Transcript - Interview with Peter Stefanovic - Sky News

PETER STEFANOVIC

Let's go to the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, now. He's live from Cairns. I tell you what, Michael, you are experiencing the tropics for sure; 30 degrees, what, yesterday? 150 mils today. Welcome to Cairns. A beautiful part of the world. But some great news today with this travel bubble opening up between New Zealand. Bubbles have popped before, though. So how much confidence can you give this one? What's so different this time around?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, let's be hopeful. Let's be confident. JQ201 is taking off, will be landing in Auckland. I know they've got a big celebration to receive that plane a little later on this morning. But these travel bubbles would not have occurred but for the good record of both sides of the Tasman, both in New Zealand, of course, and here in Australia. Those people in those two countries have been their best selves all the way through this global pandemic. Their governments have kept their people safe and that is why we're able to open up this travel bubble. And hopefully more travel bubbles will be able to be opened up with perhaps Singapore – who knows? Japan, South Korea, South Pacific island nations. We're working towards that. Preliminary discussions have been taking place and we'll work towards opening up these other bubbles as time goes on.

PETER STEFANOVIC

Okay. So of those nations that you just identified, who is at the top of the queue at this stage?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Oh, perhaps Singapore. We've – we started those discussions some weeks ago between the departments of the transport ministries of both countries. So we're in those talks now. And – but, you know, as the vaccine rolls out here and elsewhere, it's important to know that we've got that confidence for people to be able to travel to and from and not to have to go through the quarantine situation. But again, we'll take the best possible medical advice. That's what we've done the whole way through.

We've got some great experts in that regard, of course – Professor Paul Kelly, Professor Brendan Murphy – we've taken their advice the whole way through. We've listened to them and Australians have been their best selves.

PETER STEFANOVIC

When we're talking US and UK, I mean, is this the back of the queue? When might that be likely?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Oh, I wouldn't like to put a timeline on that, Peter. I really wouldn't, because we can still see the case rate's very high. Of course, France the other day had their 100,000th death. I mean, you know, we don't want to get into a situation where we have to close everything down again. So it's baby steps. We're taking it step by step. We'll do it with countries where the record is very good and very safe. And then, of course, if there is a bit of an outbreak we'll review it. But again we'll take the best possible medical advice. That's what we've done the whole way through, tweak things if need be, adapted and adopted the right way and made the changes as was deemed necessary to keep Australians safe. That's the number one aim.

PETER STEFANOVIC

Okay. States seem likely to reject the push for home quarantine. Is this idea dead already?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

No, it's not, and preliminary discussions are taking place. I know Mark McGowan is – he's floated the idea. The Health Minister in Victoria, Martin Foley, he's talked about it too. They're only preliminary discussions. And we need to be able to talk about it. That's what National Cabinet's for. It's worked to that end very well so far. We've made those discussions. That's why we've kept Australians safe and that's why, as a Government – as a Federal Government, you know, we've cooperated and worked collaboratively with our state public health authorities, with the States, with the Premiers, with the Chief Ministers and that's what we'll continue to do.

PETER STEFANOVIC

Okay. But how does it work? I mean, this is what I'm trying to get my head around? Are you basically locked in a room for home quarantine and reduce the risk of affecting other people you lived with? I just don't see how it can be foolproof?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, again, those standards will be set by the medical experts. So we'll take the advice of the medical experts. They're only preliminary discussions at the moment. So how quarantine – home quarantining may work, it's not even in place yet, as the rain comes in sideways here in Cairns. It's not yet decided, but again –

PETER STEFANOVIC

All right.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

We'll take that best possible medical advice.

PETER STEFANOVIC

Okay. Well, vaccination hubs – the Prime Minister was talking about this yesterday. All things going well, he says it's possibly earmarked for the fourth quarter of this year, but given the Government has missed most of its vaccine targets, how reliable can forecasts be?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, again, I'm not going to set timelines here. What we'll do is we'll work through it methodically, as we've done the whole way through. We'll get that vaccine out. It's a big country. I'm pleased that it actually – and proud of the fact that it hasn't, this is the virus – got into those remote Aboriginal communities.

And I know DHL – I talk to Saul Resnick all the time. I know Linfox are getting those vaccines out to those remote communities, to those regional communities. I've had discussions with Trent Twomey today, the Pharmacy Guild Chair, to see what we can further do as far as that's concerned. I know Greg Hunt is making sure that he's having all the right discussions with GPs, with health authorities, at a state level, to get that vaccine out.

Australians just need to, of course, to do what they've done the whole way through and that's be their best selves, listen to that advice. We've been very good so far as keeping the case rates and the death rates at a minimum and we'll continue to do that.

PETER STEFANOVIC

When might the Pfizer jabs arrive?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Again, I'm not in a position to say when they might arrive. They'll arrive when they're good and ready to do so. I know Greg Hunt is having those discussions at that international level. And when they get here, we'll get them out as soon as we can.

PETER STEFANOVIC

Okay. Just finally, I don't know if you've caught the story this morning in The Australian that Labor is dropping its hostility towards coal. Have you got a reaction to that?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, if people believe Anthony Albanese is actually going to do that, I'd like Anthony Albanese to stand up in Balmain, in his own electorate, and utter those words that were uttered by Madeleine King. If Labor is committed to coal, then say so in the inner-city areas. Say so where it's perhaps not convenient to do so. If they say it in Balmain or Newtown or Marrickville in front of all those city people, then I'll believe Labor; I'll believe that they're committed to coal. But I know, you know and everybody else knows, that Labor are not. Coal – two-thirds of our energy, 55,000 jobs and $66 billion of exports. Liberals and Nationals – we support it. Labor does not. They're very inauthentic when it comes to coal.

PETER STEFANOVIC

Michael McCormack, appreciate your time. Thanks for joining us.

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