AM Agenda – ruby princess, aged care, vaccine

Monday, 17 August 2020

DANICA DE GIOGRIO, HOST: Time for our political panel, joining me is Labor MP Amanda Rishworth and Liberal MP Julian Simmonds. Good morning to you both thank you so much for joining me. Let’s get straight into it, I want to start with the Ruby Princess, at 11 o’clock this morning the New South Wales Premier will respond to the report that did come out on Friday. Amanda we’ll start with you, the report found serious and inexplicable errors were made by an expert panel of NSW staff. Important to note the report said no Minister should resign over this and that border force were not to blame for the mishap. What do you think would be the appropriate response?

AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: I think we’ve got to look at the report very carefully and make sure that things are put in place to ensure nothing like this happens again. I would make the point that Prime Minister Scott Morrison on 15 of March clearly said that he would have bespoke arrangements in place and that border force would be in command. The report has clearly indicated that border force was not in command on 19 March when passengers disembarked. So while it is clear that there are issues for the New South Wales Government, I think the Australian people would be scratching their heads about why the Prime Minister got a headline on 15 March, and then on 19 March what he said was in place was actually not in place at all.

DE GIOGRIO: Julian what are your thoughts on this? As we’ve just said border force were not to blame for the mishap according to this report, the Premier’s taken the weekend to consider her response, what do you think would be appropriate?

JULIAN SIMMONDS, LIBERAL MEMBER FOR RYAN: I haven’t had a chance to read the report but obviously what would be appropriate is to put in place measures to ensure that we learn from this. Look it’s a global pandemic, no one has got the script or the rule book on how to run these things. Things will not always go perfectly, but the report speaks for itself in terms of the role of the Australian border force. So this continued effort by Labor and particularly by Amanda to play politics with the officers of the Australian border force, to try and impugn their efforts just for a cheap political shot I think is –

RISHWORTH: I’m not doing that Julian, I am pointing to the Prime Minister. It’s the Prime Minister who said arrangements were in place on 15 March, and the passengers disembarked on 19 March. It comes back to the Prime Minister’s credibility here.

SIMMONDS: Well the Prime Minister wasn’t on the dock Amanda. What you had was an expert panel there on the dock to make those sorts of decisions, and the comments you’re making was around the Australian border force personnel that they should’ve been doing more, when the report clearly says they did their jobs. So I don’t think we need to play politics with their efforts.

DE GIOGRIO: Do you think though Julian, we knew what happened with the Diamond Princess which was docked off the coast of Japan for a number of weeks, that Australia could have learnt from the mistakes of the Diamond Princess? We knew the Ruby Princess was arriving a few weeks later, that Australia should have learnt from those mistakes and had a plan in place prior?

SIMMONDS: I think we do need to learn from these situations as they arise in the pandemic, absolutely. So this inquiry and the report is very important to ensure those learnings are had, and thankfully what we’ve now got is answers about this issue which we don’t have in Victoria around hotel quarantine. In Victoria because we have a Premier who has doggedly refused to answer questions even about the meetings he was in or his own state of mind or his own state of knowledge, we’ve been left with no answers and no ability to learn from it. So these inquiries are important and it’s important that things out of the report are implemented.

DE GIOGRIO: I want to move onto aged care now, the Federal Government is sending health authorities to take over two facilities in Victoria. Amanda is enough being done right not to protect aged care residents?

RISHWORTH: Not at all, not at all. The Royal Commission has been absolutely clear that the Government should have done more sooner and that they need to put a national plan in place. The Government’s response has been “we’ll discuss it at the National Cabinet later this week” – that does not indicate the urgency that needs to occur in aged care. I heard Julian just before try to blame Dan Andrews, well he can’t do it with this issue because aged care is solely the responsibility of the Federal Government. We had the Newmarch disaster in New South Wales, and the Government failed to learn from that, failed to put a national plan in place. And when I hear reports that only now there is going to be agreements on rolling out training on infection control in aged care – that is way too late for the aged care facilities, and the residents, and the families who think they are doing the right thing for their loved one by putting them into aged care, only to realise there has been a failure from the Federal Government. Absolutely they need to act with some urgency, not wait later down the week to take heed of the issues that the Royal Commission has pointed out. And one of those is to get a national plan quickly in place so we don’t see this issue continue to plague so many families and so many older Australians.

DE GIOGRIO: Julian there have been reports that residents in some of these facilities were essentially abandoned and that there’s not been enough staff. Given what we have learnt from the Aged Care Royal Commission, does it mean that these lessons are yet to be learnt?

SIMMONDS: I have to reject Amanda’s characterisation completely, I mean the PM has said this is his number one focus, quite rightly. There’s significant federal support going into aged care, there was federal guidelines put in place, a plan if you will, back in March, it’s been updated twice. The Federal Government is assisting to make sure there is a surge workforce in aged care homes –

RISHWORTH: It’s so irresponsible Julian.

SIMMONDS: Hang on, even Daniel Andrews has come forward and said what a good job the PM is doing and that they are working together to make sure that aged care residents are looked after, as they should be. So every federal assistance is there to make sure that we look after aged care residents.

RISHWORTH: The Royal Commission isn’t saying that Julian.

SIMMONDS: Even to the extent that Services Australia is making sure there’s mechanisms in place for families to do Zoom calls and appropriately continue to talk to the aged care residents.

DE GIOGRIO: Let’s move on now, today the Wesfarmers CEO he’s announced that he wants reform to the country’s antiquated tax system. Amanda given the current state of the economy due to this pandemic, is it time to overhaul the tax mix to help create jobs?

RISHWORTH: Our fundamental focus must be on creating jobs, and we need to look at the specifics on the table. But certainly encouraging targeted business investment I think there is a case to be made for, and of course also importantly a jobs agenda. That needs to be on the table. In saying that there’s a lot of ways to skin a cat and I’m not sure the specific tax reform he is talking about. Obviously there is some that will be argued over, but of course boosting business investment and creating jobs needs to be our number one priority as we recover from this pandemic.

DE GIOGRIO: It’s not unusual for business to call for something like this, Julian given the time we are in with the pandemic is this a reasonable request?

SIMMONDS: Well I think what you’ve just heard from that wishy washy answer from Amanda, you can tell it is in Labor’s DNA to tax more and try and redistribute the wealth. The DNA of the Coalition party is simple –

RISHWORTH: That’s not what I said Julian. You’re making things up now.

SIMMONDS: – lower taxes to grow the economy.

RISHWORTH: You just made things up then.

SIMMONDS: Hang on, before COVID we were the party of lower taxes, we had legislated for lower taxes. The Labor Party had gone to the election with $387 billion in extra taxes, imagine if we were carrying that through COVID. So my answer is of course we want to absolutely make sure that you can reduce taxes and taxes are as low as possible. Now I can’t pre-empt the October Budget –

RISHWORTH: Who’s wishy washy now Julian?

SIMMONDS: – but we will be looking for every opportunity to lower taxes that’s for sure.

RISHWORTH: Sounds pretty wishy washy to me.

DE GIOGRIO: It’s a lively debate this morning. I just want to ask you quickly both about a vaccine before we finish. Of course we know that yesterday Greg Hunt said he was certainly optimistic, Amanda how to we ensure Australia does not get left behind?

RISHWORTH: Unfortunately the Government hasn’t moved as quickly as it should have in securing an agreement in terms of a vaccine. It’s really important that if a vaccine is found, Australians have access to it and that we can produce enough doses to make sure our country is protected. So while I welcome the Government’s progress on agreements, they are belated.

We should be investing in vaccine development as well, we have two candidates that I’m aware of in Australia being developed at the moment and we should be looking at investing in those more heavily. This is our ticket out of this pandemic, a vaccine, and I certainly hope we are able to find one. But we need the Government to be working overtime to make sure Australians have access to this, and they’ve been a little late to the table on that.

DE GIOGRIO: Julian do you think the Government has been too slow in entering these negotiations?

SIMMONDS: I heard these talking points from Anthony Albanese this morning, I mean they’re total garbage. Does anybody really think that the Government isn’t committed to helping find a vaccine and making it available to Australians? Of course we are, of course we are making every resource available. You’ve had Scott Morrison standing up in press conference after press conference, and in his bilateral discussions with other nations, calling on these nations if they find a vaccine first to make sure it’s available to everybody in the world, but particularly Australians. You’ve got some great research happening in my own electorate at UQ which is being supported, and the other thing we’re doing is we’re auditing our supply chains and our manufacturing capabilities so that when a vaccine does become available we can manufacture it quickly and make it available to all Australians.

DE GIOGRIO: Well hopefully a bit of hope for Australians that there is some sort of vaccine in the near future. Amanda Rishworth and Julian Simmonds appreciate your time, thank you for joining me this morning.


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