SUBJECT/S: Victorian lockdown, COVID disaster payment; vaccine rollout; birthdays

KARL STEFONOVIC, HOST: So much to talk with our pollies today. Let’s get straight into it with Defence Minister Peter Dutton in Brissy. Deputy Leader of the Opposition Richard Marles in Melbourne. Gentleman, good morning to you. Pete to you first of all, to borrow a line from Dan Andrews yesterday, are you really going to look Victorians in the eye and say we aren’t going to help you?

PETER DUTTON, MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Well Karl, we are going to help Victoria and there’s been an agreement between the Prime Minister and Premier Andrews, there was a statement released last night. So, they worked through all of that detail and we’ve helped Victorians from day one. We have put something like $45 billion worth of support into Victoria over the course of JobKeeper. We will keep doing that and hopefully in five days will see the end of lockdown in Victoria but if not, if it goes beyond that, there will be further assistance we will be able to provide.

STEFANOVIC: There was absolutely no way that was going to happen, even Josh Frydenberg at the start of the week saying that was not going to happen. Daniel Andrews really got the better of you, didn’t he?

DUTTON: I don’t think he did Karl, you are very provocative this morning, I’ve got to say. Richard has got a smile on his face, you’re doing his work today, I know what is going on.

STEFONOVIC: It’s just obvious questions.

DUTTON: He wants for his state to have the best possible scenario, so do we and we have worked through that. So people that have lost between 8 and 20 hours will receive $375 a week and those that have lost 20 or more hours will receive $600 a week, and that’s if there’s a Commonwealth declared hotspot and the Chief Medical Officer at the Commonwealth level had made that declaration. And we will get that support out as soon as we can because people need that support and you have to feel for small businesses at the moment-


DUTTON: Who stocked their fridges ready for the weekend, they are going to have a tough weekend.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, so in reality, you will reduce that seven day requirement to five days, that’s a good thing. Richard, is that enough?

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Oh well, all support is welcome but what this is showing is that Victorians were short-changed during the last lockdown. I mean, Peter is alright, but Scott Morrison and really Josh Frydenberg have demonstrated from day one that they’ve been anti-Victorian and the whole way in which they’ve gone about their business. And what we are seeing is they’re making this stuff up as we go along. I mean, we are literally getting a new version of what is their support package every week and the point to understand is that they budgeted for a lockdown in a major capital every month- that’s in the federal budget. They should have been able to foresee all of this at the time that they ended JobKeeper in March. We should have a consistent package which applies consistently across the country and gives certainty to business and workers. We haven’t had that.

STEFANOVIC: Pete, it’s fair point to have a blueprint ready, we knew there were going to be variants?

DUTTON: Karl, I think what we’ve demonstrated is we’ve been able to adapt. I mean, the Labor Party was critical when we introduced JobKeeper; I think it saved literally hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of jobs. I think businesses would have gone broke without the support of JobKeeper. And we have following that up now. As we are seeing in New South Wales and Victoria, the Delta variant is a very different variant and it is posing more problems and we are adapting to that. And I think that is what you would expect us to do, not just to be locked into the original architecture but to make sure we modify it and update it as the virus evolves. That is, I think the agility that you want to see.

STEFONOVIC: The thing is Pete, people have really had enough now, they’re tired and getting more and more ticked off, whether you like it or not, people, they’re going to blame the slow vaccine rollout for some of this. Could it cost you the next election?

DUTTON: Karl, I think the only focus at the moment is on how we suppress the virus, how we get people vaccinated. Don’t forget at the beginning of the year, Anthony Albanese was telling us to roll AstraZeneca out before the approval had been given by the TGA. So we have put in place, I think, a responsible regime. Yes, we all want the vaccine to be rolled out more quickly but in our country, we haven’t had the tens of thousands of deaths that we have seen overseas and we are not going to. We are going to make sure that we approach it in a prudent way and, as we are seeing now, 9.6 million doses have been delivered, so 10 million within a few days. Ad within a couple of months, by the time we’re rolling out over a million a week, people will be vaccinated and we will move through this stage.

STEFANOVIC: Richard, that is a fair point in Labor’s stand on AstraZeneca. You were fully supportive of AstraZeneca. I didn’t see any red flags being waved at all. I mean, what was the alternative?

MARLES: Well the alternative was to actually put ourselves in the queue of a whole range of vaccine programs and we were critical last year that the government wasn’t doing that. The truth is, they bet the house on AstraZeneca, they bet the house on AstraZeneca doing the job. It wasn’t until this year that they ordered the proper quantities of Pfizer, it wasn’t until this year that they put Australia in the queue of Moderna at all. Last year, in the midst of their self-congratulation, they were complacent. And when you hear Peter talk about being adaptable and agile, that’s the words that this government uses for the fact that it is constantly playing catch-up footy. It doesn’t get out there and lead, it is being led by events. It doesn’t foresee things which are completely foreseeable and last year we should have been spreading risk and putting ourselves in the queue of a whole lot of vaccine programs. Scott Morrison promised we were going to be at the front of the queue. In fact, we now languish at the very bottom of the ladder and all of this it because he said it wasn’t a race. It is a race.

STEFANOVIC: To be fair, Richard, all you’ve really done is whine. You know what will fix things for Labor? Kevin ’27. Don’t you reckon? It has got a ring to it.

MARLES: Well, Keven –

DUTTON: His beard will be down to his belly by then.

MARLES: Listen, Kevin is a former Prime Minister who is doing his bit. The story earlier in –

DUTTON: He is crying out for help, Richard.

MARLES: The story earlier this week is not who Kevin Rudd rang, it is who Scott Morrison didn’t ring. He sits on his hands.

DUTTON: Call him, call him. He’s aching for a friend to call him.

STEFANOVIC: Even for Labor I think, Kevin does wind people up. Anyway, before we go, we have to say, this lottery idea on the front page of the Courier Mail, do you reckon that’s a go, Pete? Do you reckon a million dollars to encourage people to vaccinate, a shot to be a millionaire is what they are saying? Wayne Swan said before it was a little bit like having a lottery without a ticket. Is that true?

DUTTON: Well, I mean, you ‘d ask Wayne Swan about any matters financial, of course. That guy was a disaster. Why do you ask him about financial matters, Karl?

STEFANOVIC: Swanny got us through the GFC.

MARLES: He did get us through the GFC!

DUTTON: Please, pink batts and school halls, blah blah blah, please. Look, I’m in favour of the lottery. I think it’s a great idea. The only two flaws which the company has identified is they need regulation approval and someone to pay for it. So apart from that it seems like a pretty sound proposal. Anything to incentivise people to get vaccinated Karl, I’m in favour of. If you’ve hesitated in getting a vaccination, please go back and see your doctor because the medical advice is clear, get vaccinated as quickly as you can.

STEFONOVIC: Before we go, Happy birthday, Richard. I know you were celebrating in Rockhampton this week, pouring frothies in true Queensland style. Richard, I’ve had a few birthdays in Rocky myself and some of them we can’t remember. Pete, just say something really lovely to Richard on this, his 42nd birthday.

DUTTON: Richard, I missed your birthday. I’m sorry. I’ll send you –

MARLES: That is because I’m in denial!

DUTTON: And with that make-up you’re looking no older than 42, well done.

STEFONOVIC: Oh, sledge city. Thank you, gentlemen. Lovely to talk to you, talk to you very soon.


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