Sky news AM Agenda – Brisbane lockdown, JobKeeper

Monday, 29 March 2021

SUBJECTS: Brisbane lockdown; JobKeeper; Andrew Laming. 

DANICA DE GIOGRIO, HOST: Joining me now live a Labor MP Amanda Rishworth and Liberal MP Julian Simmons, hello to you both. Let’s get straight into it. Julian, I want to start with you. Greater Brisbane has now gone into a three day lockdown due to new COVID cases. You are in Brisbane, do you think that this was the appropriate response?

JULIAN SIMMONDS, LIBERAL MEMBER FOR RYAN: Look good to be with you. I’m not privy to the medical advice that has led to the lockdown. So I hope that it’s there to justify it, and I hope this is what’s needed to get on top of these cases. We saw on the weekend some research to say that one in seven Australians were heading to Queensland for the Easter holidays, was going to be a $1 billion injection into our economy which is so needed for our tourism and hospitality industries at the moment. And I think the lockdown regardless of whether it only lasts three days or longer is going to dent some confidence for those Easter holidays. So I hope that this is what we need for Queensland Health to get on top of these cases.

DE GIOGRIO: Denting confidence before Easter, people’s travel plans have been thrown into disarray, JobKeeper subsidy has now ended. Julian, does it show that the subsidy perhaps ended too quickly because these businesses, they’re now closed for three days and emerging with no government support?

SIMMONDS: I think JobKeeper has certainly done what it was intended to do. It saved 700,000 jobs and it’s got the unemployment rate back to where there are more jobs now than before the pandemic. So it’s right for that nationwide program to end. But that’s not the end of government support. There is plenty of support out there for businesses still, like the Instant Asset Write Off and like the wage subsidy and there’ll be more targeted support if it’s necessary. So this is not a set and forget policy. We’ve shown that throughout the pandemic, and there’s plenty of support still out there for those businesses.

DE GIOGRIO: Amanda in terms of the three day lockdown now in Brisbane, when do these lockdowns end? We now have a vaccine rollout, the program is continuing. At what point do we say that lockdowns should cease to exist?

AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Well, unfortunately, while you’ve got such a low rate of the population vaccinated, it is not a time where you can get rid of the health measures. Certainly when the government said there’d be 4 million people vaccinated by the end of March, and we may get to 300,000, maybe a little over 300,000 people, we are far from the ability to relax, unfortunately, many of those control measures when it comes to the pandemic. But of course, what this lockdown has shown is that we are far from out of the woods yet when it comes to the pandemic. And that the government has turned off the JobKeeper program way too early and they said that the job is done. Well, the job clearly isn’t done when we’re still seeing the spread of COVID and then as a result of no fault of their own, businesses just can’t get back to normal. Whether it’s a lockdown or whether indeed it’s just the social distancing that still needs to be enforced, this is affecting businesses and the government has been too premature to say that there’s no help for them. And I made the point that there are many businesses falling through the cracks when it comes to government support. They’re not getting government support and the Treasury predicts many people will lose their jobs as a result.

DE GIOGRIO: Well, the government has always maintained Amanda that the subsidy can’t go on forever. What was the alternative then to cancelling it?

RISHWORTH: Of course, it can’t go on forever. It was to help businesses get through the pandemic. But as we’ve seen in Brisbane, and now that the vaccine has not been rolled out to the types of levels that are needed to make sure that community is safe. So whether you look at the vaccine rollout, whether you look at this look this latest lockdown at in Brisbane, we are still in the midst of a pandemic and the government needs to calibrate their policy settings to recognise that, and I just don’t think they have.

DE GIOGRIO: Alright, let’s move on now. I want to discuss Andrew Laming, Julian I’ll start with you. In the last hour or so Andrew Laming has issued a very long statement to Sky News, I guess outlining his side of the story. It’s been a very damaging few days for him. Is the government now in crisis?

SIMMONDS: Well no, I don’t think so at all. Forgive me, I haven’t been able to get across his statement, but I know that he has publicly apologised. I know that he’s accepted that his behaviour wasn’t up to the high standards that we all expect. And he’s now going to seek some counselling in that regard, and I think that’s the right next step. So I think he’s accepted that behaviour. And so no, I don’t think that that characterisation is correct at all.

DE GIOGRIO: In the statement to Sky News, in regards to some of the allegations, including that he allegedly took a photo of a woman while she was bending down, he says the photo was taken from a distance showing the worker in a dignified position on both knees, but with far more stock to fit than the fridge would hold. Is that appropriate for a Member of Parliament to say that?

SIMMONDS: Well look, his behaviour in this regard wasn’t appropriate. He has accepted that his behaviour wasn’t appropriate, he has apologised publicly and he is now seeking counselling for that behaviour. We all hold ourselves to a very high standard, I hold myself to a high standard, I know the Prime Minister holds us to a high standard, and the LNP holds us to a high standard. Now, Dr Laming hasn’t met the high standards in that regard, but he’s seeking a way forward to get treatment so that he can change that behaviour and he can meet the highest standards of the people of Bowman. And I think that shows his dedication to the people of Bowman and his dedication to continue to be part of the LNP Morrison government. And that’s the correct way to address it.

DE GIOGRIO: Amanda, the issue of culture has been raised in particular over the last few weeks. When it comes to addressing culture, is this a nationwide response?

RISHWORTH: Firstly, when it comes to the actions of Andrew Laming, I mean it doesn’t meet a high bar, it doesn’t even meet a medium bar. It is completely beyond the pale to have a Member of Parliament behaving like this. And I’m sorry, but empathy training for Andrew Laming, or an empathy consultant for the Prime Minister, I mean we should expect more of our politicians. But when it comes to culture as a whole, we need the Parliament and our politicians to be the gold standard. Of course, what we need to see is reform right across our community. And that’s why we’ve been urging the Federal Government to respond to Kate Jenkins’ report Respect at Work, because that looks at the respect of women and the treatment of women in workplaces right across Australia. But when it comes the Federal Parliament and Federal MPs, the type of alleged behaviour that Andrew Laming has been accused of, actually potentially could be illegal. So I mean, this is terrible behaviour and it brings the whole parliament and all of the work that we do as Members of Parliament into disrepute. I’m deeply concerned and I think Andrew Laming needs to make a decision to go now.

DE GIOGRIO: We will be watching this one closely. Amanda Rishworth and Julian Simmons, we’re out of time. Thank you for joining me this afternoon.

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