Transcript - Interview with Karl Stefanovic - Channel 9, Today Show

KARL STEFANOVIC

Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, joins us now from a very subtropical Cairns to discuss all of this. Good morning to you, Michael. Thank you for your time today. It looks like it's absolutely – are you feeling the pressure this morning?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

It is teeming.

KARL STEFANOVIC

My interviews aren't that hard. My interviews aren't that hard.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, it’s all good.

KARL STEFANOVIC

Yeah. No, no –

MICHAEL McCORMACK

It's not sweat. It's just rain. And I've just run –

KARL STEFANOVIC

I know.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

– run for the interview.

KARL STEFANOVIC

Good on you, mate. Good on you. Thank you for being with us today. Look, obviously it's the kind of weather that New Zealanders would be flocking to see.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

This is one of the best destinations despite – despite the rain, this is one of the hottest spots for the half‑price tickets, Karl. It is one of the places that people are going. More than 472,000 of those half‑price tickets have already been snapped up. And I spoke to a woman from Tasmania in the lift at the motel yesterday. She was there with her family. She said, “It's the first time I've been in Cairns. It won't be the last”. Despite the rain, she was having a great time.

KARL STEFANOVIC

Do you reckon that it's going to benefit New Zealand more than Australians, opening up this travel bubble with New Zealand?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, it – what it shows – it's confidence. It shows that we're on the next stage, on the next step, on the pathway out of COVID and back to some sort of normality. That's what it shows. And it's going to benefit both nations, let's face it. We love New Zealand. New Zealanders love Australia and it's a good thing.

KARL STEFANOVIC

It is a good thing and this is a fantastic step in the right direction, considering how successful – well, let's see how successful it is, but if it is as successful as we hope, how far away are the travel bubbles, do you think?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, look, we're in discussions with Singapore. We're having those chats – those initial chats with other countries as well. And as vaccines are rolled out here and elsewhere, these travel bubbles will be created and, as I say again, it will get us back to some sort of pre‑COVID normality. The scenes at Sydney airport are fantastic. I know – I've been speaking to Geoff Culbert, the CEO there, regularly. The activity that's happening at our airports is on the up and up and up. Qantas, Virgin – they want to fly again. They want to get people back into their jobs. Planes in the air means jobs on the ground and that's what it's all about.

KARL STEFANOVIC

Okay. The much-anticipated National Cabinet meeting is said to take place today. There seems to be some conjecture over –

MICHAEL McCORMACK

That's right.

KARL STEFANOVIC

– over some of the details of what's on the agenda there. Tell me something, is home quarantine actually going to be discussed in any way?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, I'm sure it will be. And let's face it, you know, this is just a proposal. This is just initial talks. This is what you'd expect the Prime Minister and the premiers and the chief ministers of the territories to be chatting about to see where we can get to, to see where they can land. This is what the National Cabinet process has done all the way through. It's tried to get consensus, take on board, of course, the best possible medical advice by chief health officers, by chief medical officers. That's what it's been all about all the way through.

And you know, Australia's a very lucky country and we've been very good. Right the way through COVID, Australians have done what they've been asked and that's why we have had only 910 deaths. Now, yes, that is very sad for those families, but when you compare it to other countries, we've been very good.

KARL STEFANOVIC

It seems very strange to be talking about home quarantine when we haven't vaccinated our whole population. I mean, when will that happen?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, that's why it's early discussions. That's why they're just things that are being discussed in the initial phase. Look, I'm not in the meeting today. I'm up here in Cairns.

KARL STEFANOVIC

Yeah.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

But – so it may or may not be discussed, but if it is, they're only initial discussions.

KARL STEFANOVIC

When will the Australian population be vaccinated?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, let's hope by year's end, but they'll be vaccinated – we've got an additional 20 million Pfizer doses, of course, coming. We'll get that vaccine out. I've been speaking to Trent Twomey, who's the Chair of the Pharmacy Guild. You know, they obviously want to take part. GPs are taking part. We'll work with public health authorities right through the states. That's what it's all about, making sure – it's a big country. It's a large geographical country. I know DHL and Linfox are doing their best to get those vaccines out to remote communities.

KARL STEFANOVIC

Yeah.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

And that's one thing, too, that I know we should all be very proud of and that's that it hasn't got into those remote Aboriginal communities. It's –

KARL STEFANOVIC

Okay.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

– the virus, and we've done well.

KARL STEFANOVIC

Okay. The Pfizer vaccine –

MICHAEL McCORMACK

No need to panic, though.

KARL STEFANOVIC

There is talk that it might be produced here. How far away is that potentially?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, again, they're just initial talks. We're of course, we've got sovereign capability, manufacturing capability, when it comes to AstraZeneca and we'll have those discussions. We've a very capable country, Australia, and if we can do it, we will.

KARL STEFANOVIC

Okay. Just finally, I note with interest that the AstraZeneca vaccine is going to be available for those under 50. In Victoria, there's been some concern from there about the mixed messaging around that. Is that something you support?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, it is, but again I would suggest that those people under 50 discuss it with their GP, make sure that if they do have a reaction to the first jab, then again take the best possible medical advice. That's what we've done as a government, it's what we've done as a nation and that's what people should do individually.

KARL STEFANOVIC

Deputy PM, good to talk to you on a beautiful day in Far North Queensland. Appreciate your time, as always.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Indeed. It's always a beautiful day in the tropical north.

KARL STEFANOVIC

Thank you, mate.

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