SUBJECTS: Tourism fail; Vaccine rollout.
KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: This tourism package is a lemon. It’s a lemon. For more on that and the support package I want to bring in Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton in Brisbane and Deputy Opposition Leader Richard Marles in Geelong. Good morning to you guys, nice to see you.
PETER DUTTON, MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS: Morning, Karl.
RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Morning, Karl.
STEFANOVIC: Pete, it’s an absolute lemon isn’t it, this tourism package?
DUTTON: Karl, what sort of Queenslander are you? Weak at the knees there as soon as Ally pushed back. Queensland is a great spot. Everybody should be holidaying up here. Karl, if you look at the facts; Mayors, local mayors will play politics that’s fine. For every dollar somebody spends on an airfare they spend $10 on the ground. The whole idea of this package is that people will spend money with tourist operators, with cafes, with people that are providing tourism services on the ground, hotels, motels, etcetera- caravan parks. But if this was the only element to this package, then maybe you would have a criticism but there are hundreds of millions of dollars going to regional airports, to airports in capital cities. There are loans that small businesses in the tourist sector don’t have to pay back for the first two years, not a dollar in interest, not a dollar in capital that they have to repay. So, this is a very comprehensive package- and it’s $1.2 billion.
STEFANOVIC: So why has it been unanimously deplored by the tourism sector itself?
DUTTON: That’s not the case, Karl. There are plenty of tourism operators who have welcomed it. And look, there are lots of people that will take any dollar that you give them and if you give them a dollar, they ask for a second and I just think if you look at the facts of what we’re offering here, this is a very significant package. It’s not the only support that we’re providing to tourist destinations. And we’ll continue to provide support. If you look what we have done under JobKeeper, instant asset write-off, now the huge building boom which is going on because of the first home buyer assistance- all of that plays out, right across the country. This is a government that has provided significant support, we’ll continue to do it. And this is one way in which we can really get people onto planes. And the fact is mums and dads love this policy because they want a cheap airfare, they want to go for a holiday, they want to be able to spend money in regional areas. That’s exactly what we’re doing.
STEFANOVIC: Richard, I’m sure you will complain about the government being more Labor than Labor.
DUTTON: Come to Queensland, Richard.
MARLES: This has been a massive let down- You are welcome here in Geelong. It’s a massive let down.
DUTTON: No thanks.
MARLES: It’s a massive letdown and the tourist sector has been looking to this for weeks now to see what the answer was going to be. And as you said Karl, what they have got here is a lemon. I mean, like, half price tickets to marginal electorates, that’s fine. But there is so many tourist operators who are struggling with the fact that there is the necessary closure of our international borders, half a million people in the tourist sector lost their job last year, with this now in place, and there being no other answer, we’re going to see hundreds of thousands of more job losses baked into this sector going forward. And in that sense the government has completely missed the mark with this package.
STEFANOVIC: I think it’s almost defamatory what you just said then, “a lot of these air tickets going to marginal seats”, I mean, that’s just awful, incomprehensible, Pete.
DUTTON: Well, I mean Richard is-
MARLES: I’m looking forward to Peter suing me for that comment.
DUTTON: Richard has been drinking last night again it seems, Karl.
STEFANOVIC: Now that’s defamatory.
DUTTON: He’s taking these random thoughts from his head.
DUTTON: Karl, the fact is…
MARLES: I will see you in court. I will. I’m there at 9:00 am.
DUTTON: That’s a fair defence from you, Richard.
DUTTON: I have forgotten the question. What was the question?
STEFANOVIC: So have I, so have I. It wasn’t important- just marginal branch stacking. Peter, in terms of the AstraZeneca vaccine, can we talk about that quickly? This is a significant issue this. Already people are nervous about the vaccine. It’s been suspended in Norway and Denmark. It’s up to you guys to convince us it’s the right thing to do. Is it safe?
DUTTON: Yes, it is Karl. And I think it’s important for all of us, not just those of us in leadership roles but I think it’s important for the media, as well, to really report fairly on this. I think you had an excellent contribution from the professor only a few minutes ago. And Brendan Murphy and others look at all this evidence from around the world. The fact is the virus needs to be dealt with. We need to deal with it by way of vaccine, particularly for older vulnerable people. And the way in which this rollout has worked not just here, but around the world, means we do have an enormous amount of data and the conclusion here is that the vaccine is safe. It will continue to rollout and we want to get to heard immunity as quickly as possible. But we will wait to see the evidence – remember there was, right at the start of the rollout of the vaccine, in Germany, I think it was, one death in an aged-care facility? As it turned out that wasn’t related to the rollout of that vaccine, as I recall, and yet there was panic about it. So, I just think cool heads need to prevail here. Let’s look at the advice of the scientists. We have the best doctors in the world. They have gone through all the tests and trials. We were told to rush it. We’ve not rushed it. We will look at all of the evidence. And if there’s a problem the government responds very quickly. But at the moment the advice very clearly from the doctors is that this is a safe vaccine and we want the rollout to continue.
STEFANOVIC: Richard, you bagged the government for the slow rollout. Maybe it’s working in our favour.
MARLES: Well, I think- firstly, I completely agree with what Peter said around the fact that the vaccine is safe. And it really is important that we do have cool heads in this space. And Peter is right, we have the best doctors in the world, the TGA have gone through this very carefully. We need to be rolling out the vaccine and there does need to be a sense of confidence about this and people can rightly feel confident about the safety of the vaccines. It is important that the rollout happens as safely as possible but also as quickly as possible. I mean, the government has rightly said that our economic recovery is tied to the rollout of the vaccine. The vaccine is how we get to the other side of the COVID-19 crisis. And so, I think you talked about the big slow – go slow, Karl, actually I don’t think that’s right because for the thousands of people who still don’t have jobs, and who face, you know, prolonged periods of unemployment, by virtue of us not getting our economy back on foot, the vaccine is actually the answer to them. And so, we do need to have this happening as with swiftly as possible in the context of it being safe. The government went out and said that four million of us were going to be vaccinated in March. That’s not happening. The one person you can’t believe about the pace of the rollout is now the Prime Minister. He said we were all going to be vaccinated in October. The truth of that statement lasted about two hours before the Secretary of Health yesterday made clear that that would not be the case, and that it was more likely going to be the end of the year. We need to have authoritative information from the Prime Minister. And when we are seeing, you know, millions of people being vaccinated every day in the United States, it’s actually the case that we need to get on with this here in Australia as well.
STEFANOVIC: Alright, Richard you need to stop drinking. And Pete, I will see you in court at 9:00 am. Thanks gentlemen. We will talk to you soon.