Opinion pieces, speeches & transcripts

ABC News Breakfast Saturday 10 April

April 10, 2021



SUBJECTS: Passing of Prince Philip, Vaccine Rollout Delays.

DAN BOURCHIER, HOST: Let's bring in our political panel now, Liberal MP, Jason Falinski and Labor MP, Andrew Giles, welcome to you both. I'll start with you, Jason Falinski, about the death of Prince Philip, how do you reconcile it?

JASON FALINKSI: Look, it's obviously very sad. But it is a reminder that for a lot of people Her Majesty represents, and she is the head of state for Australia, she represents a period, especially in post-war when there was a lot of development that occurred, both here and around the world. And that, you know, she's closer to the end of her reign and the beginning of it, and her passing will, I think, be a monumental event. It is also I think it will wander as strange as that may be for a lot of people, especially those younger than, than us that Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth have been very significant forces in the history of the Crown, in terms of modernising and opening it up for all of their subjects.

ANDREW GILES, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CITIES AND URBAN INFRASTRUCTURE: I send my condolences to the Queen and I think it's important that we recognise that 70 years in public life is something that's extraordinary and unlikely to be repeated. And that period of marriage is also a very remarkable contribution. Prince Philip obviously touched the lives of many Australians, and I'm sure his passing will be a very day for many in the community.

HOST: We will continue to reflect on the death of Prince Philip throughout the morning. But we also want to talk about some other stories that have happened this weekend, particularly in the vaccination rollout here in Australia, we heard the news that the government has secured an extra 20 million Pfizer vaccinations, that's obviously in response to the change in advice when it comes to the AstraZeneca, that it's not advised, or it's not the preferred vaccine for those under 50. Jason Falinski when you look at where other countries are at with their vaccination rollout, the UK and the US have vaccinated more than 50% of their population. How is it that Australia is so far down the list, we are getting obviously more Pfizer vaccinations, but that's not coming until the end of the year.

FALINSKI: That's an interesting figure you just quoted them because I was looking just before we came on air and the World Health Organisation, where clearly the people who are leading this races Israel with 50% of their population vaccinated. The UK is at 40% of the US is sort of around the mid-30s. It's certainly the standout people in rolling this out. Of course, the difference is that even today, the UK is having confirmed numbers of people with COVID, round about the 2,500 mark. So Australia is not sitting on a burning platform is allowing us to make adjustments to this role as we go along. They've obviously been problems with securing the vaccine whereby the European Union for reasons that they've made reasonably public have blocked the shipment of 3.1 of the 3.8 million doses that we have ordered. CSL has filled some of that gap. But the ramp up starts now. So I think the point is that we're in a very good position to make adjustments when and as they are needed. And it will reach our goal of having, you know, most people vaccinated by the end of the year.

HOST: Andrew, I wonder if you want to weigh in on that, or what we've seen this week as well.

GILES: Yeah, look, this is extraordinary. If there were a vaccine for incompetence, Scott Morrison, his cabinet should be at the front of that queue. Because what we've seen here is something quite extraordinary, and a government failing to do its most important job. The thing is the Prime Minister said last year that he wanted to under promise, so he could over-deliver. And that was the first of so many promises that have been broken when it comes to vaccination. And obviously, until vaccination is complete, we won't see the economic recovery and social recovery with so many Australians who've made such sacrifices in the past year are looking for and expect. We were promised that we would be in front of the queue - we weren't. We were promised there would be 4 million Australians vaccinated by the end of March, time and time again we have this Government set a goal and not reach it. And these were all predictable consequences, to issues that were identified last year and experts identified and weren't attended to and everything really comes back to this doesn't it, Dan and Johanna? Australians have got one question on their mind - when will I be vaccinated? And the government hasn't got an answer for it.

HOST: Jason, does the government accept responsibility for the delay in vaccinations?

FALINSKI: Joe to the extent you know, I wish there was a vaccine for hyperbole. I mean, if Andrew can point to where anyone from the Opposition was predicting that the European Union would block 80 percent of our order then I'd like to see that quote. Or where any expert predicted that, I mean, it's absolutely absurd the way the Labor Party are carrying on. At a point in time where we've had the world's best outcome in terms of health and economic outcomes recognised by the IMF recognized by the World Health Organisation, listening to the Opposition, you would think that we're in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. I mean, the fact of the matter is that when you go to places like Canada that have no domestic production, they're in the hands of what other people are handing over to them. When this Government, this country had the foresight to actually ensure that we have domestic production that has stepped into the gap, we will see a ramp up, we will see people, you know, vaccinated by the end of the year so we can get back to our lives as we knew before this pandemic, and I just, I'm exasperated at the some of the claims of the Labor Party and the carry-on.

HOST: I understand that, Jason, but given obviously the government cannot

tell the future in terms of what is going to happen with the vaccination rollout.

Given the position we are in now, was it perhaps premature to end schemes like the JobKeeper scheme, and is the government open to doing more for the economic recovery given the delay in the vaccination rollout?

FALINSKI: Let's start with where we sit. According to the IMF, we are the world leading economy at the moment. So let's keep that in mind. We have 4% growth predicted for this calendar year. I mean, that alone is a pretty extraordinary outcome. Secondly, no, JobKeeper needed to come off, it needed to come off right now, and what we need to get on with his actually sectorial specific assistance. So, for example, travel agents still need help, airlines will still need help, and there are some forms of accommodation and hospitality that need some help. If anybody is trying to book a holiday in regional New South Wales, there are not a lot of people in regional cities at the moment in Australia who need help in accommodation, because they have been overrun with people from cities trying to get out to start having holidays there.

So we need to not waste taxpayer money, not waste scarce resources, and ensure that we are directing our assistance where we can. But your broader point is, this is a moment for Australia to seize our opportunities. Never before have we sat so strongly in world economies and amongst world nations, and the capacity for us to set ourselves up for the next few decades in terms of our future, have never been brighter. That is what the government is aiming to do and that is what this budget will be about.

HOST: Andrew, Jason just said it is absurd the way the Labor Party is "carrying on". Is this political posturing?

GILES: Not at all. Throughout the pandemic, under Anthony Albanese's leadership, we have sought to be constructive. From time to time the government listens to us. It was Labor who put forward the idea of a wage subsidy. What we have seen throughout is a government that won't take responsibility, and Jason failed to accept that invitation just a minute ago. He seems frustrated that Australians are not grateful. Well, Australians have got lots of reasons to be unhappy with the performance of the Government. This is a Government which, as you identified a minute ago Johanna, that has been incredibly quick to make decisions when it comes to ripping much-needed

support away from Australians who need that support to get through this period, but slow to act when it comes to making decisions that will keep us safe and enable an economic recovery.

We made the case; we made the argument last year when Chris Bowen was health spokesperson, to diversify our vaccine orders as other governments have done. We are now paying the price for the failure of this Government to do so, and they have been hubristic throughout. When what they needed to be was more focused on the most important job the national government had, which is not about hiding behind the States or hiding behind the European Union, which is about ensuring that you get the orders in place and the processes that will enable vaccinations to take place across the entire country as soon as possible.

HOST: Jason, I wanted to ask you about trust. There will be Australians who are hearing about some of these details this morning around more changes to the vaccine rollout. Can Australians trust the Government's vaccine plan?

FALINSKI: Well, it they don't listen to the Labor Party hyperbole, they know they can because we have handled this health pandemic, this crisis, better than any other nation in the world. So when very rare cases of blood clotting and as you've had medical experts on your program over the last few days point out, these are situations that are even rarer than people who take panadol and paracetamol.

We have made adjustments because we have the capacity to do that. I mean, I just listened to Andrew. When all the Labor Party has done throughout this crisis is talk about how we can spend more money that we don't have and don't need to spend. Chris Bowen didn't talk about getting diversity in supplies of vaccine. It was this Government who that did it. It was this government that got CSL to get up and get ready for production. This Government was looking for vaccines from as many different companies as we can.

The fact of the matter is the vast majority of the vaccines are made in Europe and you look between the European Union, the spat between the UK and the EU over vaccines and how many vaccines have been delivered by different companies. I mean the fact is, we have handled this crisis better than any other nation in the world, but if you listen to the Labor Party, you would think as I said before, that a zombie apocalypse is upon us. It is just absurd. The Labor Party should get on board with some constructive suggestions and also

thanking the Australian people for the sacrifices that they've made and for the extraordinary outcomes that we have had.

HOST: We're out of time. Jason Falinski and Andrew Giles I appreciate you coming on this morning.


GILES: Thanks very much.