ABC VICTORIA STATEWIDE DRIVE
MONDAY, 12 APRIL 2021
MATT TRIBE, HOST: Joining me is Federal Labor member for Ballarat and former shadow health minister, Catherine King. Catherine, Good afternoon.
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Good afternoon, Matt.
TRIBE: Your colleagues aren’t holding back in their criticism of the government’s rollout of vaccines. Do you share the same sentiments?
KING: I think there’s a growing sense of frustration and anger as the government is just getting so wrong and they’re not really having a clear pathway out of it. What we want to hear and what Australian people want to hear is, when are we going to get vaccines? That is so dependent on us getting back to some sort of COVID normal, being able to travel domestically but also beginning to open up the country again to international travel as well as getting more people home. All of those things are contingent on it. I think that’s the growing frustration, that we’ve been wanting it for a year now but the government has really not built in any contingency with its overreliance on the two vaccines in particular and not really looking and doing other deals more broadly, and we’re now seeing the results of that and I think the fact that the government now is saying, well, we’re not going to have targets, really does say that at the moment they just don’t know how long it’s going to take to vaccinate Australians and that’s really disappointing.
TRIBE: Well voicing frustration is easy but what would your approach be? You are a former shadow health minister, so how would you be managing this?
KING: Well the first thing, as I said, the difficulty is a year ago, we were calling very strongly for the government to do more deals, to not just put its eggs in the AstraZeneca and Pfizer baskets in particular, but to do what other countries have done. We were ridiculed with that. I think I saw Greg Hunt get up in the Parliament and he absolutely went to town on us for daring to even suggest that and that we would be embarrassed for suggesting that. So I guess we’ve been trying to be constructive all the way along and said, you know, we think you’ve got a problem, please listen to us and they haven’t. I guess what we’re now saying is, well, instead of putting the Liberal Party logos on the vaccine ads, instead of lots of puffery which we have seen, lots of photos with the PM with his mask on with vaccine vials and all of that stuff. Instead of that, actually knuckle down and start to do the work to get this right. Do more deals with more suppliers of vaccines, but also be up front with the Australian people. We saw real leadership is getting up every single day, even when you are delivering bad news, news that doesn’t make the government look great, but people want to know that you’ve got this and it just doesn’t feel like the Prime Minister has got this. The fact that he’s now on Facebook, not taking journalists’ questions, he’s out there on Facebook talking about the vaccine rollout just seems crazy to me. That’s not leadership.
TRIBE: Catherine King. I understand there is a personal connection here that I was alluding to. You and your father faced the real consequences of the delayed rollout and insufficient access to Pfizer on the weekend, what happened?
KING: Well, the problem we had on the weekend is I think emblematic. It came off the back, I had five calls in my electorate office from people who had been to see their GPs, who had complex health condition, and their GPs have said to them, you know, there’s a risk here, we think you’re probably better off having the Pfizer. Then people were asking, well how do we access the Pfizer vaccine, we’re over 50. Basically the doctors said well, ring your local MP because we can’t tell you. And the reality is, the Government has made no contingency for people over the age of 50 who might for medical reasons not be able to access AstraZeneca. Unfortunately on the weekend, I went with my dad to go and have his COVID vaccine. I’d organised to go and stay overnight with him in case he got crook or anything like that, and we were faced with the circumstances where a GP, because of dad’s complex health condition, felt there was a bit of a risk. She was a bit reluctant about it. We’re going to have to go and seek some advice, but basically said, I asked, well how do we access Pfizer and she said, I don’t know. And so, for us as a family, it was sort of, you know, taking a very frail, elderly person back home saying look I can’t give you any answers Dad about when you’re going to have your vaccine and what vaccine you’re going to have. And we’ll work through that. But, you know, there were people in and out of that GP practice, reception was doing an amazing job, GPs doing an amazing job, but just a real lack of clarity around how to access other vaccines if that’s the case or how to access other advice. I don’t raise the story because I want to be alarmist about it but that was the reality for our family and I suspect the reality for many families across the country on that particular day as they were trying to access vaccinations. What to me, that means is that the government’s got to actually talk to people and say, this is what’s happening. If GPs do need an alternate pathway to give some choice in terms of vaccine, and that’s a problem because there isn’t any, it needs to work out how it’s actually going to go about doing.
TRIBE: We see the Victorian Government is pausing its rollout of the AstraZeneca medicines for people under 50 for at least another two weeks, that’s amid the concerns about the potential rare blood clotting. The link between that and the AstraZeneca vaccine. Asking the federal government to only send shipments of the AstraZeneca vaccine to GPs so that more older people can get the jab. Do you think this is the right call?
KING: Well, I think that’s a good thing. I think that GP practices are saying that they’ve only got, in some instances, 50 vaccines for an entire week. Some of them have got three or four thousand patients that are eligible in that 1B category enrolled as part of their practices, so I think 50 a week, it means it’s going to take them a long time to get through their patients. So if there’s more AstraZeneca available for people who are eligible for it through GP practices, then I think that’s a sensible thing for the Victorian Government to have done. But again this is around, at the rate we’re going at the moment, it’s going to be a very, very long time before we have vaccinated our vulnerable patients, let alone vaccinated the rest of the population and I just don’t think that’s good enough.
TRIBE: Catherine King, that you for your time.
KING: Really good to talk to you Matt.
CATHERINE KING – TRANSCRIPT – RADIO INTERVIEW – ABC VICTORIA STATEWIDE DRIVE – MONDAY, 12 APRIL 2021