Alice Workman The Australian August 11, 2022
Liberal senator Gerard Rennick, who has been criticised for spreading misinformation and Covid-19 conspiracy theories, turned down multiple invitations for individual briefings from former health minister Greg Hunt. Senator Rennick was offered several one-on-one sessions with Mr Hunt, as well as Health Department Deputy Secretary and Therapeutic Goods Administration boss Adjunct Professor John Skerritt, since the start of the pandemic. However, these standing invitations were never taken up.
On Thursday, the Department of Health rejected Senator Rennick’s latest comparison of the Covid-19 jab to AIDS, which he made during a late-night anti-vaccination rant in parliament.
The Queenslander – who is not vaccinated – delivered the speech to the Senate last week, after the Albanese government refused to reveal how many claims for death and injuries had been paid out since the Covid vaccine was rolled out.
Government Services Minister Bill Shorten said less than 1 per cent of applications had been approved and encouraged the Liberal senator to “book in for his winter booster dose … if he has not done so already”.
In the speech, Senator Rennick suggested Covid-19 vaccines were “unsafe” and “ineffective”, comparing the biochemistry process to “like when you’re cooking sausages on the barbecue and you see blobs of fat merge together”.
The claims were firmly refuted as “incorrect” by the Health Department, which said it doesn’t believe the Senator’s description of how the vaccines act is based on accepted science or medical understanding.
Health also rejected his assertion that the body is somehow “attacking your own cells” following the Covid-19 vaccination or that there is any biochemical or pathological similarity to AIDS, the severe and life-threatening disease caused by HIV.
“The evidence is clear – vaccination is one of the most important steps we can all take to protect ourselves and our loved ones from severe Covid-19 infection,” a Health spokesman told The Australian.
“The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) regulate and approve all vaccines (including Covid-19 vaccines) for use in Australia. This involves the checking of all Covid-19 vaccines for quality, safety and effectiveness. Vaccines are only approved in Australia after they have been assessed to show that the benefits of vaccine outweigh any risks.”
It’s understood that the TGA has responded to a large number of questions about vaccine safety from Senator Rennick in budget estimates, Covid committee hearings and personal correspondence.
When The Australian reached Senator Rennick this week, he stood by his debunked comparison of the Covid vaccine to AIDS. The 51-year-old former accountant said “there’s not a lot of this stuff written down but I do speak to people who’ve got PhDs in genealogy and cancer research”.
The Coalition’s health spokeswoman Anne Ruston refused to condone or condemn Senator Rennick’s latest outburst.
“As it did in government, the Opposition recognises the importance of Covid-19 vaccines in the global efforts to tackle the pandemic,” Senator Ruston told The Australian. “We support ongoing efforts to maintain our world leading vaccination rates as the primary defence to Covid in Australia.”
Senator Rennick has attracted widespread criticism within his own party for anti-vax views and decision to meet with the so-called “freedom convoy” protesters in Canberra in February.
Former prime minister Scott Morrison urged his colleagues to listen to the medical experts in December, after Senator Rennick labelled the approval of the Pfizer vaccine for children aged five to 11 as “completely irresponsible”.
Senator Rennick’s Facebook following surged when he began sharing stories of people claiming to have suffered side effects from Covid-19 vaccines. Many of the claims have been disputed by health officials and Senator Rennick conceded to The Guardian that he could not be sure the stories were “100 per cent accurate”.
The Albanese government recently expanded eligibility for a fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose to an additional 7.4m people.
1/ Liberal senator Gerard Rennick. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
2/ Greg Hunt. Picture: Brendan Beckett