Tennis Australia in November, I want to be, I'll read it out to you. ‘People must be fully vaccinated, as defined by the ATAGI, to gain quarantine free entry into Australia. This means that people who do not meet the ATAGI definition of fully vaccinated will not be approved for quarantine free entry, regardless of whether they have received foreign vaccine exemptions. In relation to the specific questions that were raised by Tennis Australia’ - this is from the Minister for Health - ‘I can confirm that people who’ve contracted COVID-19 within the past six months and seek to enter Australia from overseas and have not received two doses of a TGA approved or TGA recognised vaccine are not considered fully vaccinated.’ Now that was the clear advice given by the Minister for Health to Tennis Australia, and that letter is dated at the end of November of last year. So this is what- I make the point to travellers - whatever people might tell you, what matters is what you are responsible for when you arrive at the border.

 

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, can you advise whether you’ve received any contact from the Serbian President on this matter? Is Mr Djokovic in immigration detention? And just, if I may, on the question of RAT supply, you said yesterday that that was a matter for the states to have secured that supply and the Federal Government had fulfilled its responsibilities in securing those supplies. So can you explain to us, if the Federal Government knew that it needed to secure RAT supplies, why didn't the state governments know that it needed to secure RAT supplies, given we’re supposed to have a national framework for for our approach to the pandemic, excuse me?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, they did know. It was discussed at National Cabinet in November, which I've told you from this platform before. I mean, it's the same rules that apply for PCR tests. States secure the supplies for PCR tests, and for RAT tests that they would be - rapid antigen tests - that they'd be supplying for their own purposes in whatever state has always been a matter for the states. So there was no confusion. It was discussed in November. I'm not making any criticism of states. I mean, that's, I'm just saying you asked me whether the Commonwealth had done what it needed to do and I said yes, yes, we had. And now we're going further than that in providing those 10 million further doses directly to the states to assist them over this period. And you know, we will, as I said yesterday, face some shortages for a few more weeks yet, but both in the private supply as well as the Government supply, contracted both by the Federal Government, which is now another 70 million in total. And with the state orders, that's up over 200 million over this month and next, or thereabouts. So those supplies will come. And this has been a challenge. But yesterday we got round the table and we sorted it out, for what we could sort out yesterday. And there's more to sort out on a few more rules and we're working on those. And one of the big ones, I would say, is ensuring we get this clarity around the return to school and the arrangements that will work around schools. And I thank all the premiers and chief ministers for their commitment to see kids go back and stay back on day one, term one.

 

On the other issue, yes, no I'm aware of representations that have been made by the Embassy here in Canberra, and I understand those. But what my simple point is is that all countries have their border rules. These rules are not imposed against any one country or any one individual. They are rules that apply to all those who enter. Other countries have those same rules. So there is no suggestion of any particular position in relation to Serbia. In fact, Serbia's been a very good friend of Australia and provided very strong support, particularly on on security issues globally, and we greatly appreciate that. So this is a very specific case that deals with one individual, Australia's sovereign border laws, and their fair application.

 

JOURNALIST: Without confirming positive rapid tests, how will Australia keep track of case numbers, or are they effectively redundant now? Also, would you consider rapid tests with a QR code so those results can be lodged?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah the states are now working on a process for reporting where they move to rapid antigen tests which are being done at home. But as I said yesterday, the most important call to make is to your doctor. You know, case numbers are less the issue. It's connecting to care that is the issue, and the Commonwealth provides the telehealth support for people to be able to do that and to get advice on how they can manage their infection at home. And should matters escalate, then obviously to seek further assistance. So what matters first is that people who have COVID, the care that they get connected to. Case numbers as, whether it was Professor Kelly yesterday or other premiers and chief health officers have noted, case numbers will be underestimated in Australia because we know that people are self-managing, in many instances. They haven't gone for a PCR test, they've been aware they've got COVID, and they've just stayed home and they've isolated. We do want to ensure that we can get as much information as we can because that supports the states and territories to plan for their hospitals, and that's what they're working on now to ensure that they can have effective reporting mechanisms that can, as we move more from PCR tests to RAT tests, to enable that to be informing their decisions and is of course assisting us with ours.

 

JOURNALIST: How long do you anticipate that work from the states will take? And is it the position, just to clarify National Cabinet's position from yesterday, while states are still working on how to record confirmed rapid test results, will PCR tests still be used in the meantime? Until that work is done? The ACT Health Minister indicated this morning that would be the position in Canberra.

 

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah. What will occur is particularly over the next couple of weeks, I would expect that those testing lines, they'll be predominantly still be doing PCR tests and that will ensure that those test results are going back into the system, as you would expect. And given the supply issues over the next two weeks, that's what I would expect to occur in the majority of cases. But that gives the states a couple of weeks to get this other system in place, and that's what I anticipate that would occur. That doesn't have to be the same in every state and territory. They have their own systems for doing that. I don't see the need to impose that on them. They can work that out. They have very capable people who I think can connect all of those. And so whether they want to do it through QR codes or other systems, they're all the things being considered.

 

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] to secure the medical exemption. And then secondly, the Serbian President has said Mr Djokovic has been harassed through the the treatment of this situation. How damaging is this for Australia's reputation internationally?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I don't believe it is at all. Australia has sovereign borders and clear rules that are non-discriminatory. And as so many other countries do. It has nothing to do with those issues. It just has to do with the fair and reasonable application of Australia's border protection laws. It is not appropriate for me to go into Mr Djokovic's own medical history. That would not be a fair thing for us to do. They are matters for him to discuss in terms of his own medical history. But what I, all I can say is that the evidence for medical exemption that was provided was found to be insufficient.

 

JOURNALIST: I was just wondering, can you confirm how many, if any, people have had ABF exemptions based on the grounds that they have had COVID in the past six months before arrival? And what is the appeals process for Mr Djokovic now, given he doesn't agree with the process?

 

PRIME MINISTER: He was first provided with an intent to to cancel the visa, and that decision has now been made and that process will now follow. And what actions now Mr Djokovic takes is a matter for him. But the government's actions are very clear, and that is for him to return to a country where he's able to return to at the earliest possible opportunity. On the other matter, I'll refer those to the Department of Home Affairs. But the rule is very clear, and if that rule and that's the rule that has to be applied, and I expect that to be applied.

 

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] the opportunity to quarantine for 14 days?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that wouldn't make any difference.

 

JOURNALIST: Other people can come into the country unvaccinated, if they quarantine for 14 days?

 

PRIME MINISTER: You need to have a medical exemption. I mean, that's the rule. And he didn't have a valid medical exemption. That that was the issue that was being discussed with Victoria about quarantine. As I say, I'm not aware of the Victorian Government's position on whether they were provided, prepared to allow him to go, not not have to quarantine or not. I don't know. Tennis Australia, as I understand, had said that he could play, and that's fine. That's that's their call. But we make the call at the border and that's where it's enforced. I want to stress this. It's enforced at the border. The rules are made known to all travellers, and they get on a plane based on their own view that they will be able to meet those requirements. And if they can't, well, they can't come in. That's just how the rules work.

 

JOURNALIST: Going forward Prime Minister, how long do you anticipate these rules around vaccine requirements to enter Australia will be with us as we learn to live with Omicron and various other variants that come. Will they be permanent? Will they be reviewed going forward?

 

PRIME MINISTER: For the foreseeable future, we'll continue to monitor them as we do all of our settings. We don't have any set and forget settings when it comes to the pandemic. And if we need to tighten them as we have in the past, we have and where it is the practical thing to do is we have been doing most recently with Omicron, because Omicron presents a different challenge to what Delta did. Then you need to have different settings in place. You need to be adaptive and flexible when you're dealing with Omicron. This is how Australia has been able to outperform most of the countries in the world, both economically, from a health perspective, and to ensure that where possible, we could keep things as open as we possibly can. It's great that the students that are coming back, we know since we made that decision some some time ago, students are coming back. They'll be there for their courses next year. They're currently working. Many of them have come to Australia, which is exactly what we need to help our workforce requirements, so we'll continue to be adaptive and flexible.

 

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, just given the rise in case numbers, are you concerned that essential services are going to be impacted by large numbers of people falling ill with COVID? What sectors do you think are most at risk? What sectors are going to be most at risk due to the disruption due to the ongoing case numbers? And what is the government doing to ensure we have enough truck drivers, teachers, police and other key workers over the coming months?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that was a key discussion yesterday, and as I said, we had Joe Buffone, who's the who chairs the National Coordinating Mechanism, which brings all states and territories together as required and engages with all these industry sectors as well. That has been very important to us, right throughout the pandemic. Paul Grigson previously was chairing that from the Department of Home Affairs, and that has helped us work through with the industry all of those exact questions and so, you know, many sectors of the economy obviously will be affected by workforce shortages because of people being furloughed because they have COVID, not even because they are a close contact, but because they have COVID. And with a high number of case numbers, well, that's going to have an obvious impact on workforce. What our job is to do, together with the states and territories, is ensure that in those critical sectors and you've mentioned quite a few of them right at the moment, we're very focused on distribution. Obviously, the health workforce, the aged care workforce, the disability workforce, but we're also very focused on distribution centres for food distribution, food production and transport. And so that's one of the reasons why yesterday we agreed to remove that seven day rolling testing requirement for truck drivers. We need truckies keeping on trucking. That's what we need them to do to keep moving things around them. Right now, they're delivering vaccines, children's vaccines out there to GPs and pharmacists. And you know that that system is, of course, under strain because of the high number of case numbers. But that is that is the nature of Omicron. You've just got to keep pushing through

 

JOURNALIST: With the move to rapid testing and the fact there's no way to record those results.

 

PRIME MINISTER: No, there is.

 

JOURNALIST: Well, not if you're doing it at home and not calling your doctor.

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that's a way.

 

JOURNALIST: If you're not doing that, you're just self-managing at home.

 

PRIME MINISTER: People are doing that now,

 

JOURNALIST: But epidemiologists seem to think that most people are not doing that. And so the case numbers may be fivefold underreported. So we may be in New South Wales 200,000 cases a day already. Do you agree with that? And secondly, with so many people identified as close contacts and having to isolate many of them casuals unable to get sick leave, pay, that sort of thing, do you think that needs to be some sort of financial assistance for them to get through?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, there is. There's the pandemic leave payment. It's been in place for almost two years, so that already exists. I encourage people to become familiar with the supports that are in place so that support is already there for those who are in that situation where they're forced because of a state government requirement, to isolate, to access the pandemic leave payment and large numbers of Australians have done that, and it's been an important tool that we've had. It's funded together with the states and territories, and that's been around, so I encourage you to come up to date with those issues.

 

But the other point was yes. I mean, our health professionals understand, like in every single country, you're not going to capture every case. You don't capture every case now with PCRs. And that's why we're moving to ensure that we can get that transfer from PCR tests to rapid antigen tests because of the sheer volume we're dealing with and the states to put in place the best way they tend to record as many of those cases as they can. That gives you the trends. That gives you an indication of what the potential impacts are on your hospital system, but I don't agree with the assertion that says that that can't be done. Of course, it can be done. It's being done in other countries, and that's what the states are working to put in place now. But what I stress is what's more important than knowing how many in cases are, which frankly, is getting less and less important. What matters is how many people are in hospital, ICU and on ventilators. And that's the real measure of what the impact is. The real issue is that people are connected to care. That's what I'm concerned about. I want to make sure if someone has COVID that they are connected to the care and supports that are available, including the pandemic leave payments so they can access those.

 

JOURNALIST: You've said it's not about the treatment of any one individual. There is a cohort of participants with Australian Open who also have medical exemptions. Are they being given the same level of scrutiny that Novak Djokovic was? Given that the Home Affairs Minister had put out a press release saying that he would be scrutinised upon arrival? We haven't seen that kind of level of attention given to other participants in the same category. That would suggest Novak Djokovic has been singled out for special treatment.

 

PRIME MINISTER: No, I don't agree. See one of the things that the Border Force does, and I know this because I was the Minister who established the Border Force, is they act on intelligence to direct their attention to potential arrivals. Now, when you get people making public statements about what they say they have and what they're going to do and what their claims are, well, they draw significant attention to themselves and anyone who does that, whether they're a celebrity, a politician, a tennis player, a journalist, whoever does that well, they can expect to be asked questions more than others, before you come. So that's how Border Force works. So they're not singled out at all.

 

JOURNALIST: On the Japanese treaty, was it expedited because of concerns over Chinese and North Korean aggression? And can you just walk through some of the practicalities of how our Defence Force will interact with the the Japanese Self-Defence Force? And then just building from the Novak Djokovic thing sorry, yesterday morning you said that it was the Victorian Government's responsibility before yourself and the Home Affairs Minister came out swinging. Has this one person been overly politicised?

 

PRIME MINISTER: No. I mean, yesterday the suggestion I'm not saying by you, but what was being presented sort of in the public domain was that some sort of medical exemption had been officially provided by the Victorian Government. Now that that is a different matter entirely to what the facts turned out to be over the course of the day. And so as that became clearer, over the course of the day, I was able to make the statements I was yesterday afternoon and then the actions that have been taken consistent with our border protection policies have been taken. So, you know, events develop over time. So I mean, as prime minister or even as a minister, you don't have visibility on people's individual cases. I mean, that's not appropriate. What happens is, you know, those matters and you know, the nature of the proof he may have been going to provide, even when I stood here yesterday afternoon was unknown to us. It would only be known to him. It is the individual's responsibility. So the events have unfolded as they have, and we've responded appropriately.

 

Now on the other issue on the agreement with Japan. Well, as I said, this is an agreement I've been working on for more than three years and my predecessors had begun those discussions as well. Going back to Prime Minister Abbott. And so it has been a long journey. So of course, as Prime Minister, I have sought to expedite it from that first visit by Prime Minister Abe, and I'm very pleased that we've been able to get to this conclusion today. But what it practically means is that Australia's Defence Forces and Japanese forces can act and operate together seamlessly. We can be in each other's countries, we can be training in each other's countries, we can be on each other's platforms. We will be can be completely interoperable between what we can do and how we deploy together. And I don't just mean in hostile circumstances. I mean, also in the Indo-Pacific, you know, for humanitarian purposes where Japan is very active, as is Australia. Obviously, Australia is more active in the Pacific region. You know, Japan has wonderful and great relationships in the Pacific, and we work closely with Japan in the Pacific, not just with defence and security issues, but also when it comes to development aid as well. And so they're a great partner in that capacity. So it basically enables us to work like this. And as we do with the, you know, many other countries, particularly the United States and the United Kingdom. But what I would stress is this agreement is very, very unique in that Japan has no other reciprocal arrangement with any other country. What that says about the trust between our two countries. And, you know, I remember standing with Prime Minister Abe up at the memorial in Darwin. Was probably one of the most significant moments I can recall in having this very honoured responsibility as Prime Minister to stand with the Japanese Prime Minister as he honoured our fallen in Australia from the Second World War. I can't put into words what it's about, and here we are two countries, a few generations later, concluding an agreement such as this. It's truly, it's truly breathtaking. Remarkable.

 

JOURNALIST: The speed and spread of Omicron has really taken the whole world by surprise. But I suppose I would ask whether it has got you to go back and say, well, you know, have we got enough scenarios here? Have we sort of thought about all the possible contingencies that may come up because it's likely we're going to get more variants and that we can be in a better position next time to respond faster to to something like this? Things like RATs tests or whatever it might be.

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, this is what our health teams do every day, every single day. And this is what our National Security Committee of Cabinet focused on COVID does constantly to look at various scenarios. It's what the national cabinet does, it’s what their teams do constantly, and that is why Australia is in the position we're in where we do have one of the lowest death rates in the world. We do have one of the strongest advanced economies to come through COVID and we have one of the highest vaccination rates in the world and it's because we've been doing those things. The proof of that is in what are quite world leading outcomes. I mean, you want to judge a process, judge it by its outcomes and its outcomes is one of the lowest death rates, one of the strongest economies and one of the highest vaccination rates.

 

JOURNALIST: It's also a nationwide shortage of RAT supplies. And if we did have the modelling and the and these and the Health Department doing its job and preparing for worst case scenarios, why weren't we ready? We are unprepared, are we not?

 

PRIME MINISTER: The whole country and the whole world has been in a similar situation. And as I said yesterday, there are plenty of armchair critics and people who say what could have been, but those who actually are doing it every day and the health officials who have responsibility for it every day, those who are regulating vaccines, which have very profound implications for people's health, and I don't I don't accept the suggestion that they haven't been doing the job. I think they've been doing their job extremely well and under extraordinary pressure in a very uncertain environment. There's no guidebook to COVID. We all know that. And so I what I think is important is the country just focuses on the task ahead. Keep looking through that windscreen. That's where I'm looking. We're looking forward.

 

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, many thousands of parents cannot get a vaccination appointment for their under 11s before school starts. If you had a child under 11, would you feel comfortable sending them to school without a vaccine?


PRIME MINISTER: There are enough vaccines in the country to vaccinate every single child 5 to 11 between now and school going back. So there's plenty of vaccines. You heard that from General Frewen yesterday and it starts on Monday, and those vaccines are being distributed as as we speak. Ok, thanks very much everyone.



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