AM Agenda – borders, Eden-Monaro

Monday, 06 July 2020

ANNELISE NIELSEN, HOST: Joining us live is Liberal MP Julian Simmonds, and Shadow Early Childhood Education Minister, Amanda Rishworth. Thank you both for your time, we’ll start with the story we’re going to get to next. President Kanye, what do you reckon Amanda Rishworth, would you vote for him?

AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Well I don’t like to get involved in the politics of another country but of course what is great about democracy is anyone can put their hand up and anyone can run, and it’ll be up to the American people about who they want to see as their next President.

NIELSEN: And it’s pretty cool you can write in a candidate in the US election on the ballot, you don’t have to go with whoever the major party decides to put up. Julian Simmonds would he get your vote?

JULIAN SIMMONDS, LIBERAL MEMBER FOR RYAN: Given a go at it I think he’d get my vote, but it’s a strange fusion of celebrity and politics isn’t it. I suppose it’s the way a lot of it is going around the world these days.

NIELSEN: And his wife Kim’s done some pretty impressive work for justice for African Americans who are incarcerated, there’s an incredibly high rate in the United States. But we’ll get back to the big stories in Australia now, the situation in Victoria is increasingly dire. It comes at the same time the Australian Medical Association is saying we should hold off easing those restrictions. Amanda Rishworth do you think it’s time to hit pause?

RISHWORTH: Obviously we’ve got to be guided by the medical advice, that is a constant. It is different in different places in the country, and so State Governments are responding differently. Julian’s been very critical of Annastacia Palaszczuk for having been cautious about the borders. I think now seeing what’s happening in Melbourne and knowing that we want to contain the spread, a lot of State Governments have been cautious, have done the right thing. I think we need to continue to follow that medical advice, continue to act cautiously, while at the same time recognise that we don’t want to stay closed any longer than we have to. And that’s really, really important, and it’s also important that our industries do get the support they need. So a cautious approach, but we do need to follow the medical advice. The States and Territories have been working very well responding to the different needs of their communities, I think we need to continue to do that.

NIELSEN: Julian Simmonds last time you were on you were saying Queensland did need to move to lift the border restrictions as soon as possible, would that have been a mistake?

SIMMONDS: And the borders are still a mess up here in Queensland frankly, we have three hour waits at the borders with how Annastacia Palaszczuk’s managing this. You’ve got empty police stations in the heart of the Gold Coast who aren’t doing any community policing because they’re sitting on the border. So it’s a management issue, but we do have the twin concerns of both the economic and health crisis, and Australians have to remember this is why we did the lockdown in the first place, so that our health system wouldn’t be overwhelmed, so that we could gear up the ICU capacity, PPE gear capacity, we knew there would be hotspots. And when we put things in place like contract tracing we knew there would be flare ups in the future. So what we now have to do is find a way to live with this virus and ensure that our economy can continue on in the face of this virus. Where there is hotspots, we follow the medical advice, we track them down and we get on top of them. But we also need to make sure our economy continues to fire.

RISHWORTH: Sounds like a back down to me Julian.

NIELSEN: There is this ongoing question though about what the safe level is, do we have to have zero cases in the community before we start easing those restrictions?

RISHWORTH: Of course one of the things that has been very, very clear is it is different in different parts of the country. I think it’s got to be responded to in that way. I guess once again I would be guided by what the medical officials are saying, and at the moment things are looking concerning in Melbourne there’s no doubt about it. I guess over coming weeks we’ll see how the measures that have been put in place will work, I have full confidence that everything is being done there to ensure this doesn’t spread. But we’ve got to be vigilant, I’m not sure if there’s a number but we’ve got to be cautious, we’ve got to be vigilant. And we’ve got to make sure that the public health message is spread, making sure people do get tested if they’re sick, they follow the rules of social distancing and the like.

NIELSEN: If we can move to Eden-Monaro, it’s the by-election political nerds across the country were watching because it would have been a big loss for Labor if you had lost. We do have Kristy McBain claiming victory, Fiona Kotvojs hasn’t conceded yet, waiting until the AEC declares it because it is such a tight race. But Julian Simmonds what do you make of the result? It wasn’t a victory for the Government, you didn’t manage to push through and it seems like that message that the Liberals were saying of managing the coronavirus pandemic well hasn’t cut through in Eden-Monaro.

SIMMONDS: Yeah but even their own Labor MPs call it an ugly victory, and it was an ugly victory I think for Labor. When they’ve got 100 years of history against the Government, you’ve got Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese basically pitching his tent and living in Eden-Monaro for a couple weeks, to have their primary vote go backwards by such a significant margin and to have the Liberal primary vote go forward. I think there’ll be a lot of messages flying around the caucus Whatsapp group this week and today to talk about whether Anthony Albanese is really up to the job, if in a by-election with 100 years where a government hasn’t won it, he can’t get an increase in the primary vote.

NIELSEN: Amanda Rishworth are texts going in Whatsapp?

RISHWORTH: Absolutely not, the only texts going around are congratulations to Kristy McBain and Anthony Albanese. Quite frankly Julian I can see you’ve taken the lessons of government spin there, it’s a bit like Angus Taylor saying oh it’s going to bad for the Labor Party whether we lost or won. I mean ultimately this was always going to be a tough election, we’re in the middle of a pandemic, the traditional ways of campaigning, doorknocking, meeting and greeting, that just wasn’t as possible in this pandemic –

SIMMONDS: That’s spin isn’t it Amanda? I mean every by-election for 100 years the average swing against the government is 3.8 per cent, and you’re blaming the fact you couldn’t doorknock that you got a vote against you.

RISHWORTH: It’s the truth, there were a lot of candidates, middle of a pandemic, a lot of factors. None of the other by-elections have been held in the middle of a pandemic, so there’s a lot of challenges in this by-election. But I’m not sure what the criticism was from Julian then, that Anthony Albanese turned up when the Prime Minister didn’t? I mean I’m not sure where he was going there. But it was a hard fought campaign and I’d like to offer my sincere congratulations to Kristy McBain, she will make an absolutely fabulous member of the Caucus and I really look forward to welcoming her and I congratulate the whole Labor team. It was tough, it was a difficult by-election in a difficult time. If Julian is suggesting these aren’t unusual and extraordinary circumstances we’re in at the moment then he hasn’t paid attention to what’s happening.

SIMMONDS: It just sounds like you’re having to make a lot of excuses for Anthony Albanese’s leadership already, that’s what it looks like Amanda.

RISHWORTH: Of course you’re jumping in with that. Where was Scott Morrison? Why hasn’t he been able to translate his alleged popularity into –

SIMMONDS: We got an increase in our primary vote.

RISHWORTH: And the National Party went down. I mean you can do all the spin you want Julian but the truth of the matter is this was a difficult election under difficult circumstances, and I’m congratulate Kristy McBain for doing a fabulous job and Anthony Albanese for his great leadership.

NIELSEN: One thing I did notice in the lead up to this by-election was in the early days a lot of the discussion was around climate change because that was seen as a particular issue with bushfires hitting this region so hard, this is where the Prime Minister famously during the bushfires couldn’t get the locals to shake his hand. But then the last few days it’s seemed to just go really quiet and neither candidate mentioned climate change in their speeches on election night. Julian Simmonds do you think that could have impacted what was happening on the ground?

SIMMONDS: I just think it’s probably a function of the concerns of locals on the ground, you know the most pressing issues for them are of course the pandemic and the economic crisis, but also rebuilding after the bushfires. Probably climate change is still a concern at the back of their minds, but I don’t think anyone would begrudge them focusing on the here and now, and the here and now for them is rebuilding after the bushfires, rebuilding after the pandemic, and I don’t think anyone begrudges them that. And I don’t think we can read too much into it for the broader electorate.

NIELSEN: Amanda Rishworth has this become a bit too much of a hot potato for Labor to handle on the ground? We saw it really cost you guys votes in Queensland.

RISHWORTH: What we ran in Eden-Monaro was a very local campaign. There are very significant issues with money not flowing from Government for people affected by the bushfires. There are people still living in caravans, still living in tents, still worried about their day to day basic needs because the money hasn’t flowed and the rebuilding has not begun as fast as they needed it. So I think there was a number of those issues, there was obviously concern around the pandemic, and also local health issues. One example was the famous question asked to the Prime Minister about what do you say to women having to give birth on the side of the road, and his response was build another lane. It’s those important issues people are facing at the moment, and it was certainly the issues that Labor continued to talk about and engage the public with. And we will continue to advocate on the issues that are impacting people every single day.

NIELSEN: We’re going to have to leave it there but a fun week in politics, Amanda Rishworth and Julian Simmonds thank you both for your time.

ENDS

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