E&OE TRANSCRIPT | SUBJECTS: Border closures; Jobkeeper; Labor reshuffle; COVID-19 vaccine; mullets.
ALLISON LANGDON, HOST: Well, within hours of making that border announcement, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk wasted no time calling on the prime minister to extend support for the state’s struggling tourism sector. We’re joined now by Minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dutton in Brisbane, and Deputy Opposition Leader Richard Marles from Adelaide. Nice to talk to you both. So Peter, are you going to bail her out?
PETER DUTTON, MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS: Well, obviously we don’t take economic advice from the Queensland Premier, I think the Prime Minister’s demonstrated Ally right through this, that we’ve been able to make the right decisions, both in terms of Jobseeker, Jobkeeper, but many other payments beyond that to support those on fixed incomes, people who are on pensions. We’ve provided significant assistance to businesses and Jobkeeper is coming to an end. But the government’s been very clear that if we need to provide further assistance, we’ll look at that. And, everybody feels for people, particularly in the tourism, aviation sectors, but other sectors as well. And it is made harder. As we just saw in that interview where they snap decisions are made to close borders, bookings are cancelled restaurants have ordered food, they’ve employed staff, they’ve got bookings, but they need to close that night, with no warning at all. So we just need to get that balance right. And as was pointed out there, there needs to be consistency by the Premiers around what the definition of the hotspot is so that there is an ability to plan, particularly for businesses because otherwise people are out of jobs.
LANGDON: What did you think when you heard her request yesterday?
DUTTON: I thought there was some politics in it. And you know, she’s in politics, as Richard and I are so you expect a level of that. But I thought, you know, the gentleman, in the previous interview, summed it up well, that, yes, the health aspects have been managed well, we took the right decision, as a country to close the border first with China and then the rest of the world 12 months ago, and that put us in a very strong position. We obviously have managed the budget well, in the lead up to COVID. So we’ve got capacity to provide support, not just to businesses, but to the Australian community as well, to see us through this. But we are getting lots of stories now from businesses who can’t find staff, because they’re at home on Jobkeeper. So we’ve got the balance right so far as the Federal Government will continue to do that, to listen to the concerns, but to get the balance right. And that’s exactly what we’re seeking to do in this budget that’s coming up in May.
LANGDON: Well, I hope what we’re hearing from that is that there will be support for those in the tourism industry, not just tourism, aviation, they’ve got months and months of pain ahead of them. Richard, is it fair for Anna to ask for help? The argument has been she shut the borders? Why should the Federal Government have to bail her out?
RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, I think it’s absolutely reasonable for Annastacia Palaszczuk to be making that point. I mean, if you think about certain sectors and you just mentioned them, tourism, aviation, I mean, they’re not back to normal. And the government’s got to be really careful about the way in which it transitions out of Jobkeeper. And if it does it at a rate which doesn’t match up with what’s actually going on out there, well then we’re going to see massive job losses. I mean, until we’ve got the international border open, a place like Queensland, which is heavily reliant on tourism is going to do it tough. So I completely understand why Annastacia Palaszczuk would be making that point given how important tourism is for her state. But I’d make the other point in relation to borders. I mean, it’s fine for Peter to make those points about states and the way in which they’re acting. The problem here is the federal government has completely abrogated its responsibility here. I mean, it has vacated the field, I don’t understand why Scott Morrison and the Federal Government aren’t in these decisions and they’ve left all of this up to the states.
LANGDON: I think the issue here is I think they’ve tried to be part of it, but it’s a state issue. They control the borders, and they’re doing what they want when it comes to borders.
MARLES: There’s an assumption about all of that. The Federal government from day one took itself out of the whole question of our internal borders. I don’t think we can say right now that the question of our nation’s internal borders are solely a state issue, I mean, that that’s a big call to make about where Australia is at. The issue here is that from day one, Scott Morrison took himself out of the field. And so we’ve really got in terms of our Federation now, one of the weakest national governments we have seen and that’s why we’ve got the chaos that’s played out over the last year.
LANGDON: Well, look, I think it’s hard to put this one on Scott Morrison, I think he’s been trying to speak to Mark McGowan and Annastacia Palaszczuk. The States make the decisions about the border that’s just the way it is. But Richard, we need to talk about what’s happening within your party, is everyone okay?
MARLES: Everyone’s really good.
LANGDON: Congratulations on your promotion yesterday, by the way, you’re basically in charge of everything now. But I mean, the question is Albo, he can shuffle the ranks all he wants, but he’s not taking you to the next election is he?
MARLES: Anthony is absolutely taking us to the next election and what we saw yesterday, with the re-shuffle is seeking to put a focus on jobs as being the key issue that we will be contesting every day between now and when the Australians go to the next election. Because the situation we’ve got at the moment is that when you consider both unemployment and underemployment, there’s more than 2 million Australians right now who are looking for work. And what COVID-19 has done has really exposed problems within our economy. We don’t make things in this country in anything like the way we used to back in 2013.
LANGDON: I mean, you need the shift, because as you say, you’re not cutting through. Albo reckons he will be our next Prime Minister after the next election. Peter, the sharks are circling though, aren’t they?
DUTTON: Well, they are and what he did yesterday was apply a band-aid to a shark bite, Ally. It’s quite unbelievable to watch the Labor Party going into what they went through in the Rudd/Gillard years. Clearly, there’s now going to be a challenge by Tanya Plibersek and Jim Chalmers, that’s just a matter of time. Richard at the moment is playing the loyal deputy role as Julia Gillard did. And good on him. I mean, he’s the only winner out of yesterday and as all of the commentators said after the presentation, Richard completely out shone Albo. Look, it’s game on in there, the problem, though, is that they can shuffle the personnel all they like. It can be Albo, it can be Tanya Plibersek, it could be Richard. The fact is that their policies are designed to destroy jobs, to jack up taxes, to increase electricity prices and frankly, that’s the real problem within the Labor Party, and they’re not yet prepared to address it.
LANGDON: And that disarray, of course, that’s something that the Coalition has never seen, of course.
DUTTON: We learned our lesson, and I promise you, we have moved on.
LANGDON: Well, everyone thinks they have learnt their lesson until it happens the next time around. But I do want to talk about this though because there are real worries about our vaccine rollout. Germany is now warning against giving it to the over 65s. This is the one we’ve ordered 50 million doses of, AstraZenica. Doesn’t do much for public confidence, Peter.
DUTTON: Well, Ally, I really think people need to look at the advice that is coming out of the TGA. Now Australia has one of the most superior health systems in the world. And frankly, this has been a very strong bipartisan position. The Labor Party, I think has been responsible on this as well, we do need to get herd immunity. Australians are great vaccinators and the medical advice, the scientific advice in this country is what we should heed. Now we’ll look at what is happening in the rest of the world, the government’s made a very prudent decision to invest in a number of vaccines, for this very reason that if there are problems, then we’ll be able to address them. But I think people need to calmly look at the advice that’s coming out of the Australian authorities, we have the best scientists in the world, they have not rushed this process. They’ve looked at the efficacy and the effectiveness of the vaccines. And we will make the decisions to roll it out on that basis to protect Australians. And that will be the first priority.
LANGDON: But Richard, I mean, this is all happening. And we just don’t like it when questions are being raised. And they may not being asked by the TGA here in Australia right now. But we’ve got German scientists and doctors raising concerns about the effectiveness of AstraZeneca and those over 65. All of this as Pfizer basically can’t keep up with global demand. It doesn’t put us in a great position, does it?
MARLES: Well, there are a couple of points here, Ally; first of all, you know, we do make criticism of the government in terms of its slowness out of the blocks in putting Australia in the queue, in relation to a number of these vaccines. It matters that we are right up there in terms of all the vaccines that are going to have an effect here in the queue to make sure that we have availability here in Australia. And we’re concerned about how the government has handled that over the course of the last few months. But the second point where I do very much agree with what Peter said is that the TGA, and our authorities are as good as any in the world. And the advice that they give us in relation to the safety of vaccines is really important for people to listen to and adhere. And when the vaccines come online, they will only come online if they are safe to use. And at that moment, it’s really important that people take up the opportunity of that vaccination. And so, listening to the medical advice, the expert advice and we’ve got great experts in this country is really important for Australians to do.
LANGDON: Which is why we need public confidence in the vaccination rollout. Look you know, I always like to end on, on a bit of a, you know, an upbeat moment to finish on a Friday. We’re celebrating all things mullet because the mullet fest is about to kick off and you know where I’m going with this-
KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: Poor old Pete.
LANGDON: Poor old Pete.
MARLES: I want to see the photo of Peter and his ute.
DUTTON: I would love a mullet.
LANGDON: If you rocked that mullet, you would be Prime Minister of Australia.
MARLES: That is the Rocky Horror Picture Show right there.
LANGDON: Don’t you laugh, Richard. Because this is you, my friend. That’s a bit of like a 80s Rock and Roll thing you’ve got happening there. Well, gentlemen, always good to talk to you. And I mean, as we say, it was a bit of a backhanded compliment that Peter Dutton paid you Richard-
MARLES: I am used to that.
LANGDON: You’ve been outshining Albo. Did you get it. Alright guys, enjoy your weekend.