03 September 2021


SUBJECTS: Political Panel with Mark Coulton MP; Vaccination Thresholds; Doherty Modelling; Vaccine rollout.

DANICA DE GIORGIO, HOST: Let's move on now to the rest of the day's news. We're going to bring in our political panel of the afternoon, Labor MP Alicia Payne and Nationals MP Mark Coulton. Thank you for joining me this afternoon. Let's get straight into it. The states certainly appear to be at war right now over National Cabinet's plan to reopen. Alicia, we'll start with you. This week, Annastacia Palaszczuk all but backed away from this national plan, Mark McGowan already has. Where is Australia heading?

ALICIA PAYNE, MEMBER FOR CANBERRA: Thanks Danica. Well, we all want to get out of lockdown as soon as possible. But there are some really important questions that remain that the Prime Minister needs to answer, and hopefully will after today's national cabinet, about whether we will proceed with these plans while tracing and contact tracing and other systems are not working at best practice. They currently aren't in New South Wales. He needs to answer what we're going to do about vaccinating our children. Because the Doherty modelling makes it very clear that if we do proceed when those systems aren't operating at full capacity, that there will be hundreds and hundreds more deaths. And I don't think anybody wants to see that.

DE GIORGIO: Okay, just in regards to children, though, what age cohort are you referring to? Because by all accounts this week, a number of medical professionals have come out and said that at this stage, it is unclear how COVID affects under-twelves and whether or not that cohort needs to be vaccinated.

PAYNE: Well, I don't know if parents are happy with 'unclear' as the decider for how we proceed with this. And as Andrew Barr, the Chief Minister this morning in the ACT has called for, it would be great to see some more research on that, around how the Delta variant actually does impact children, because we don't fully know it yet, except that it is affecting them a lot more than earlier strains.

DE GIORGIO: Mark, where to from here? Should the Federal Government pull Queensland and WA into line as the country looks to reopen at 80%?

MARK COULTON, NATIONALS MEMBER FOR PARKES: Look, we've got to look use every tool of persuasion we can. My electorate's got about 900-kilometre boundary with Queensland and my border communities are in a lot of stress. You know, a lot of my New South Wales constituents get their health services from Queensland, they've got kids in boarding school. The grain harvest is only, sort of, six weeks away and a lot of the grain from my electorate gets delivered into the Darling Downs and Goondiwindi and places like that. And so, apart from the health aspects, these hard borders are really impacting on Australians. And I'm not quite sure that, I think, you know, Queensland is in a bit of a fool's paradise at the moment. My electorate, at the moment, is undergoing, you know, quite a significant onslaught from the Delta variant of COVID. And the idea that, you know, a line on the map is going to protect Queensland, I think, is a very temporary measure. And I think we need to look at this as a nation. We are, you know, we are, we've never ever been divided like this before, not since federation anyway and it's it's really impacting on our people. 

DE GIORGIO: Well, there's certainly a lot to discuss today at National Cabinet. There's been a number of key topics this week. Also, this afternoon, the Prime Minister announced a deal with the UK to import 4 million Pfizer doses, and this month will double its September supplies. Alicia, we're now 18 months in, is it too late?

PAYNE: It is another example of too little too late. These deals should have been done earlier. We should have been vaccinated earlier. But it is pleasing to hear that, it was pleasing to hear that the ACT would get our share of those vaccines this morning. And it's it's good news, but it is too late. We should have been vaccinated earlier, if we were we wouldn't, so many of us wouldn't be in lockdown now and facing the issues that Mark was just talking about.

DE GIORGIO: We are unfortunately running out of time today. But Mark, I do want to ask you about the very serious situation where you are, of course. You're the member there in Parkes. Are vaccines getting into the arms of the most vulnerable there?

COULTON: Yes, look, I've just had a meeting with the Royal Flying Doctor Service. They've done 20,000 people across the most regional, remote areas. In Dubbo, in my electorate, the vaccination rates have gone, have escalated obviously with the, since the outbreak there, so there's more and more opportunities for people to obtain vaccines and some of the early hesitancy that was there is largely been overcome. We've got AUSMAT teams, the military, you know, the Royal Flying Doctor Service, the Local Health District, in some cases going door-to-door to help allay people's fears. And that vaccination rate is climbing and, you know, the people in Western New South Wales are stepping up and that supply is increasing by the day.

DE GIORGIO: And that's really great to hear. Unfortunately we have run out of time, we are a little bit pressed for time today. Alicia Payne and Mark Coulton, we do have to leave it there. Thank you for joining me.

PAYNE: Thanks, Danica. 

COULTON: Thanks, Danica.