Tommy Little found himself in an incredibly awkward exchange on The Sunday Project over mandatory vaccines for aged care workers.
The guest host on the Channel 10 program was discussing the issue with the Federal Secretary for Australian Nursing and Midwifery Annie Butler, who had accused the government of using “unclear” messages when it came to COVID-19 jabs for those in the sector.
Ms Butler was asked whether or not vaccines should be mandatory for aged care workers, to which she replied: “It’s a question we need to continue to ask but right now we can’t mandate something that isn’t readily available and accessible.”
Little wasn’t having it.
“I tell you what, after saying the Government’s communication has been confusing, I reckon yours is too,” Little said, followed by a lengthy silence.
“Why do you think that’s confusing?” Ms Butler hit back.
“When you are asked should the vaccine be mandatory and you answer by saying ‘I think we should continue to ask that question’, don’t you find that a confusing answer?,” Little asked in response.
Ms Butler doubled down on her previous statement, declaring: “I just don’t think it’s ready for us to make it mandatory. And until we have all the other systems in place we can’t make it mandatory for aged care workers.”
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It comes after National Cabinet agreed to pave the way for the measure on Friday.
Demands for mandatory vaccines have risen in recent days after Victoria’s Covid-19 outbreak passed between staff and residents at Melbourne’s Arcare facility.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) had been tasked with advising how the measure could be implemented and expected a “prompt” report.
“What we have asked the AHPPC to do is advise us of a suitable time frame in which a mandatory vaccination of aged care workers would be suitable and safe from a medical perspective, taking into account the balance in risks,” Mr Morrison said.
“We will let them have their consideration and advise us what would be a safe period to have such a mandatory vaccination time period.”
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Mr Morrison said a decision on whether to impose the measure would be ultimately a matter for the states and territories.
“For vaccinations to be made mandatory for aged care workers, that has to be done by public health orders at a state level, as it is done for flu vaccinations,” he said.
It came after Mr Morrison said a day earlier that it was “unlikely” vaccines would become mandatory, citing earlier advice from The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee.
“(The AHPPC) have not made that recommendation previously, and my advice is that it is unlikely to be made mandatory,” he told question time on Thursday.