Modelling on how prepared Australia’s hospitals are for rising coronavirus cases when the nation reopens is being kept secret.
The federal government has refused to hand over documents circulated at a national cabinet meeting of federal, state and territory leaders to a Senate committee.
Labor frontbencher and committee chair Katy Gallagher last week requested the modelling, which looks at how the health system will cope when restrictions are lifted.
Department of Health secretary Brendan Murphy said the government maintained all national cabinet documents should be confidential.
“This includes information received by the national cabinet. This is consistent with longstanding practice on cabinet confidentiality,” he wrote to Senator Gallagher.
Professor Murphy said he would refer the documents to the health minister for a public interest immunity claim.
“I would be reasonably confident the national cabinet may wish to release the modelling in coming weeks once it’s been finalised,” he told the committee hearing.
An Administrative Appeals Tribunal judge ruled the leaders’ group convened at the start of the pandemic should not be exempt from freedom of information laws.
In response, the government is trying to pass a bill to ensure national cabinet deliberations remain secret.
Australia is facing rising virus cases and hospitalisations when the nation reopens at over-16 double-dose vaccine coverage thresholds of 70 and 80 per cent.
Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said hospitalisation rates in NSW showed the power of immunisation against coronavirus.
“This is very much an epidemic of the unvaccinated,” he told the hearing.
Among people aged 70 to 79, just three per cent of those needing intensive care were vaccinated.
No one aged 16 to 69 admitted to ICU was fully vaccinated.
Professor Kelly said while cases were rising in Victoria, NSW was on a downward trajectory and the ACT remained flat.
He said this year’s Delta outbreaks were different to Victoria’s second wave last year because there were more cases in children and fewer deaths.
“The main reason for both of those is in fact the vaccine rollout,” Prof Kelly said.
Victoria recorded 867 new cases and four deaths on Tuesday, the highest daily figure since the start of the pandemic.
NSW reported 863 cases and seven deaths on Tuesday.Internet Explorer Channel Network