ANTHONY ALBANESE – TRANSCRIPT – RADIO INTERVIEW – 2GB AFTERNOONS WITH JOE HILDEBRAND – WEDNESDAY, 23 DECEMBER 2020
ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
2GB AFTERNOONS WITH JOE HILDEBRAND
WEDNESDAY, 23 DECEMBER 2020
SUBJECTS: Coronavirus vaccine rollout; Pfizer vaccine; Labor being constructive during the coronavirus pandemic.
JOE HILDEBRAND, HOST: Well, if you have seen the Daily Telegraph’s front page today, and I strongly recommend it, you would have seen Anthony Albanese, the Labor Leader, calling for the Government to speed up the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine. The US has got it. The UK has got it. But we’re told we have to wait until March. Why? Well, to find out, I’ve got the man himself on the line. Albo, Mr Albanese, I have to say, how are you sir?
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: G’day, Joe. I am very well.
HILDEBRAND: Excellent. Now, you’ve taken issue with the Government’s delay, if you like, or refusal, to fast-track the rollout of the vaccine. Why is that?
ALBANESE: Well, it’s not that they’re not fast-tracking it, it is that they’ve got it in the slow lane. The TGA, which is the Therapeutic Goods Association, it’s a professional body that examines any medicine and whether it’s okay, ready to go or not. And we don’t want to put things in our bodies that haven’t been properly tested and all of that.
HILDEBRAND: Of course.
ALBANESE: They say that they are going to approve, potentially, the Pfizer vaccine. And given that it has been rolled out, Joe Biden had it last night, the President-elect of the US, there’s a pretty good chance that they’ll give it the tick in January. So, it gets the tick in January, that means it’s ready to go. But it doesn’t actually get rolled out until March because of the agreement that the Federal Government has done with this major multinational pharmaceutical company. Now, that makes no sense at all. If it’s ready to go, it should be rolled out. And so it just, to me, beggars belief that it will have had all of the approvals but nothing happen for another two months.
HILDEBRAND: And why is there that delay? Obviously, you’ve made inquiries, I imagine, with the Government or the Health Department. Why is there that two-month window?
ALBANESE: Look, it is just a fact of us being at the back of the queue. The Federal Government was very late to sign up to any of the deals with the big pharma companies. The rest of the world started negotiating and doing deals in March. The Federal Government signed the first deal in September. Now, we know as well that world’s best practice is for six deals, at least six. Now, we had four. We have lost one with the University of Queensland and CSL case. And that’s why you hedge your bet. You don’t put all your money on one horse here, you put it on all the horses, because this ain’t just a horse race, this is about our health and our economy. So you want to hedge your bets, which is why other countries have done a much better job than us in having a range of deals ready to go. And the other thing is, the Pfizer deal is only for 10 million shots. Now, we know that Australia has a population of 25 million, thereabouts. We are going to need much more than 10 million as well. So what I say is; do it sooner and do it with more. And that is what the Federal Government needs to do. We’ve been constructive here. We’re not saying it shouldn’t have all of the approvals through the TGA. We respect its independence as a body. But once it says that it is ready to go, for goodness sake, let it be ready to go.
HILDEBRAND: I’ve got to say, a big tick for that. I think this is when democracy works at its best, when oppositions are, in times of crisis, being constructive and saying, ‘All right, this is how you could do things better’. But isn’t the problem that regardless of how quickly the TGA approves the vaccine, that we’re just at the back of the queue, that the Government couldn’t really expedite it because we’re only going to get our lot after Pfizer has distributed the UK its portion, the US, etc, etc?
ALBANESE: Well, they’re not trying. That’s the problem here. When you listen to Greg Hunt, what you hear is almost a, ‘We want to see it rolled out everywhere else to see how it goes, we’re not in the same emergency circumstances here’. And it’s absolutely true that the Australian people have really played a blinder and been really responsible, looked after each other. But there are consequences beyond people getting coronavirus and dying. There’s mental health concerns, people being isolated. There is the economy and job losses.
ALBANESE: There’s a whole lot of consequences here. And we need to, just as we’ve been very good at getting on top of things, and Gladys Berejiklian announced, I think, some pretty strict measures to continue today. I’m not critical of her. I haven’t been critical of any of the state governments when they’ve done measures because I think, caution, I can understand that. But what I don’t understand is complacency. And so, yes to caution, no to complacency. It just seems to me that once the TGA approves the drug in January, the idea that we’re going to wait another two months. They need to really step on the gas, start negotiations, try to do whatever they can to fix this. We are going to have a pretty miserable Christmas in various households around Australia this year, whether it’s people who have lost loved ones who were aged care residents, whether it’s families of the 40,000 Australians who remain stranded overseas, or whether it be people who are just in iso so they can’t actually interact with their families, it’s going to be tough. And we want 2021 to be better. This is a practical suggestion that we’re putting forward that they need to really change the attitude on.
HILDEBRAND: Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese. Can I say how refreshing it is to have a Labor Leader who is committed to focusing on things like the economy and mental health and not just having a one-eyed view of this thing. And also, a Labor Leader who is focusing on how we can do things and not finding excuses for not doing them. Thank you very much for joining us on Afternoons on 2GB and 4BC.
ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Joe.
HILDEBRAND: Cheers, mate.