AM Agenda – Upper Hunter by election, vaccine passports

Monday, 24 May 2021

SUBJECTS: Upper Hunter by election; vaccine passports. 

TOM CONNELL, HOST: Welcome back, joining me live now my panel in the studio Labor MP Amanda Rishworth, from the Liberal Party Julian Simmonds, thanks both for your time. Why don’t we start on the Upper Hunter, bit of dissection about what this means. Does Labor need to sort of think about its approach in this region ahead of the federal election?

AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Well of course, we don’t want to take any region in Australia for granted. But I think if there’s some sort of extrapolation out of a State by-election result, then if we look at Queensland and Western Australia, we’ll be winning a lot of seats in resource rich States. So I think those sort of arguments here that –

CONNELL: It’s a very resource specific seat though, versus an election in Queensland as a State.

RISHWORTH: Well, I mean, let’s be clear, we’re talking about a State by-election. If you want to talk about State elections and look at Western Australia and look at Queensland, the Labor brand did very well in those places. If you want to make that comparison, if you want to actually look at the results and see that in some areas Labor’s vote actually went up, if you want to make that argument. I mean, I think that really, some of this is drawing a long bow. And I think if Scott Morrison and the Liberal Party are trying to somehow turn this in, then they should be very worried about Queensland and Western Australia.

CONNELL: What about Joel Fitzgibbon, what about what he’s saying about this?

RISHWORTH: Well, I haven’t actually been watching Joel Fitzgibbon this morning. I haven’t, I’ve been busy, I’ve been doing a press conference talking about child care and Labor’s plan for child care. Look, I’m sure Joel’s entitled to his opinion, but –

CONNELL: Here we go I’ll give it to you, we are a news service here at Sky News. “82 per cent turned up at the polling booth to vote on Saturday, voted for a party that clearly enunciated its support to the coal mining industry. The problem for Labor is we said it, but they didn’t believe us.” Is he right?

RISHWORTH: Well, I wasn’t on the ground. But I would have to say that if you make that argument, you can look at places that are resource intensive in Queensland, and see that people voted for Labor. There were some unique things happening in a State by-election. And the result in some places were better for Labor. So I’m not sure how that all fits together.

CONNELL: Matt Canavan’s been on saying there’s lessons for the Nationals, he thinks there’s not enough embrace of coal. What do you think of that?

JULIAN SIMMONDS, LIBERAL MEMBER FOR RYAN: Well, I think what the party is embracing and what the party is doing with its policies is working to keep energy costs down for Australians and supporting the mining industry in the process, of course, but also supporting reducing carbon emissions. And what Australians know from this government, from the Morison Government, is that we support their jobs, we support keeping costs down for families, and that’s what they voted for. They feel like Labor was losing touch with that, and I don’t blame them. Joel thinks that too.

CONNELL: Do you think there are many voters in Australia as a percentage that support a new coal fired power station?

SIMMONDS: Well, I think we’ve committed money in order to do the business case on that –

CONNELL: That’s not the question.

SIMMONDS: But we haven’t announced that.

CONNELL: What about the question I asked?

SIMMONDS: I think the majority of Australians are focused on keeping the cost of electricity down, but they also want to see emissions reduced. And the government is achieving both of those aims at the moment. We’ve made commitments about what we are supporting, so rather than talk about hypotheticals, I’d rather talk about what this government is doing.

CONNELL: I’m just asking what you see as voter support for new coal, as some of your colleagues are pushing for in Australia.

SIMMONDS: Well, I think the government does support the coal industry, but we also support reducing emissions and we are doing both at the moment.

CONNELL: Okay, vaccine passports, it’s been rebranded apparently, it’s not a passport, but it gives you the ability to travel, not be locked down, look at Melbourne today as an example, if you’ve been vaccinated. Is this a good idea to get incentive going?

RISHWORTH: Look, I think what would be a good idea to restore confidence in the vaccine program is for the government to do its job, to do the basic thing of making vaccines available in a timely way. Not sending mixed messages like we’ve seen from Greg Hunt, who on one day said go and get your vaccine, on the next day he says just wait –

CONNELL: He didn’t say just wait.


RISHWORTH: I am ready and willing to get my vaccine as soon as I can. I’ve been very clear about that. It is the government itself that is failing the test for the Australian people.

CONNELL: What he said was go out and get AstraZeneca now, for people that do want an mRNA later in the year that would be available. It that wrong to say that?

RISHWORTH: What he is telling people is.. that doesn’t give confidence to the people.

CONNELL: So should he not have said that?

RISHWORTH: What I think he should have said is to give confidence to people about the vaccine –

CONNELL: So should he not have mentioned that they’ll be –

RISHWORTH: Well I’d like to see his targets and whether there will be enough. Is there going to be enough for the under 50s as well as everyone that’s holding off? I mean, that is a big question.


SIMMONDS: There is enough vaccines for all Australians. Every Australian that wants a vaccine will get a vaccine.

RISHWORTH: Which vaccine Julian?


SIMMONDS: Based on the health advice they’re both very effective.

CONNELL: Are you saying AstraZeneca should be seen as an inferior vaccine?

RISHWORTH: I am not saying that, Greg Hunt’s the one that inferred that by saying, if you’ve got concerns, rather than reassuring Australians about it, he said just wait.

CONNELL: Did he say just wait?

RISHWORTH: He told people that it would be available so they could wait.


RISHWORTH: That was what the inference was, and I can tell you, I’ve been –

CONNELL: Inferences are only made by the person drawing them.

RISHWORTH: Well, I will tell you, that’s the inference drawn by many people, because I’ve been told by people in my community, they’re now going to wait.

CONNELL: What do you think of the passport idea that’s still pushing, despite some pushback?

SIMMONDS: I think what we’re talking about is there is an upside of people getting vaccinated, we shouldn’t lose sight of that. And that is if there’s going to be lockdowns to deal with COVID, then people who are vaccinated, what we’re talking about is their ability to move in and out of lockdown freely. And you know, this is the whole benefit of Australians getting vaccinated, they should remember there an upside and that is more free movement, whether it’s nationally or internationally. If you have access vaccinated, go and get a vaccine. If you’re in a category that can get one right now, go and do it.

CONNELL: Clearly you back that passport idea? A lot of people saying will you create two classes of people, difficulties with logistics and –

SIMMONDS: Well don’t get bogged down in the semantics of it, because National Cabinet will discuss it. But what I support very strongly is that people who get the vaccine, there’s an upside to that, there should be benefits to it, because they don’t get COVID and carry COVID the same way with people without a vaccine.

CONNELL: Do you back the idea or not?

RISHWORTH: Well, I want to see the government do its job –

CONNELL: We’ve discussed that, fair enough, a lot of people would say the vaccine role is not going well.

RISHWORTH: At the moment, I mean imagine telling everyone in a lockdown that couldn’t get the vaccine, hasn’t been able to get the vaccine, that you’re not allowed to move –

CONNELL: So don’t do it because –

RISHWORTH: No what I’m saying –


RISHWORTH: Let’s see the plan, this is a thought bubble. There is no detail about this, there’s no –

CONNELL: It’s pretty simple. You’ve been vaccinated, you should –

RISHWORTH: Well what happens if you can’t get vaccinated, like many hundreds of thousands of people?


RISHWORTH: Is that fair?

CONNELL: Well, you tell me?

RISHWORTH: I mean, there are many questions about when will this come in? Would it be when everyone’s got the chance to be –

CONNELL: You can talk broadly about the idea, it’s not a complicated one.

RISHWORTH: I don’t think you can do this when there are millions of Australians that cannot get the vaccine.

CONNELL: So your issue would be for the people that haven’t been able to do this, they’re disadvantaged.

RISHWORTH: There are so many people that are disadvantaged as a result, because the government itself has stuffed up its job.

CONNELL: Right. So you’re against the idea because of the inequality?

RISHWORTH: I think when you’ve got 1 per cent of the – Julian talked about hypotheticals before – when you’ve got 1 per cent of the population fully vaccinated, then this is really a hypothetical discussion.

SIMMONDS: You’re just having a bob each way, this is what Labor does. This should be a pretty simple principle. If you’re vaccinated –

RISHWORTH: Well good luck to the 99 per cent that aren’t.

CONNELL: Julian, Amanda, talk next time.


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