Australian Prime Minister Radio Interview – ABC Brisbane Afternoons

Prime Minister

: Usually at this time on a Wednesday afternoon, you’re joined by the one, the only, Dr. Karl. And it’s status normal so far as you’re here, Dr. Karl. Hello.

DR. KARL KRUSZELNICKI: Ahoy, Dr. Kat. Lovely to be with you again.

FEENEY: Wonderful to be with you again. But of course we have a special edition of this afternoon’s science chat with you and a very special guest. Dr. Karl, have you ever had a Prime Minister of Australia participate in your science talk back session?

KRUSZELNICKI: No and this is a wonderful first. Thank you.

FEENEY: It is a wonderful first and we’re delighted to announce that Prime Minister of Australia Anthony Albanese is here now as well. Hello, PM.


KRUSZELNICKI: Prime Minister.

FEENEY: Now this is a tricky part because, Dr. Karl, you like to name us all doctors when we do science talkback with you, do we give you the honorific PM of Dr as well? How do you feel about that, Dr. Albanese?

PRIME MINISTER: Dr. Albo, maybe will get there.

FEENEY: Ok, now listen, I know you’ve got a couple of questions prepared for Dr. Karl and I’m pretty sure, Dr. Karl, you’ve got a couple of questions prepared for the PM. But Dr. Albo, before we plunge into sciencetalk back, you’re actually giving an address in Brisbane tomorrow at the Queensland Press Club. What are you talking about?

PRIME MINISTER: I am talking about a future made in Australia. And it’s very connected up with science, actually. It’s how we can take what is the shift to clean energy and innovation and other opportunities which are there and seize them to make more things in Australia by value adding, not just exporting our resources and then waiting for someone else to value add and then importing them back when they cost a lot more money.

FEENEY: What sort of things do you think we could make more of in Australia?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, for example, just on Monday there was in Gladstone the launch of electrolysers, basically making green hydrogen, which can be used potentially to make green aluminium there in Central Queensland. So, green steel, these new products that will be in demand as the world moves to a net zero emissions system right across the board. So, it’s really about how Australia must take the opportunity. The whole world is moving in this direction. It’s not the old protectionism, it’s a new competition and you have first mover advantage with any innovation going forward. And so I think we certainly can make more things here. And just a couple of weeks ago, down at Liddell in the Upper Hunter, we announced the potential for manufacturing our own solar panels. There’s a lot of solar panels on roofs. But at the moment they’re all produced largely in China, in just one country. We need to be more resilient as an economy, and that’s really what the speech is about.

FEENEY: All right, well, we’ll look forward to hearing a little more detail about that tomorrow. And I know, Dr. Karl, you’ve got a question about making things in Australia that you’re burning to put to the PM. But Dr. Albo, our guests are the ones that get to ask the first questions of Dr. Karl. So, what would you like to know? What’s your science question for Dr. Karl?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, this is something that is raised with me right around the country. Someone raised it with me again earlier today. I was in Ballina on the New South Wales North Coast, which is about vapes, and vapes are seen by some as being pretty neutral and okay. What science is out there about why vapes, in my view, are not good for you, particularly for young lungs – as a whole lot of young people seem to be taking up this new habit.

KRUSZELNICKI: Well, the vapes are a way of getting something into your lungs that is not air. And to make it attractive for the manufacturer, nicotine is usually added, and nicotine is addictive and it is usually not declared on many of the illegal products that have been brought in to Australia. So, say the way you’re selling an addictive product that constricts blood vessels and they never get a chance to unconstrict because they’re continually vaping. In addition, they’ve got various other chemicals, including the flavourings and chemicals such as formaldehyde, diacetyl at one stage was very popular. It gives that delicious buttery feel to popcorn. So, you can go into the movie theatre, buy popcorn, they’ll put diacetyl on it and it tastes delicious, it is not harmful, but if it goes into your lungs, it can cause what’s called popcorn lung. And people have had to have lung transplants. So, just because a product is safe to eat via the gut, it is not safe for the lungs. And so the first factor that makes them unhealthy is the chemicals that you’re taking in. The other thing is that just while they have their own specific effects, the overall random effect is that you’re getting inflammation and irritation. And what we’re finding, and this has come through only in the last year, even though vapes have been around for a decade or more, what happens in young people and older people in their first year of smoking, overwhelmingly they have coughing, increased incidence of upper respiratory tract infections, in other words, the cold, etcetera. And if they’ve got asthma, they’ve got more asthma. And we’re already seeing that in the first year. So we know they’re harmful. The other thing is that they’re introducing people to the idea of shoving stuff into their lungs that’s not air. And before vaping came along, Australia, God bless it, had managed to drop the incidence of cigarette smoking in teenagers at school down to about 1.5 per cent. It’s now up to about 15, 20 per cent, and primary school kids are doing it. So it’s harmful, and we’ve proved it’s harmful. If you want to use it as a way to get off smoking, in that case, we’ve got this thing called a prescription. It’s not prohibiting it. Each year, 3 billion prescriptions are filled out in Australia. So, antibiotics are not forbidden. You just go to a doctor. So, if you want to take vaping as a way to give off smoking, do it under medical supervision. But selling it to ten-year-olds on the corner shop is not that you’re helping people get off smoking.

FEENEY: And is that in part, Dr. Albo, why your Government is keen to ban the commercial possession of disposable single use or non-therapeutic vapes. I mean, and if that is the case, is there a concern that it could drive a black market?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we are concerned and there is already a black market and we are clamping down on that. But Dr. Karl just gave a much better description of why it was bad than I would have. My gut instinct, excuse the pun, was that it can’t be good for you, putting something fake into your lungs. But in particular, I just think that the way that some of these vapes are being marketed with kids basically, descriptions, things that appeal to very young people, bright colours and cartoons and stuff like that, is a real indication of who it’s being aimed at. And I’ve been stunned by how quickly, it’s just really the last few years. But it is increasingly the case that it’s being raised by teachers, by parents and by kids themselves too, saying, “you know, my friends are all engaging in this vaping and how can we do something about it?”

FEENEY: I suppose cigarette advertising was pretty sexy when it first hit the market too. Dr. Karl, remember that some doctors even recommended some styles of cigarette. I wonder, Dr. Albo, have you ever tried a cigarette or a vape?

PRIME MINISTER: No, I haven’t, actually, and I find it a revolting habit. When I was young, I was someone who was never attracted towards it. But of course, heaps of my friends, when I was at school, it was pretty common that you would try cigarette smoking. But it has gone out of fashion and that’s a good thing. And it’s of concern that this new element has come in.

FEENEY: On 612 ABC Brisbane. This afternoon, you’re with the Prime Minister of Australia, Anthony Albanese. Dr. Albo, for the purposes of our science chat with Dr. Karl. My name’s Kat and I’m enjoying this. Dr. Karl, you are normally the person who the questions are put to, but we thought, seeing as we had Dr. Albo with us this afternoon, you might want to ask the Prime Minister a question. Dr. Karl?

KRUSZELNICKI: Yes, look, I’d love to ask you if there’s some way we can increase investment in space. So, Australia was the third country to put a satellite into orbit and then when we asked the Americans and the British, “should we go out of business and not being competition?” They said, “yeah, go out of business.” So, we blew up with explosives our stuff that we had at Woomera. In New Zealand, a company called Rocket Lab has built, has had 44 launches and has launched hundreds of satellites, including stuff on the way to the moon and Venus, heading for Venus. We don’t have anything. The best we’ve got is something like, well, up near the equator, we’ll give you a bit of dirt and we’ll charge you for accommodation in the hotel. Can we do more than that? Can we actually build up our own space industry, which will give us independence and not having to beg other countries for weather advice?

FEENEY: Make rockets in Australia, Dr. Albo.

PRIME MINISTER: We can do more and the good news is, Dr. Karl, just down the road on the Gold Coast, I visited Gilmour Space Technologies just, I think it was last year. It’s in the electorate of Fadden. I remember where it is in the north part was of the Gold Coast. And they’re building a rocket which they’re getting ready to launch in a matter of weeks using Australian know how and technology. It’s just awaiting the necessary permits. But it is a great story of a local company. Also, there are a number of commercially successful Australian satellite manufacturers. There’s one in Canberra, indeed, called Skykraft. The other thing that’s happening is up in northeast Arnhem Land, is the potential launch of some rockets up there as well, which is providing revenue for Indigenous people, for the local Yolngu people up there, which is quite an exciting proposal, it’s beyond a proposal now, it’s going ahead. So, there are some things happening which you’re quite right, we’ve played, of course, a role in, I’m old enough to have remembered the Neil Armstrong walking on the moon and that, of course, Australia played a role in that at Parkes. So, when it comes to science and space, we have a good history. But it has fallen away in recent times and I agree with you that we need to build up our capacity again.

FEENEY: Well, there you have it Dr. Karl, Dr. Albo, keen to send us all up to space. Wonderful news. Dr. Karl, always great to have your company this afternoon. Thank you very much for blasting off a very special edition of science talkback with you this afternoon.

KRUSZELNICKI: Thank you, Dr. Kat and Dr. Prime Minister.

FEENEY: Dr. Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you everyone. Thank you. Been wonderful. I never thought I’d be talking science with Dr. Karl, so thank you very much for the honour.

FEENEY: No problem. Dr. Anthony Albanese, aka the Prime Minister of Australia on 612 ABC Brisbane.

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