Thursday, 13 May 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Health, Senator Colbeck. On Tuesday the Treasurer said:
The assumption is that every Australian who wants to get two shots of the vaccine will be able to by the end of the year.
Does this remain the Morrison government's position?
Thank you, Senator Kitching, for the question. As I said this morning on the ABC, our objective is to offer every Australian the opportunity to have a vaccine before the end of this year. The assumptions in the budget papers are very different to government policy in that the objective is to offer all Australians access to a vaccine by the end of this year. We have, as I said yesterday during question time, continued to grow and develop the vaccine rollout based on the availability of vaccines. As more vaccine supply has become available, we have expanded the vaccine rollout. We have commenced with stage 1A as we scheduled and then we commenced the process of vaccinating those in 1B as we scheduled. We've brought on GP practices and vaccination clinics around the country to expand the vaccination rollout this week. We're expanding the availability of vaccines.
Mr President, direct relevance. Senator Kitching put a very clear quote by the Treasurer about the budget assumption. The simple question to this minister is whether or not that remains the government's position. I'd ask him to return to the question.
Senator Wong, you have reminded the minister of the question. I was listening to the minister. If he is talking about the government's policy on this matter, you asked whether this remained government policy—'Does this remain government policy?'
If I may, if you don't mind, I would ask you to rule on the basis of the question. The quote was, 'The Treasurer said, "The assumption is that every Australian who wants to get two shots of the vaccine will be able to by the end of the year." Does this remain the Morrison government's position?'
My apologies for getting the words 'position' and 'policy' juxtaposed; you're quite right there. However, I do not believe that substantively changes my ruling, which is, if the minister is talking about the vaccination policy of the government, you are asking me to frame an answer for him and put words in his mouth and I can't instruct him how to answer a question. It was narrowly constructed. I'm listening carefully. If he's only talking about the government's vaccination policy, I believe that is covered and directly relevant to the question, even if it is to be debated after question time. Senator Colbeck.
Thank you, Mr President. It would be nice if Labor listened to the answers that government members gave, because I have in my answer already directly addressed the question that was asked by Senator Kitching and I am providing additional information to the parliament with respect to the vaccination rollout. As of close of business on 12 May, 2,894,770 Australians have received a vaccination, with 82,284 in the last 24 hours. The vaccine rollout continues to gather pace as we have available more vaccines, and it has been controlled by vaccine availability, all the way through. (Time expired)
When asked this morning about the Morrison government's commitment for all Australians to have two vaccine doses by end of this year, this minister said, 'That's never been part of our plans.' Who is correct—this minister or Treasurer Frydenberg?
As I said, I stand by what I said this morning. I stand by my words this morning. All Australians would understand that, as the vaccination rollout has progressed, there has been the issue of supply, and, as more supply has become available, we have made more available to Australians. Once we understood the circumstances with respect to AstraZeneca and had the AstraZeneca vaccine available to us—which required a 12-week period between the first and the second dose—that had an impact on the vaccination rollout, and of course the time at which people would have their first and second dose. As we have had additional access to vaccines, we have continued to roll out the vaccine. We've made it available to people through our various— (Time expired)
In December last year Minister Hunt said, 'We expect that Australians will be fully vaccinated by the end of October.' Which of the three different positions is actually the government's position—this minister's, Treasurer Frydenberg's or Minister Hunt's?
As I've said a couple of times already today, our objective is to have offered, by the end of the year, a vaccine to every Australian who wants one. Every Australian who wants a vaccine will have one available by the end of this year. Vaccination is not compulsory.
Opposition senators interjecting—
Vaccination is not compulsory, so our objective is that all Australians who want a vaccination will have one available to them by the end of this year. We will continue to make vaccines available to Australians in that context as we continue the vaccination rollout and as vaccines become available. As more vaccines become available, we will put more into the rollout, and we'll open up more phases of the vaccination process to Australians as we get access to the vaccine.