AM Agenda – borders

Monday, 14 September 2020

TOM CONNELL, HOST: These pictures coming out of Melbourne, I know it’s always important to have context and obviously there was a protest in the area but do authorities have to be really careful here about either overkill itself or the optics of that appearance, Amanda Rishworth?

AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Of course we need to approach this in a sensitive manner. It is a really difficult time for Victorians, they need to know we around the rest of the country are backing them. But it does require unfortunately for Victorians to make a greater sacrifice. I encourage people to follow the rules and make sure they’re doing the right thing, because the faster Victoria is able to get this virus under control, the faster everyone’s lives can go back to normal. So it is important people follow the rules. Of course our authorities need to make sure they are dealing with this in a sensitive manner, but at the same time they need to be able to enforce the rules and the laws of the State.

CONNELL: So in terms of obeying these rules right now, we’re showing some pictures of what happened yesterday, Julian do you think it is – and for whatever criticisms the Federal Government might have, whatever it might be – that it’s important to talk about getting people to not protest, to not endanger the good efforts so far on the numbers? Because whatever you think of it the numbers are coming down, so might as well hold fire until October 26 if this all proceeds as people want it to?

JULIAN SIMMONDS, LIBERAL MEMBER FOR RYAN: Yeah look I think they’re distressing images Tom and if you’d said to us at the start of the year that we’d see riot police in a local market, complete with the air wing and horses and riot gear and all the rest, we would’ve said this just wouldn’t occur in Australia. I think Amanda’s right, I think we have to support our police officers to enforce the rules that are in place, but I think our hearts are with Victorians. They’re frustrated, they want to see their State Government do more in terms of trying to bring these harsh lockdowns to an end as soon as absolutely possible. They want to see their State Government do more when it comes to contact tracing and other measures that can be used to bring these lockdowns to a swifter end. And they’re frustrated and I completely understand that they’re frustrated, Queenslanders are frustrated up here too.

CONNELL: We’ll get to that in a moment, what do you think on the border issue Amanda Rishworth? Should South Australia really consider, there’s been hints that Steven Marshall might be looking at that, in opening up to New South Wales and the ACT. The tourism sector will really be crying out for this soon, Steven Marshall said a short time ago well Winter doesn’t really help South Australia, we’re into Spring and I’m sure some of those wineries could do with some more visitors. What do you think?

RISHWORTH: I’m not going to play politics as Julian will with this issue, I’m going to be consistent whether they be Liberal Premiers, Labor Premiers, that the Premiers must take the advice from the medical experts. They need to make sure they keep their communities safe. No one wants visitors not coming to our wineries, we’ve got wonderful wineries, we’ve got Kangaroo Island that’s reeling from bushfires and the beautiful Adelaide Hills, there’s so much to see and do, there’s the Yorke Peninsula, the Flinders Ranges. But I’m not going to play politics with this, I’m going to say that we need to support our Premiers with the best possible medical advice. And as soon as the advice says it’s safe to open up, then we want to see that happening. But we can’t do this prematurely, and unfortunately we have a Federal Government that is playing desperate politics with this, awful politics quite frankly, because of a Queensland election. I wonder what Julian would say about the South Australian Premier? But I’m not going to play politics with this, because we need to support the Premiers, follow the best medical advice, and get this virus under control, so we can go about our lives.

CONNELL: Just on that, that’s the issue though isn’t it, medical advice doesn’t say shut the borders, that’s not the form of it. It talks about risks, it talks about modelling, it talks about how well prepared a system might be to handle the risk for example coming out of New South Wales. Aren’t we in a position right now, and we’ve seemed to have mission creep on this, if you’d said six months ago this would be the daily number of cases from New South Wales and also community transmission is very, very low, do you imagine the borders would be open surely it would’ve been yes. Don’t we need to also balance advice on risk with the economy going?

RISHWORTH: Of course but if we have an outbreak, if we see what has happened in Victoria happen elsewhere, then the economy is going to shut down again. An economy that opens and shuts like that is really not helpful. So I know the Premiers are trying to get the best possible advice from their Chief Medical Officers, from others, whether that’s the police in their States and Territories, and they’re trying to do the best. Of course we want to see the economies open up, of course we want to, whether it’s in Queensland or South Australia, have families reunited. But what we have is a Federal Government taking zero responsibility and acting like they are the Opposition to the Premiers. They act as if they have no responsibility and all they do is say “why don’t the Premiers do this, why don’t the Premiers do that”. Quite frankly –

CONNELL: I mean we heard Annastacia Palaszczuk say the decision’s not mine, I’m not sure if she’s going to expand on how or why she couldn’t intervene even if she wanted to. That’s not taking any responsibility is it? If a bureaucrat is making the decisions, they’ll go for zero risk because why would you risk COVID coming in if you’re the Chief Health Officer? If you’re a politician who has got to worry about the economy as well, then you’re balancing the issues.

RISHWORTH: Of course the Premiers in each State and Territory have put things in place, they are responsible for the health system. If the emergency departments and ICUs get overcrowded, we won’t have a Prime Minister taking responsibility. We’ve seen what the Prime Minister has done to Victoria, blamed Daniel Andrews constantly, so if you’re too cautious you get blamed by this Prime Minister if you’re a Premier, if anything goes wrong then you’re also blamed by this Prime Minister. He is taking zero responsibility.

CONNELL: Julian if the borders are open soon in terms of Queensland and cases pop up, would you and the Federal Government say we were wrong and take some responsibility for it?

SIMMONDS: Clearly Tom the Federal Government is taking responsibility. We’ve already put more than $300 billion worth of support into the Australian economy, because we’re taking responsibility for protecting people’s lives and protecting people’s livelihoods. And other than the exception of the New South Wales and Victorian border when cases were over 700 in Victoria, the federal health advice has not been to close internal borders. The federal advice has been the best thing we can do to control COVID, the best thing the Premiers can do to control COVID, is to have good contact tracing regimes in place, good testing regimes in place, good quarantine regimes in place, that’s what we saw fall down in Victoria. And as I said Queenslanders are bloody frustrated, they’re frustrated at the inconsistencies of the border decisions coming out here in Queensland where they’re watching on the nightly news a 400 person hub of AFL people who have come directly from hotspots in Melbourne Victoria, who can lounge around the pool at a hotel. And yet a 26 year old woman from Canberra where there hasn’t been a case in 60 days can’t get out get out of hotel quarantine for a few hours to attend her father’s funeral.

CONNELL: Yeah all of the AFL competition is in quarantine so they weren’t allowed to leave quarantine either. Let me ask you I know your thoughts on Queensland, what about Tasmania and South Australia to a lesser extent? Tasmania put up their borders first, they have a very, very low threshold for anyone coming in including humanitarian cases from Melbourne. So will you offer the same criticism of Peter Gutwein right now?

SIMMONDS: I’d offer the same advice which is the Federal Government health advice is that internal borders aren’t the best way to control COVID. The best way to control COVID is to test and have quarantine in place and have contact tracing in place, and we need to protect Australians lives and livelihoods. Look the Premiers made the decisions to close borders, they’ve got to accept responsibility and it has to be –

CONNELL: So you’re applying that just as equally to Steven Marshall and Peter Gutwein then just to clarify?

SIMMONDS: Sure, if they want to close their borders and take responsibility for it so be it. But the Queensland Premier is not taking responsibility for her decision to close the borders, she’s simply passing it to a bureaucrat who –

CONNELL: So is Peter Gutwein though, Peter Gutwein said it’s up to the head of Police there on exemptions as well. So again same criticism?

SIMMONDS: Yeah I’d be consistent and say it’s up to the Premiers to take responsibility, because the health advice is they should have in place testing and contact tracing –

RISHWORTH: Can I ask Julian will you take responsibility and your government for not having a contact tracing app that works? That was meant to be the ticket out, it was meant to be supporting States and Territories to actually be able to find cases. It has been a failure and maybe the Federal Government should take some responsibility as to contact tracing through electronic means has been a failure.

SIMMONDS: Well the COVIDSafe app is an important way we can contact trace and we would expect the Premiers to use it, and also to use the ADF resources –

RISHWORTH: It doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.

SIMMONDS: – and the support of federal health officials that’s been offered to them. And Daniel Andrews hasn’t done that.

CONNELL: Alright I’ll leave it there, we’ll talk again soon Julian Simmonds, Amanda Rishworth, thank you.


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