Prime minister says he wasn’t corrected after last month telling ABC radio the South Australian senator was ‘double-dose vaccinated’
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, has denied misleading Australians over Alex Antic’s Covid-19 vaccination status but accepted his assumption the Liberal senator was fully vaccinated has “proved to be incorrect”.
Antic was taken into hotel quarantine in Adelaide on Thursday night, calling into question the prime minister’s assurances the senator had been double vaccinated.
Morrison told ABC Adelaide on 26 November that Antic was “double-dose vaccinated” in an interview addressing the senator’s threat to withhold his vote unless the government did more to override state vaccination mandates.
On Friday, Morrison explained he had been advised Antic was fully vaccinated, adding that he was “disappointed” that he “wasn’t corrected” when he put that to Antic.
The Adelaide Advertiser revealed that Antic was taken into hotel quarantine after returning to South Australia at the conclusion of the parliamentary sitting fortnight on Thursday.
BREAKING: Senator Alex Antic escorted from Adelaide Airport to a medi-hotel and 14 days quarantine after he was granted an exemption reserved for unvaccinated travellers. Last week PM confidently said “Alex is double-dose vaccinated”. More soon via @theTiser pic.twitter.com/7DMNi8Ur4D
— Kathryn Bermingham (@KatBermingham) December 2, 2021
Antic repeatedly refused to disclose his vaccination status when questioned at Adelaide airport on Thursday evening – and again when contacted by Guardian Australia.
On Friday, Antic told ABC Adelaide he had “no idea” why he was taken to hotel quarantine and suggested questions should be directed to “bureaucratic overlords at SA Health”.
“All of a sudden I’ve been singled out in what appears to be a political stunt, and the only inference you can draw from this is that it’s been quite premeditated,” he said.
Asked about his discussions with Morrison on his vaccination status, Antic said: “My conversations with the prime minister are, as you would believe, private. I don’t believe I’d ever misled the prime minister about anything.”
“I’ve been very clear about my medical history, my medical care, it’s a matter for myself, my family, my wife,” the senator said.
Antic has regularly travelled to Canberra for sittings of parliament and said until now he had been allowed to quarantine at home for two weeks on returning to South Australia.
Under changes which took effect on 23 November, all unvaccinated travellers into South Australia must quarantine in a medi-hotel for 14 days on arrival.
The Advertiser reported that Antic had applied for an exemption to return to South Australia, was initially denied, but on appeal was granted entry on the condition he complete 14 days quarantine in a medi-hotel.
On Friday, Morrison addressed the apparent contradiction at a press conference in Cooma, explaining he had been advised Antic was double vaccinated and “wasn’t corrected” in a subsequent conversation with the senator.
“That was certainly my understanding that he had been double vaccinated and I had discussed vaccinations and made it very clear that that’s what I understood ... So I was surprised to learn that.”
On 22 November, Antic was one of five Coalition senators who crossed the floor to vote for a One Nation bill attempting to override state health orders requiring workers in particular industries be vaccinated, including the aged care sector where the mandates were proposed by the Morrison government.
Antic refused to vote for government legislation in the final sitting fortnight in protest against vaccine mandates, along with Senator Gerard Rennick who did the same to protest what he claimed were flaws with the vaccine adverse event indemnity scheme.
On Friday, the government leader in the Senate, Simon Birmingham, said Liberal and National senators were free to cross the floor, if they did so “seriously” and “sparingly”.
“But this sort of blanket idea that you’re just not going to turn up to any votes, is not really holding out on the principles of individual bills, it’s conflating everything that’s on the legislative agenda with whatever issue you’re demanding action be taken on,” he told Sky News.
Birmingham said the government had been clear it would not be “dictated to on changing positions on vaccinations or the like”.
“The actions of those two senators achieved nothing during this fortnight other than to frustrate reforms on voter integrity, on voter ID, and litigation funding reform.”
Guardian Australia has contacted Morrison, Antic and South Australia Health for comment.