DEBORAH KNIGHT, HOST: And here they are. They do join us every Friday, Energy Minister Angus Taylor and Member for the Hunter, Joel Fitzgibbon. Welcome back to afternoons Fellas. I want to start with the vaccine and the rollout because it's been a shambles. We've seen targets pushed back and now cancelled altogether by the Prime Minister. A lot of fear, a lot of confusion over blood clotting too. And especially after the death of this 48 year old woman in New South Wales after getting a COVID vaccine. Now, Angus, there's no link at this stage between this woman's death and the vaccine, but health authorities hopefully will have some more information to us possibly later today. But you can understand, can't you Angus, why people are worried?
ANGUS TAYLOR, MINISTER FOR ENERGY AND EMISSIONS REDUCTION: Well, I understand that this is an important issue. There's no question about that. That link hasn't been established yet, as you rightly said, Deb. But look, the important thing we know from the millions of people who have had the AstraZeneca vaccine around the world, is it's very effective, the risk rates are low. It would be a tragedy, of course, if that person's life was lost, and it's a tragedy that life was lost, of course, but if it was lost because of a link. But the truth of the matter is that the incidence rate we're seeing of blood clotting around the world is still very, very low. Which is why the advice has been that it's a safe vaccine. And we should continue down that path. I expect to be having the AstraZeneca vaccine and I'll get it as soon as I possibly can.
KNIGHT: Well, I'll be with you too. I'll be there. Because I think that you've got to weigh up the benefits versus the risks. And I think the benefits of this far outweigh the risks because we do face risks with every vaccine, every medication we take. And as you say, this is a rare incidence of blood clotting. But Joel, supply is the big issue here. And Labor has been very critical of the Government's failure in securing enough of the doses. Is that really fair, though, because a lot of this is beyond the Government's control?
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: Look, I'm a bit torn here, Deb, because it's our job, I suppose, to build public confidence in all of the vaccines. But while I accept the Government can't be blamed for all the problems, particularly the clotting problems with AstraZeneca, I think it still does remain a fact that it could have been in there earlier, signing more agreements with more companies and therefore securing more vaccines. But look, having said that, I'm really concerned about public confidence in AstraZeneca. I'm hearing all sorts of stories in my electorate about people now fearful of receiving it.
KNIGHT: A lot of people have been cancelling their bookings too, we're hearing that from GP clinics.
FITZGIBBON: Yeah, and GPs are really concerned about their legal liability and a guy called today, 73 years of age, he's 1B on the list, but he's got a history of clotting and his GP advised him not to receive AstraZeneca, then wrote off to the authorities, I'm not sure who, and he was told he is only eligible for AstraZeneca. The guy obviously wants the Pfizer vaccine. So, we have a number of problems here. But we just need to work together to see our way through it.
KNIGHT: Absolutely. And it's good to see that National Cabinet is meeting more regularly too, from Monday, twice a week. I think that's really an important step to focus all our energies on this vaccine rollout. And also, we've got 100 days from the Tokyo Olympics. Angus, a lot of our athletes are worried they won't be vaccinated in time, should they be allowed to jump the queue?
TAYLOR: Well look, I absolutely love the Olympics. It's a great celebration of humanity. I was lucky enough to go to where the first Olympics were held in Olympia in Greece thousands of years ago. Of course, I wasn't there 1000s of years ago, but I've been to the place. But, you know...
KNIGHT: ... You're not that old. I'm glad you clarified that.
TAYLOR: I'd love to see the Australian Olympians able to compete without fears of Covid-19...
KNIGHT: ... So they should be allowed to jump the queue then and get the jab?
TAYLOR: It is a matter for the health experts, the OC and ATAGI as they're called - the technical advisory group on immunisation - they will have to make that decision. We do need to make sure that our priority is vaccinating priority groups like vulnerable Australians, and that's absolutely essential. But I think we would all like to see the Olympics proceeding. I think it's extraordinary that the Japanese have got to the point where we're within 100 days of it happening, which is wonderful. But we do have to maintain our priorities as well.
KNIGHT: Yeah, well, that's it. We can't see frontline health workers sort of pushed back by the Olympians. It's a tough one, isn't it, a tough call? And Joel, what about this idea that the Prime Minister has floated of allowing home quarantine to let Australians travel overseas for business and things like funerals and weddings as we wait for that vaccine rollout to happen? Can we be trusted, do you think, to stay at home rather than be in locked down in a hotel?
FITZGIBBON: First of all, Deb, if I can, the Olympics is not just about our Olympians, of course, it is an enormous marketing exercise for Australia. We punch above our weight in sport and it puts us on the world stage and it brings arguably enormous soft-power diplomacy for our country as well. But look, I'm not going to say, I'm not going to give you the popular response, Deb. I'm going to give you a truthful answer, and I don't think we can be trusted. I think we're all very good at finding, convincing ourselves in our own minds that there's a reason for us to be the exception to the rule, and look, that can be genuinely held. But the fact is, no, I don't think it will work. I don't think enough people will comply.
KNIGHT: Do you reckon, Angus, we can be trusted?
TAYLOR: Well, I'd very much like that we could do home quarantining. Obviously, this is something we're working through with the experts now. And you know, we'll have to come to a view on that. I think the feedback that we're getting is an important part of that process coming to a conclusion on this important issue.
KNIGHT: Yeah well, I've got a text from Tony, he says in the ACT police check the house each day to ensure quarantine is adhered. So, I guess its a sort of fine line.
FITZGIBBON: Can I just say, that's two non-answers Angus has given us today. He's completely on the fence this afternoon.
KNIGHT: Getting splinters are you, Angus?
TAYLOR: Joel, the whole point of putting this out there is to actually allow an appropriate debate and the right expertise coming to the table to make a decision here. And that's, this is not going to happen overnight. That's clear. So we do have time to work this one through. And that's the right way to do it.
KNIGHT: Alright, I want to talk about Afghanistan, because the last of our Australian troops will now be leaving in September, with that symbolic date by September 11. And at a personal level, Angus, 41 lives lost while serving in Afghanistan. It's a big sacrifice, isn't it?
TAYLOR: Yeah, it is. And of course, several of my colleagues in the Parliament served in Afghanistan and gave a great deal. And I really do want to extend my deep gratitude to all the veterans who have served in Afghanistan and elsewhere, indeed, it's important to note that we will continue to support Afghanistan. We've been a big contributor to trying to stabilise the country. But the most important thing is for us all to be thankful for the extraordinary work that Australian veterans, Australian serving defence people have continued to do every day.
KNIGHT: And Joel, I know you as a former Defence Minister, we went into Afghanistan with a goal of removing the Taliban. Now they're working on peace negotiations with the Afghan government. Have we failed in this war?
FITZGIBBON: Yes, well, Deb, I've had the enormous honour, privilege, but also challenge of being to Afghanistan on many occasions and visiting our troops in theatre, and it's a confronting thing to do. We will be debating for decades, whether the blood and treasure lost, whether the cost of Afghanistan was worthwhile, because given the questionable outcomes, I think is the best way to put it. But one thing we will never question, and that is that our troops, despite the challenging circumstances in which we put them there, proved themselves again to be world's best. And everything we asked of them, they did absolutely. So like Angus, I'll just pay tribute to all of our veterans, all of those who are still there, and of course, the 41 Australian soldiers who lost their lives and actually, Deb, it's 42 because there was also an Australian who served with the British forces that lost his life in Afghanistan.
KNIGHT: That's important to note.
FITZGIBBON: Yeah. Lest we forget.
KNIGHT: Yes. Well said, Well said. Now, Christine Holgate, the former boss of Australia Post, the evidence she gave to the Senate inquiry this week was absolutely explosive. She was scathing in the way that she said she was treated, bullied, harassed. Angus, do you think that Christine Holgate was treated well by the Prime Minister?
TAYLOR: Well, the Prime Minister has already responded to this and he said that he regrets any distress that was caused...
KNIGHT: But never said sorry. Should he?
TAYLOR: Well, I mean, he's made it clear. I mean, in the end of the day, she did resign from her role, there is no doubt about that.
KNIGHT: And she claims it was because she was harassed and bullied.
TAYLOR: Well, she resigned from her role. And that's an important point here. And the Prime Minister has been very clear about his regret for any distress that was caused. But you know, I would point out here that we've got each way Albo doing what he always does on these things. On the one hand, he's saying that he doesn't like what's happened over the last little while, but on the other hand, he said very clearly her position was untenable, that she should resign, and you know, you can't have it both ways. It's sad that this has been politicised, but that's exactly what's happened.
KNIGHT: And that's a fair cop, Joel. Because I mean, sorry does seem to be the hardest word. And, you know, I think the Prime Minister should say sorry, I think it's to avoid legal action. That's the truth of it. But each way Albo is a moniker that sticks in this regard doesn't it, Joel?
FITZGIBBON: Well, let's stick to the Prime Minister first, Deb. The Prime Minister of the country stood in the House of Representatives and told that woman through national airwaves that if she doesn't go, she'll be forced to go. Now, it doesn't get any stronger than that. And now he says he didn't mean to do her any emotional harm. I mean, what did he think was going to be the outcome when the Prime Minister of the current country bullies you out of your job like that? And then he says that while he regrets it, he doesn't need to say sorry, because she resigned, Deb. Does anyone believe, do any of your listeners believe she resigned voluntarily? She loved the job. She was doing a great job. And I know the Government's trying to make this about Albo and what he did or didn't say. Look, one of the few benefits of being in opposition is that you're not in control of these things. And the Prime Minister mishandled this situation...
TAYLOR: ...Well ... hang on here.
FITZGIBBON: I was gobsmacked. You know, Deb, if this money had been paid in cash, no one would have battered an eyelid, you know, but because it was paid in, by watches, you know, it became a huge issue and the Prime Minister jumped on the bandwagon and he made a mistake.
TAYLOR: Before question time, before question time, where the Prime Minister said what he said, let me read what Albo said: Christine Holgate has done the wrong thing. I support her paying a price for that – clear, unambiguous. And then he repeated that again and again on later occasions. You can't have it both ways, Joel. You can't have it both ways.
KNIGHT: It's a fair cop. I agree with you there.
FITZGIBBON: Hang on, Deb, so Scott Morrison's excuse is that he was led by someone else?
KNIGHT: No. You're both as bad as each other. They are both as bad as each other. And I'm going to be judge and jury on this one. She was treated badly by both of you. So we'll leave it at that. I want to end on this one. Now, I don't want to do you in, of course. But we've been talking about coffins, and this fella in New Zealand who wants to make funerals more of a celebration, creating these custom-made coffins. Some with beautiful flowers, others in the shape of eclairs and doughnuts. What would you pick as a personal design for your own coffin, Angus?
TAYLOR: Well, I did like the cream bun. I thought that was very creative. But I have got to say, thinking this far ahead, well, I hope this is far ahead, I think I'll leave this one to my family to have the final say. But I have got to say, I tell you what I was really impressed by this week in this spirit, was the Duke of Edinburgh who's going to be carried to his funeral tomorrow in the back of a Landrover Defender that he'd personally modified for the last 18 years. He's been working on this since he was 80. Now I tell you what, that is the way to go to a funeral. What an extraordinary man and what an extraordinary outcar.
KNIGHT: Pretty cool. What about you, Joel?
FITZGIBBON: Well, I'm going to see this through the prism of my electorate, of course, Deb...
KNIGHT: ... A big lump of coal?
FITZGIBBON: I could have a coal dump truck, or coal truck, I think would be pretty appropriate. But to demonstrate our diversity, I could have a wine bottle.
KNIGHT: Oh, yes.
FITZGIBBON: I could have a thoroughbred horse. We are the horse capital of Australia. Indeed, I could have a hot air balloon because...
KNIGHT: ...because you full of hot air?
FITZGIBBON: Yes, that's true. But on the weekends our sky is full of beautiful hot air balloons. So any number of the above.
KNIGHT: Well, we don't want to do you in. That's for sure. We'll talk to you guys next week.
TAYLOR: Good on you.
FITZGIBBON: Thanks team.