KAREN ANDREWS: Well, thank you very much for being here this afternoon.
Let me be clear: Australia’s borders are closed. There have been about 370,000 people come into Australia and hotel quarantine’s efficiency has been at the level of about 99 per cent.
So clearly, hotel quarantine is an effective method of quarantining travellers returning to this country.
Recently, in fact this morning, by Premier Palaszczuk and her Deputy, Steven Miles, there have been a range of assertions about the number of people who are coming through quarantine here in Australia. So let me be clear on that, the data from the Australian Border Force sets out very clearly that, on average, 80 per cent of returning travellers to Australia are either Australian citizens, permanent residents, or immediate family members. So those are statistics that are known by the Australian Border Force because they know exactly who is coming in to this country. So they know what the statistics are.
There has been some misrepresentation of ABS, Australian Bureau of Statistics, data. Now, let’s be clear, some of the permanent residents who are coming back to Australia are also dual citizens and could well be, and in fact some are, known to be travelling on foreign passports. But the data from the Australian Border Force is correct, and the Australian Border Force has now issued a statement dealing with the misrepresentations that have been made about the statistics of incoming passengers earlier today.
Now, quite frankly, what Premier Palaszczuk and her deputy, Steven Miles, are doing is trying to create a distraction from their own quarantine failures. The reason that we are in lockdown here, particularly in South East Queensland but also in parts of Northern Queensland, are because of failures by the Palaszczuk Government.
Firstly, for the mine worker that came in from Bendigo, they were a low risk individual, domestic traveller. They were put into hotel quarantine in a room between two high-risk international travellers. And it would appear that as a result of that, that individual has contracted COVID. There’s also the failure of Premier Palaszczuk and her Deputy Premier, Steven Miles, to make sure that health workers in high risk areas are properly vaccinated, and that has led to a young worker being infected with COVID.
So, clearly, what Annastacia Palaszczuk is doing is making sure that she is doing as much as she possibly can to ensure that she puts up a smokescreen to hide the inefficiency and ineffectiveness of quarantine that is administered and managed by the Queensland Government.
Now, it is actually interesting to note that, some days, Premier Palaszczuk and the Queensland State Labor Government choose to push to have people enter this state, particularly those people who are involved in film and television, who are involved in sports, but when they have their own failure that they can’t manage, they’re very quick to jump up and down, try and blame the Commonwealth Government and then demand that borders be shut down or that caps be reduced. Quite frankly, Queenslanders can see these claims for exactly what they are. They don’t stack up, they are a smokescreen, and quite frankly, the Premier needs to get on with managing the state.
QUESTION: Just on your comments before about the reasoning behind this lockdown and whose fault it may be, should the Federal Government take any responsibility especially when it comes to the vaccine rollout?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, clearly, the Federal Government is doing all that it can to ensure that there is a timely and efficient rollout of the vaccine across Australia and particularly here in Queensland. So there have been over 800,000 doses delivered here to Queensland. About 550,000 doses have been administered. Each week, 55,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine is delivered here in Queensland. At the beginning of July, that will increase to 95,000 doses per week, and by the end of July, that will be 127,000 doses. It is up to the Palaszczuk Government to do all that it can to make sure the people are properly vaccinated, and quite frankly, they need to focus on their health workers.
QUESTION: The Queensland Chief Health Officer came out this morning and slammed the AstraZeneca vaccine for under 40s despite the Prime Minister’s comments the other night. Who should people, not only in Queensland, but Australia listen to?
KAREN ANDREWS: People need to take the advice of their doctor and that is what the Prime Minister was very clear about. We have made the AstraZeneca vaccine available to people between 18 and 59 who choose to take an informed decision to consult with their doctor, speak with their doctor, take advice from their doctor, and potentially proceed to be vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine. That is a conversation that individuals need to have with their own doctor and to take their advice. The Prime Minister was very clear, and I’m also being very clear as well. We are saying you need to speak to your doctor, you need to make an informed decision, and if you consent you wish to take the AstraZeneca vaccination, it is available for you to do so.
QUESTION: Is it acceptable that a person who has flown in and out of Australia to Indonesia multiple times without being vaccinated?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, we are going through a process of looking at a whole range of things, in terms of access to and from Australia. So exemptions for outward bound passengers, and also exemptions for those people coming in. We know that there is an issue with people making multiple trips and that we need to be very careful and very, very clear that we want people to be able to conduct their business within the regime that we have put in place here for them in Australia.
QUESTION: Can you tell us why that person was given exemptions to travel back and forth given that there are still many Australians stranded overseas, and they’re still wanting to come home?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, quite frankly, it’s one of the issues that that we have to deal with now, which is dealing with specific needs of our economy while at the same time making sure that we are able to bring in as many vulnerable people and return as many Australians as we possibly can. And here in Queensland, we have Annastacia Palaszczuk, who’s saying that she wants to go over to the Olympics in Tokyo. And in fact, that was one of the reasons that she gave her need to step up and get the Pfizer vaccine. So she’s actually at the point of saying that she’s- well, she’s arguing against her own travel to Tokyo. It’ll be interesting to see what Palaszczuk now has to say about whether or not she’s going to travel to Tokyo.
QUESTION: Should it be a condition, do you think, of anyone flying from overseas into Australia that they should be vaccinated?
KAREN ANDREWS: I think it’s one of the things that we need to reflect upon, but we are going to be taking the health advice in relation to vaccines. At this point in time, that is not a prerequisite to travel.
QUESTION: What about the weekly caps on international arrivals? Do you think they should be reduced?
KAREN ANDREWS: I don’t think the weekly caps should be reduced. I’ve said for many months now that we need to learn to live and to work in the COVID environment in which we find ourselves. And the first response should not be to close down our borders. Now, there are caps in Queensland. I think it’s about a thousand a week to come in. New South Wales is about 3000 a week to come in. It’s, quite frankly, not a lot. We do need to be able to return Australians, and they will be coming in under those caps. But we do have state premiers who are prepared to bring in people above those caps as it suits them, and that’s what has happened in many cases. The Federal Government’s priority is to do all we can to get Australian citizens into the country and Australian permanent residents and their immediate family.
QUESTION: Minister, the data- the ABS data that Mr Miles refers to does show an uptick in arrivals in May when Australian citizens and New Zealand citizens are excluded. Have there been more exemptions to return granted and why?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, there are a range of issues that are covered by the ABS statistics. I will again go back to the advice from the Australian Border Force in relation to the 80 per cent figure that they have for Australian citizens, Australian residents, and- sorry, permanent residents and for their immediate family to return to Australia. Now, we do have the bubble between Australia and New Zealand. Those people don’t go into hotel quarantine. So that is one of the issues in just looking simply at the ABS statistics.
QUESTION: [indistinct] … today said the designated COVID [indistinct] system is in need of a major review because of strains like the Delta variant. Do you agree with that comment?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, the Delta variant is quite new. It is something that not only we in Australia are dealing with, but also our international nations or other nations are actually dealing with. We clearly have to look at what the implications are. Now, one of the things that came out of National Cabinet on Monday night was that we would look at there being a COVID test post-quarantine. That is simply to take into account the effects of the Delta variant, which are unknown in terms of their full extent at this point in time.
QUESTION: What is your response to the claim that people are coming to Australia just displacing citizens and queue jumping? What’s your response to that statement?
KAREN ANDREWS: I don’t believe that is the case. But what we need to do is understand that there are a range of people that we do need to get into this country. And you would be very much aware of the requests that we get for partners to be coming in, for skilled workers to be coming in, for people who have got specific needs, for compassionate reasons to come here. As a government, we are trying to manage all of that. But our priority is to make sure that there are opportunities for Australian citizens, permanent residents, and their immediate families to return to Australia.
QUESTION: There are reports that Queensland have run out of its Pfizer supply in the next week or so. Is that information you’re hearing? And then what happens next?
KAREN ANDREWS: The advice that I have is that there are currently deliveries of 55,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine into Queensland each week. That will go to 95,000 doses at the beginning of July. And by the end of July, it will be 127,000 doses per week coming into Queensland. So I believe that there are at least adequate supplies coming into Queensland each week. Of course, as vaccination rates increase, we’ll be able to increase that dosage coming through, which is what we’re doing. It will go from 55 to 95, to 127,000.
QUESTION: So you are refuting that their supply is starting to exhaust?
KAREN ANDREWS: In terms of the actual numbers of vaccines that are here in Queensland at this point in time, that question will need to be put to our Federal Health Minister. But what I can say is that over 800,000 vaccine doses have been made available to Queensland; about 550,000 have been administered.
QUESTION: So in the case of this young health worker up in Brisbane [indistinct]… contracted it, absolutely nothing to do with the supply issue from the Federal Government’s perspective?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, I think it’s up to the Queensland Premier to explain to Queenslanders how there was an unvaccinated person working in a hospital. And when we look at the impacts of that- and look, I obviously feel for the individual concerned, but this is a question for the Queensland Premier to answer. And look, we have been put under a lot of pressure here as Queenslanders. I mean, on the one hand, we’ve had the State of Origin where there were over 50,000 people sitting in a stadium. And a couple of days later, we’ve locked down. I mean, it makes no sense.
QUESTION: So what if the response comes back the reason that the reason that this young worker was not vaccinated was a supply issue. Would that not fall back on the Commonwealth?
KAREN ANDREWS: I think that there’s a lot of other issues that need to be taken into account, because we have had supplies coming into Queensland for quite some time. And health workers and people in those settings have been priority, so there has been a long time to make sure that those people have been vaccinated.
QUESTION: Just finally, do you think that the sort of public is feeling today with two levels of governments essentially bickering over how this country is being run at the moment? Your thoughts?
KAREN ANDREWS: I’m not bickering. I’m correcting the record. Thank you.