Monday, 01 February 2021
TOM CONNELL, HOST: Let’s go now live to my panel, Labor MP Amanda Rishworth and Liberal MP Julian Simmonds. Thanks both for your time. Let’s start on WA, I think the interesting part about this is the security guard possibly had this second job as a rideshare driver. And daily testing only started in WA on Friday of quarantine workers. I mean, they weren’t ready for this were they?
AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Every State and Territory is managing the best they can. The Federal Government has completely abdicated its responsibility when it comes to hotel quarantine, and –
CONNELL: New South Wales tests daily and has been doing for a while, WA doesn’t. How is that the Federal Government’s fault?
RISHWORTH: Well where’s the leadership here? Where is Scott Morrison? Where is the national quarantine plan? I mean, these are questions for the government. Instead, the Federal Government sits by and just watches from the sidelines. I mean, is there a national government or is there not?
CONNELL: There was the national AHPPC all decided on this daily testing of security guard workers in hotel quarantine. New South Wales did it, WA didn’t, how is that the Federal Government’s fault?
RISHWORTH: Where is their national approach?
RISHWORTH: Well as far as the Federal Government goes, they have been taking a less than active role in quarantine. I don’t think you can say that they’re leading the nation, they’re not. But when it comes to what went wrong in this hotel quarantine, we know that there’s been problems in hotel quarantine in New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria. We need to see a thorough review to work out what’s happened and make sure that those changes and any improvements are made –
JULIAN SIMMONDS, LIBERAL MEMBER FOR RYAN: – we know that from Victoria. You talk about needing to learn the lessons, well we learned that lesson quite some time ago. I mean, it blows my mind that Western Australia –
RISHWORTH: Where’s the national quarantine facilities? Where’s Scott Morrison in all of this? He is absent.
SIMMONDS: Well Amanda would have you think that everything’s the federal government fault. I mean, honestly, this is the State Government run quarantine. How were they not testing these workers daily so that they can pick this up beforehand?
CONNELL: And that question has been asked. But what about the national element to this and the review on hotel quarantine conducted by Jane Halton? It did talk about more federal facilities that could be opened up. It’s quite a few months in, the vaccine won’t be rolled out fully for many, many months. That’s a fair question too, isn’t it?
SIMMONDS: Your point is made because we have had these reviews, they have been discussed at national cabinet.
CONNELL: What’s the point of review if it’s not enacted?
SIMMONDS: – we’ve learned these lessons. Well they should be acted on by the States, absolutely.
CONNELL: No, no, what I’m talking about is the review that was conducted last year, I think it was handed down in October that spoke about more federal facilities. Howard Springs has opened up since then, but just one.
CONNELL: It’d be better if we had more of them, that were in places where they weren’t going to possibly infect a city and shut down a city.
SIMMONDS: Well, we’re continuing to work to make sure that we get as many Australians home as want to come home. And we have got an awful lot of them back already through quarantine. But every time States go into lockdown, then it throws those plans into disarray again, and these lockdown can be avoided. If State Premiers instituted testing and tracing arrangements that they had more faith in, they wouldn’t need to go into lockdown every time they had one or two or three cases.
CONNELL: Are you hoping federal facilities are still being worked on?
SIMMONDS: I’m hoping and I know that the Federal Government is doing everything to get Australians home, where that can include federal facilities I know that it will. But ideally, you want these run in States, in capital cities where you have got the health requirements that are needed, you know, like psychologists, like nurses like testing procedures.
CONNELL: The stimulus tap is what Scott Morrison is going to talk about today in his speech. It can’t go on forever, debt will already go up to a trillion dollars and realistically beyond that, as well. Is he right to say this is not an endless stream of money?
RISHWORTH: Well of course it’s not an endless stream of money. But also it’s important that we have an economy that can get back on its feet. And we know that if the stimulus is turned off too soon, particularly in those industries that haven’t been able to bounce back, then what we know is that we will have a floundering economy. We will have more people unemployed, and we’ll have businesses go to the wall. So what I’d like to see from this Prime Minister is a plan. There is 1.6 million people relying on JobKeeper at the moment, what’s his plan for those people at the end of next month? We need to know what that plan is, those businesses need to know what that plan is. Will he support them? Because we know that conditions are not back to normal, we know we’re still in the middle of this pandemic. The vaccine won’t have worked its magic by the end of March. So what is the Prime Minister’s plan? Particularly for those areas that have not been off to bounce back through no fault of their own.
CONNELL: It has to at least be a watching brief, doesn’t it? Now part of the PM’s argument is there’s money out there to spend, we have this huge saving rate. But it’s an unknown what happens in April. So should the government be ready to sort of pump the levers again if needed?
SIMMONDS: Well of course, I mean these have never been set and forget policies. And I think what you’ll see from the Prime Minister in the speech today is another iteration, that we are there to support Australians and Australian workers, and we will continue to put in the support that they need. But let’s not deal in hypotheticals, let’s deal with what is happening right now and that is the economic recovery is progressing and progressing well. I’m seeing businesses in my electorate graduating off JobKeeper. They can deal with JobKeeper ending because they understand how to work their business, or most of them, a lot of them have graduated off JobKeeper. But what they can’t deal with though is the sudden lockdowns, and that’s what’s dealt the biggest blow to the Queensland tourism industry is when you can have a lockdown with six hours notice. How do you deal with your bookings –
CONNELL: When you say they’re ready to go without JobKeeper, does that include all Queensland tourism businesses?
SIMMONDS: Well, I think we’ll continue to support industries and look at industries but yes, I think –
CONNELL: Well we haven’t heard that yet. We don’t yet know what happens in April. If you’re operating a tourism business up in Cairns, you don’t know what is happening on April 1 do you.
SIMMONDS: The example from the Cairns tourism operator in the Australian is a good one, it’s exactly what I’m talking about. He’s known that JobKeeper is going to end, and he structured his business accordingly. But what he can’t deal with when he’s taking tourism bookings is how do I deal with a Queensland State Government who introduces a lockdown with six hours notice and cancels all of my bookings?
CONNELL: I understand that but does the PM need to say pretty soon what’s happening by April 1?
SIMMONDS: Well, I think the PM’s put in place the policy which is JobKeeper is going to end.
CONNELL: We don’t know, they have spoken about other target areas, tourism as a possibility.
SIMMONDS: Sure well we’re going to continue to monitor when JobKeeper comes off and how industries deal with it and the economic recovery which is going well at the moment and seeing Australians back into jobs.
CONNELL: These sudden lockdowns don’t help for business do they?
RISHWORTH: Of course they don’t help business, businesses struggle when you have a lockdown such as this. Of course, dealing with the pandemic and dealing with the health crisis is the first critical thing that a State has to do, and State Premiers and health officials are going to go through that. But there is a problem with this long term certainty –
SIMMONDS: You said this is a national problem, Amanda, and we’re going to hear today from the Prime Minister about his national plan. What’s Albanese’s plan because so far –
RISHWORTH: Hang on, hang on let me finish.
RISHWORTH: The Prime Minister sits on the sidelines and criticises the States and Territories. He doesn’t have a plan.
SIMMONDS: – keep Australians at work.
RISHWORTH: Well we’re talking about the health crisis, so there’s the health crisis that States and Territories deal with because it’s their hospitals that they run –
RISHWORTH: – it’s about to run out and if you’re really telling me that tourism operators just have to restructure their business and they will be right after March, I have to say I don’t think you’re in touch with enough small businesses that have relied on international tourism and are hurting because the borders are shut.
CONNELL: Alright for the sake of Sky News we’ve got to get to an ad break because that helps us pay our bills as well. Julian, Amanda thank you , we’ll talk again soon.