House debates

Thursday, 3 June 2021

Questions without Notice

COVID-19: Vaccination

2:42 pm

Photo of Ed HusicEd Husic (Chifley, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Industry and Innovation) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Prime Minister. Does the Prime Minister take responsibility for the failure to manufacture mRNA vaccines in Australia?

Photo of Scott MorrisonScott Morrison (Cook, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

In this year's budget and the work that is being done by the minister for industry we are establishing the capability, together with other states and territories, who are working to the same end, to establish an mRNA vaccine manufacturing capability in Australia. It is important not just for the COVID pandemic, which we anticipate will extend for some considerable period of time—not for six months but for some time to come. What has also been demonstrated through the COVID pandemic is the efficacy of mRNA vaccines, which 18 months ago was unthinkable. Now they have proven through the course of the pandemic to be an essential part of the future of vaccines in this country.

The Australian government took the decision to support the manufacture of the AstraZeneca vaccine here in Australia in August of last year. That has been a vital decision that has ensured that vaccinations have been available, particularly over the course of these early months of the vaccine rollout. More than 4.6 million doses have now been administered to Australians around the country, a million doses in the last 10 days. That would not have been possible were it not for the government taking the decision to support the manufacture of AstraZeneca vaccines here in this country. There would not have been a vaccination program in the last several months were it not for that decision taken last August. Similarly, in that context, we have moved forward on the issue of mRNA manufacturing. I'll pass over to the minister for industry to comment further.

2:44 pm

Photo of Christian PorterChristian Porter (Pearce, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the Prime Minister and I thank the member for his question. It was about two weeks ago that the government announced its approach to market for the submission of fully costed proposals to establish an end-to-end onshore population-scale mRNA capability. What we will be requiring from those proponents is the demonstrated access to the relevant IP for manufacturing processes for technology transfer and production at scale, the capacity to make products available to the Australian government as required and in priority over every other purchaser and secure supply of population-scale mRNA vaccines for all reasonably foreseeable health emergencies. It has to have breadth, so the technology is not just for vaccines but also for therapeutics, for cancer treatments and for cardiovascular treatments. All of these things have to be on a sustainable footing for a facility that will have the ability to produce over 10 years, and an undertaking from the proponents to maintain the capability of that productive capacity onshore on an ongoing basis and also demonstrate the ability to have exports under that model. The member's question talked about a failure. There won't be a failure here. Australia will be one of the first in line to manufacture because of this process.