ABC Afternoon Briefing – AusPost, vaccine rollout

Thursday, 08 April 2021

HOST: Today I’m joined by Senator Matt Canavan in the beautiful Queensland seaside town and Labor’s Amanda Rishworth in the equally desirable location of Adelaide. Welcome to you both. Matt, can I just start with you if you don’t mind because this Christine Holgate issue has had a development while we’ve been on air. The former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has tweeted that the political bullying of Christine Holgate is “one of the worst episodes of brutish misogyny I have seen in politics, the PM should apologise, Australia Post should do the same, and Holgate should be reinstated”, he tweeted that but 20 minutes ago. So Senator Canavan, do you think that Christine Holgate has been the victim of brutish misogyny and should be reinstated?

MATT CANAVAN, NATIONAL PARTY SENATOR FOR QUEENSLAND: Well, I’ll say no and yes – I think I’ve got the order right – I don’t think it’s an example of anything broader here. It’s pretty transparent what happened. Ms Holgate gave evidence to a Senate Committee where I think that it was incorrect of her to provide watches as bonuses. She also made some statements about the use of taxpayers money, which I think grated against all Australians as she was in charge of a public agency, she should have been treating money as the taxpayers’. And as a result of that she stood down. That is the first point of view. You can’t forget that and even Christine herself, I’ve met with her and discussed these issues, she admits that things could have been put better to that Senate Committee. The second question or the second issue you’ve raised there, should she be reinstated? Well, I think we should consider it, I’ve said that to the Prime Minister and to the Minister. Since this has occurred there’s been an outpouring of support from customers, from licenced post offices who I particularly talked to a lot, and she obviously did a very good job. Now she’s made a few mistakes. I think we’re in a situation where perhaps the punishment hasn’t fitted the crime. There’s a question of whether she resigned or didn’t, but there is still a vacancy, and I think she did a great job and perhaps should continute.

HOST: The obvious problem is going to be what the board would make of that suggestion, Senator Canavan, how do you resolve that conflict?

CANAVAN: Yeah, that’s a matter for them to consider. But there’s no question that she was doing a good job with the same board before all of this happened. There’s a lot of great feedback, she brought in new business for Australia Post, she’s an extremely well regarded business leader in this country. So I think we were lucky to have someone of her calibre leading the organisation and and we all make mistakes. And Christine has been upfront with that she has learned lessons through this process. And I just don’t know whether some miss-chosen words in a Senate Committee should lead to her leaving and that expertise going out the door from a very important government agency.

HOST: Amanda Rishworth I’m going to bring you in here. How do you feel about the treatment of Christine Holgate? What should happen from here?

AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Well I am concerned that there are some double standards here. We have a Prime Minister that effectively sacked Christine Holgate from the floor of Parliament House, and at the same time has relied on protecting his Minister, Christian Porter, saying he’s entitled to due process. We have a Andrew Laming, a Member of Parliament that there’s been some shocking allegations about and the Prime Minister has backed him in and said he’s a fit and proper person to be in Parliament and should continue to serve his term. So I think a lot of Australians would be scratching their heads. Do I think the buying of Cartier watches was appropriate use of taxpayers money? No, I don’t. But the double standards here are pretty significant. There’s some pretty serious allegations as well about what the chair of the board knew and his signing off on this and some conflicting information that I think the Senate Committee must investigate very thoroughly. There’s some pretty serious allegations that need to be further examined.

HOST: Senator Canavan, can I just bring in perhaps one of your Queensland colleagues here, Andrew Laming. Under investigation it would appear for operating allegedly up to 30 Facebook pages pushing pro-LNP messages. That’s the allegation the AEC is going to look at it. He’s already under the spotlight over some other issues. Do you think he should stay as a member of the LNP party room?

CANAVAN: Obviously there’s been some serious allegations made around Andrew and he’s admitted to certain inappropriate conduct. I don’t think though that he is in a situation where he should be forced out, in fact, you’ve got to be careful, you cannot force someone to leave Parliament as such. In terms of our own party room, he’s obviously going through a process to improve his conduct and behaviour. And when you look back at historical examples where the Labor Party have kept people as part of their party room, or part of the supporting their government, there’s been much, much worse conduct than what we’ve seen here. So I note the opportunistic calls from the Labor Party here for him to go. They’ve obviously got a very solid political interest in seeing that happen, but it’s not particularly consistent with their past practices and managing their own Members of Parliament.

HOST: Amanda Rishworth, is it consistent?

RISHWORTH: Well I’m not sure what Matt is referring to. But –

CANAVAN: I can list them off if you like.

RISHWORTH: We’re in this day and age where the Prime Minister is standing up, he wants to lead the country and he wants to be taken seriously when it comes to a better behaviour. And he could start by calling out Andrew Laming’s behaviour. He should start –

CANAVAN: He has.

RISHWORTH: He’s done what he normally does. A few glib sentences “Oh, I don’t like it very much” but he’s taken no action. Actions speak louder than words and when it comes to this Prime Minister, often his words that he’s spoken are not backed up by actions. I think when the Prime Minister wants to be taken seriously when it comes to better conduct of MPs, he could start by actually taking action when it comes to Andrew Laming and not just cry crocodile tears.

HOST: Matt, I guess the Prime Minister could easily just pick up the phone to the President of the LNP and say his membership’s got to be cancelled?

CANAVAN: I think it’s got to be a step that’s taken for the most serious situations. And while Andrew’s conduct, he’s admitted himself, he could have done things better, he has at this stage not been even alleged to have committed any crime. There’s been some inappropriate behaviour, it’s been dealt with. And I don’t think it reaches that standard, as I say the historical record is clear. And Amanda challenged me there. Well Craig Thompson stayed part of your party room –

RISHWORTH: He sat on the crossbench.

CANAVAN: Peter Slipper –

RISHWORTH: He wasn’t in our partyroom.


CANAVAN: Peter Slipper but you relied on him, you made him Speaker of the Parliament. Not only was he in your partyroom, you made him Speaker of the House.

RISHWORTH: He was not in our partyroom.


CANAVAN: You went even further than that and that was after he was exposed for terribly misogynistic conduct much, much worse than what we’ve seen.


RISHWORTH: Well I think bullying your constituents is pretty bad. But if the Prime Minister wants to stamp out this behaviour, if he wants to be taken seriously, he could do that. But he’s choosing not to.

HOST: Yeah, it does seem Matt that you’re in a very merciful mood. Christine Holgate should get a job back, Andrew Laming could should keep his job, but let’s move on to vaccines. Because overnight, we saw the UK order that they should stop giving the AstraZeneca vaccine to under 30s. We’re currently in the kind of hours where all of the health authorities are considering what to do here. Should we pause until we get the ruling from the health officials?

CANAVAN: Well, I called for a pause a few weeks ago and was absolutely derided. But to some extent, the evidence has borne the position I had out here that there are concerns, we need to be careful. Now I called for pause when other countries were be doing the same and it was very early on, we didn’t really know the impact. We now know these are very rare instances and most countries are not pausing the rollout of AstraZeneca. Although I would say now majority are putting restrictions around its rollout to certain categories. And I think that’s what we’ve got to look at now. So I’m happy to wait for our health authorities to look at this evidence. But everything seems to be pointing to the fact that there possibly are subpopulations or some parts of our population that would have a higher risk from receiving AstraZeneca. And what we need to do is have alternatives for them. I think it’s very desperate here now that we do seek to get alternative vaccines from other sources. We’re in this situation, not through any fault of the government, but we need to be flexible and respond here, given the evidence that’s emerged about this particular vaccine.

HOST: Amanda Rishworth should we pause the process like Matt Canavan was saying? Are you worried it might send the wrong message about the safety of them which, you know, obviously, the authorities are very confident in?

RISHWORTH: Obviously the decision by the TGA is imminent, so I have confidence in our health authorities. But I do agree with Matt, it is desperate that we get other alternatives. I think the gold standard is five or six alternatives in a bank of options for any one country. Because getting vaccinated is our ticket out of this, it is our ticket back to some sort of normal life. And I think it was very concerning that the government put all its eggs in one basket, or two baskets really, the Pfizer and the AstraZeneca, but we don’t have many of the Pfizer vaccines. So the majority of the population does have to rely on AstraZeneca. So I do think it is incumbent on the government. Unfortunately, I think they missed the opportunity to do that when AstraZeneca was looking very promising, they didn’t get a portfolio of vaccines, which I think is concerning. I agree with Matt, I do think it’s important for them to seriously look at having a range of options for people in this country because I would like to encourage everyone to get a vaccination. It does mean that we get back to life a bit more normal, we avoid these lockdowns and other difficulties that COVID poses. So working hard to get an array of vaccines I think is very, very important.

HOST: Yes, indeed. Okay thank you very much for your time today.


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