Thursday, 13 May 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Aged Care, Senator Colbeck. Who was right? Was it Minister Hunt, when he promised that all Australians would be vaccinated by October; Minister Tehan when he said that the goal is for all Australians to have a dose by the end of the year; Treasurer Frydenberg, who promised that every Australian will get two shots of the vaccine by the end of the year; Senator Birmingham, who says people will still be getting vaccinated next year; or this minister, who says that fully vaccinating Australians this year has never been part of our plans? Minister, with those five different positions put by five different ministers, who is right?
As I said on radio this morning and as I said in answer to the two questions that I've been asked today, the objective of the government is that all Australians who want to have a vaccine should have the opportunity to have a vaccine this year. That's the objective of the government. As we have more vaccine available, we will increase the availability to more people in Australia to get the vaccine. We started with phase 1a in February and then phase 1b in March, and we've continued to expand the rollout as we've had more vaccine available. The availability of vaccine has always been the constraint in the context of the rollout and, of course, the rollout has also been guided by the medical advice. The medical advice with respect to the AstraZeneca vaccine, where there's a requirement for a 12-week gap between the two doses, has had an impact on the process and the timing of the vaccine rollout.
If Labor were honest and hadn't spent all of their time trying to undermine the confidence in the vaccine rollout, they would acknowledge that. They would acknowledge that the availability of vaccine, the medical requirements and the advice of the health professionals, all of which have guided the vaccine rollout, have had an impact on the vaccine rollout all of the way through. As we've had more vaccine available, we've made it available to Australians, and we have taken the advice of the medical and health experts in the application of the vaccine all of the way through. That has required some resets in the context of the vaccination rollout, and we've been quite open and honest with the Australian people about that as those circumstances have arisen. But the Labor Party have not been honest. (Time expired)
I'll give the minister the opportunity to be honest with the Australian people. Will the minister now tell the Senate and the Australian people when every Australian adult who wants a vaccine will be fully vaccinated?
As I've said a number of times today, for every Australian who wants access to a vaccine, our intention is to make that available to them by the end of this year. The timing of their full vaccination will be dependent on when they take that up. Senator Birmingham said recently that some Australians may still be getting vaccinated next year because that may be their choice. If they have the first dose of a vaccine that's made available to them late in December, they won't get the second dose of AstraZeneca, if that's the choice of the vaccine they take up, until 12 weeks later. Those are the simple facts. Our intention, as I've said a number of times today, is to provide every Australian who wants access to a vaccine to have available to them that vaccine by the end of this year. I could not have been clearer. If the Labor Party don't want to listen to the answer, I can't help that. I have been very consistent with all of my answers today. (Time expired)
On page 15 of Budget Paper No. 1 for last year's budget, the government said a faster-than-expected COVID vaccine rollout would boost the economy by $34 billion. Where is the estimate of the cost of the botched rollout in this year's budget and what is it?
Clearly, that was a budget assumption in last year's budget papers and, as I've explained to the chamber, the circumstances of the vaccine rollout have changed with the advice that's been given to us, the medical advice that's been given to the government with respect to the utilisation of the vaccine and the availability of vaccine. We have continued to roll out the vaccine and make it available to Australians in the context of supply, and we will continue to do that. We will continue to roll out safely the vaccine to Australians, making available to them the opportunity to have a dose of the vaccine by the end of this year. We will continue to do that. The availability of the vaccination process will be contingent on supply and, as supply grows, we will make the vaccine available to more Australians.