2SM MARCUS PAUL IN THE MORNING
TUESDAY, 13 JULY 2021
SUBJECTS: Scott Morrison’s vaccine failures
MARCUS PAUL, HOST: Andrew Leigh MP joins me on the program each Tuesday. Morning, Andrew.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: G'day, Marcus. How are you?
PAUL: Good. Bill Shorten, obviously, summed it up succinctly yesterday. I know that you're a man who doesn't refer to language like that, but you probably agree with his sentiments.
LEIGH: Absolutely, Marcus, as would anyone who's looked at the data. We're coming last in the OECD for our vaccine rollout. Less than a 10th Australians are fully vaccinated. These lockdowns are a direct result of the Government failing to secure enough vaccine deals last year. We now know that the head of Israel was speaking to the head of Pfizer regularly to secure plenty of vaccines for Israel. Scott Morrison is yet to have a single conversation with the head of Pfizer.
PAUL: Kevin Rudd has, apparently!
LEIGH: He's stepped up as a private citizen after being called on by Australian business leaders. That's how desperate Australian business leaders are to get some result out of this. They've gone to a former prime minister because the current Prime Minister isn't doing his job. We've got the Deputy Prime Minister bagging the vaccine ads, and we've got a vaccine rollout which is leading to lockdown. If we didn't have the slow vaccine rollout it wouldn't be necessary to be shutting down New South Wales. Just to give you a sense as to how pound foolish they are in being penny wise as they thought they were last year, the revelations so far are that for US$780 million they could have secured enough Pfizer vaccines to vaccinate every Australian adult last year. That's about a billion Australian dollars. This Sydney lockdown is costing a billion dollars a week. Who thought this was a good financial deal last year? These guys clearly thought they were in a buyer’s market, whereas in fact it was a complete seller's market. Pfizer had the upper hand. We should have paid the billion dollars to Pfizer in the middle of last year and got everyone vaccinated.
PAUL: Well, Kevin Rudd did say he would definitely not seek to associate himself with the Australian Government's comprehensively botched vaccine procurement program. I don't want to get into all of this, but I know who I believe. Look, I know that Greg Hunt and others, including Peter Dutton, were out attacking our former prime minister yesterday. They'd be better off served trying to ensure that this lockdown ends sooner than later in Sydney. Perhaps it will, given that finally we're going to get some help in New South Wales from the Federal Government in the form of a co-funded New South Wales and federal economic response. A stimulus, not a stimulus package, more a rescue package than anything. We're waiting on the detail, very eagerly waiting on the detail. One thing, credit where it's due, where I do agree with what the state Treasurer of New South Wales, Dom Perrottet, has said, that it needs to go to the workers and not to businesses. In other words, businesses: if you take this money you cannot sack anybody.
LEIGH: That's a key point here, because we know from JobKeeper now we've had $15-20 billion wasted to firms with rising earnings. We've had JobKeeper going to men’s-only clubs, hedge funds, to investment banks, to the private schools like The Kings School who've used it for equipment upgrades rather than to hold on to staff. A new scheme needs to be much better designed. The money needs to be out there quickly, Marcus. People are hurting. We know the mental health implications of these lockdowns, but we also know the impact they have on jobs. Like relationships, once job relationships are broken it's much harder to rebuild them. It takes much longer to get back to where you were in unemployment. I don't want Sydney to suffer through that. It's bad enough the Government has botched the vaccine rollout. The last thing we need them to do is to botch the economic support which is critical for Sydneysiders as this lockdown extends.
PAUL: You've got a post talking about jabbing incentives, climate fail and nixing nukes in your July Leigh Report. What do you mean by jab incentives? in other words, a beer for a jab? What is it - lottery prizes?
LEIGH: I'm up for anything, Marcus, but I think you got a critical point here, which is that at the moment we're just relying on people doing the right thing. When you look around the rest of the world, Ohio is running lotteries, other places are having restaurant and cafe incentives, and countries are saying that if you've been vaccinated then there's a different treatment for you as lockdowns happen or if you're entering and leaving the country. I think that's just got to be inevitable, that we start thinking about how we make it clear to people that once you get vaccinated there is a better world out there. That involves mask mandates, all the rest of it. It's got to be done in concert with public health authorities. But we need all hands to the pump to boost vaccination. We should have gotten more vaccines ordered last year. We didn't do that. Now we need to get the ones we've got into arms as fast as possible, and that involves thinking hard about incentives.
PAUL: Alright, because you say there is little recognition of the value of vaccine incentives in other countries. Take up as being boosted by lottery prizes, exemption from mask requirements, and less stringent quarantine requirements for vaccinated people. In Australia, we're solely relying on individual initiative. That might be fine if people were keen to get vaccinated, but surveys across 12 countries found the highest level of vaccine hesitancy in Australia.
LEIGH: It's a real worry, Marcus. The vaccine hesitancy came directly from the top, from the Scott Morrison rhetoric that we're not in a race. It was in the idea that because Australia didn't have much COVID flowing through at the beginning of this year we didn't need to do very much on vaccination. Now, it's very clear that the virus is mutating. Delta is a serious threat to public health. We need to make sure that we get those vaccine rates up to high levels. Now, whether that's 60%, 70% or 80%, it's very clear that we can't go on like this. We need to get to a stage where we're managing COVID just in the way in which we manage seasonal flu, measles, mumps, influenza. About half the population gets the seasonal flu vaccine, but if you're looking at childhood vaccines, you're talking about upwards of 90%.
PAUL: Yeah, of course.
LEIGH: That's the ideal place to be. Of course, we need to be thinking about booster shots. One of the extraordinary things is now, already, other countries are engaging with Pfizer about ordering the booster shots, the drug they've been working on, in order to have it delivered in 2022, but Australia isn't doing that. Having fallen behind in our negotiations with Pfizer last year, we can't make the same mistake with the booster shots.
PAUL: Alright, Andrew, thank you for coming on, mate. Take care. We'll chat next week.
LEIGH: You too, Marcus. Thank you.
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra