DEBORAH KNIGHT, HOST: And it's not a Segway – going from venomous spiders to our pollies – but they're back. Angus Taylor, the Minister of Energy and Joel Fitzgibbon, the Member for Hunter, after a bit of a break from you guys, two weeks off. How'd you go with your break, Angus, Joel? Angus, did you actually get a chance to do anything useful, or are you stuck at home like everyone else?
ANGUS TAYLOR, MINISTER FOR ENERGY AND EMISSIONS REDUCTION: Well, I was in regional New South Wales, which was a good place to be, Deb. But you know, it has been a tough couple of weeks for a lot of people. There's no doubt about that.
KNIGHT: Absolutely. How about you, Joel?
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: I missed you both, Deb. And of course, your listeners. But yes, I'm also relatively free in the Hunter Valley. But, of course, our wine tourism sector is being hit very, very hard with the absence of our Sydney business. So, it's pretty sad here.
KNIGHT: Well, it's hitting so many people hard. We've got the country's two biggest cities, Sydney and Melbourne in lockdown. We've got the New South Wales Premier, Gladys Berejiklian copping a hell of a lot of criticism for not locking down sooner, not being tougher with the restrictions. And Dan Andrews is feeding this all, saying when he announced his state's fifth lockdown that you've got to go hard, you've got to go fast. Angus, who's got the right approach here?
TAYLOR: Well, I think this isn’t about pitting state against state...
KNIGHT: ... It feels like it. They're all kind of pinging each other.
TAYLOR: Well, you know, I don't think it should be. I mean, you can debate all sorts of things here. New South Wales went into lockdown on day 11 and in the second wave Victoria took until day 45. But none of this is helpful. Our focus has to be on supporting those businesses and households who are subject to these lockdowns, making sure they get that necessary support. And as I always sell on this show, making sure people get out there and get the vaccine.
KNIGHT: Yeah, and it's true, isn't it, Joel, that this sort of cheap shots that we're seeing, they're not helping anyone. And it does just fuel, you know, the days early on in the pandemic, when we did seem to have some unity between state and territory leaders, National Cabinet did seem, there was a sigh of relief, I reckon for the country when everyone said let's work together. It's not happening now.
FITZGIBBON: No, we don't want to see the pandemic politicised, Deb. That is for certain. But you can understand why frustrations are emerging in every state. And I think Dan Andrews in Victoria had a bit of a case. I think he legitimately felt that they weren't being treated as well by the Commonwealth Government as we were here in New South Wales, but we've got to band together, we need to get through this thing. We're all in this together. And, you know, it's apparent to me, Deb, that in New South Wales, we're sort of half pregnant. You know, we're in lockdown there's not really a lockdown. And we've seen the consequences. We've been debating the merits, or otherwise, of hard lockdowns. But I think we've just learned that a quick hard lockdown is the only way to get through this thing. Of course, beyond vaccination, which is the most important thing of all.
KNIGHT: But of course, to lock down, you need to ensure that you provide businesses with the help they need to survive, and we've got this new deal on the Covid disaster payments. But Angus, it's been confusing. We've basically had four versions of the financial support in the past week, and I know it's a moving beast and things change, and you've got to change accordingly. But the situation is quite difficult for people caught up in this to really get their heads around. Why wasn't the government just more generous from the start?
TAYLOR: It is difficult. And we've had – you say there's been variations of the support package, there's been many variations of this virus, and that's the real sell we're dealing with here. Now, it is incredibly important, if you need support, get to your services, to the Services Australia website, myGov, or Services NSW, there is good support there for people up to $600 a week, if you have lost 20 hours of work or more, businesses up to $10,000 to deal with payroll issues. That support is strong. It's important. We realise now this is going to go for a longer period of time than we all hoped. And so we have to deal with that as it comes along. That's how we have to deal with this pandemic. There's been no choice from the start, but be adaptable and flexible to the changing circumstances.
KNIGHT: And vaccination is key. And we are seeing the vaccine rollout pick up pace. Which is what we need to have happen. It should have happened much sooner. But Joel, we've relied heavily on the advice from ATAGI, which is the advisory group. And it's changed many times too. But the PM has shifted a lot of the blame this week directly at ATAGI. Is that fair?
FITZGIBBON: Well, first of all, Deb, you know, we were saying more than 12 months ago that the Commonwealth didn't provide itself with sufficient options on vaccines. And I think we have been vindicated on that. I'm not going to pick on ATAGI. It's a, I mean, they have far more credibility, the people who sit on that panel, then Angus or me. They are the medical experts. It's the politicians who follow their advice. But politicians need to lead, Deb. You can't just take all the advice literally. You've got to make judgement calls. And I don't think in New South Wales good judgement calls have been made of late. That's disappointing, but it's not too late to catch up. I think Gladys needs to change direction. And those business support measures are so confusing. I mean, in round one with JobKeeper, we were giving people twice as much money as they were receiving when they were working. And yet now we can't design a package that targets people and makes it easy for business to access that support.
KNIGHT: Is there going to be more help coming, Angus?
TAYLOR: Well, there's an enormous amount of help on the table. I mean, Joel can say that, but the important thing is, there is support there for people. Look I've been talking to businesses all this week in my electorate, particularly in the lockdown areas, although my electorate is unique in having locked down areas and not locked down areas. And, you know, the important thing is they get on and talk to experts, whether it's at Services Australia or Service NSW, or indeed their local member. And certainly, we will help people coming to me to clarify the support that is available. You comment on ATAGI. Look, at the end of the day, the job of these people, as medical experts is to be conservative, but our job is to tell people to get the vaccine. It is so, so important, Deb. And I'll keep emphasising that again and again.
KNIGHT: Absolutely. And you've said yourself many times on this show on other policy issues that you can take advice from the experts and obviously health advice, you've got to ensure that you do take that on board, there's difference a between other policy areas, but your job as a politician is to take that advice and run with it.
TAYLOR: Well, I think everyone's job as a person working in public life today is to say that it is time for people to get out and get the vaccine, if at all possible. We need to get as many people vaccinated as fast as possible. The numbers have...
KNIGHT: Well, there's no doubt about that. But it's not fair of the Prime Minister to be pointing the finger of blame at ATAGI, is it?
TAYLOR: Well, he made the point that ATAGI's job is to be cautious. Our job as public, as policymakers and as leaders, is to say to people, we need to get people vaccinated as fast as possible. AstraZeneca vaccine is a good vaccine for most people, not for everyone, but for most people. And you know it's working in the UK well. They've got no choice there. They've got one vaccine. Let's get out, let's get this done. I've done it. Lots of other people have done it. We're almost up to 10 million now...
KNIGHT: ... Have you done it yet, Joel? Is Joel there?
FITZGIBBON: I've actually, as you know, Deb, I have booked in for my two jabs and Pfizer now. The story, of course, is that ATAGI cancelled my AstraZeneca three days before I was due to receive it. Now it's taken me this long, this is part of the problem, to secure a Pfizer appointment, or two appointments. But I've now done that. I've got one in August and one in early September.
KNIGHT: Alright, so still to come. Okay, I want to move on to some other topics today, too. We've got the EU carbon plan. And Angus, the European Union unveiling this plan to cut carbon emissions by 55 per cent before 2030. They're also going to impose border tariffs on countries that don't have some form of carbon price. More pressure from the global community for Australia to do more on this front.
TAYLOR: We're doing a lot already. Look at the end of the day, it remains to be seen whether they can put these tariffs in place, but they are a carbon tax. Now, what's interesting, Deb, is we haven't seen Labor condemn this yet. We've condemned it. We've been very clear. This is, imposing carbon taxes is against our policy. The question for Labor is, do they agree with imposing these carbon tariffs or not? Well, we don't, and we'd like it to be bipartisan.
KNIGHT: And will this have an impact on our trade relations, do you reckon, Joel?
FITZGIBBON: Well, I don't know whether I can speak on behalf of the Labor Party as a humble backbencher, Deb, but...
KNIGHT: Come on, you've never been backwards and forwards in doing that.
FITZGIBBON: I'm prepared, I'm certainly prepared to condemn it. I mean, the Europeans have never seen a protection mechanism they don't find attractive. Now, we don't celebrate enough in Australia what we've achieved. I mean, our emissions are down 22 per cent since their peak in 2007. The emissions intensity of our economy is down 66 per cent since 1990, and we are trending downwards. The people who are going to be hurt by this are the big emitters in developing countries. Not all of them export to the EU, but many of them are in the supply chains of the countries that do. So this is going to hurt poor countries more than it will hurt Australia. We need to be on the phone as much as Scott Morrison was when he was backing Mathias Cormann – with an agenda I supported, by the way – and to tell the European nations, this is regressive. And we should stand together as a global community for free trade. That's what Australia needs. Free Trade, not carbon taxes or not protectionism, dressed up as carbon taxes
KNIGHT: You sound like a Coalition MP. We'll see if the rest of the Labor Party backs you there.
TAYLOR: We're in furious agreement on that, Joel.
KNIGHT: Now, a lots happened since we spoke last time. Of course, Barnaby Joyce has been elevated to Deputy PM since then. We were waiting for the Cabinet reshuffle and Angus, the resources sector. We know how important it is to the Coalition and to members such as yourself, Joel, and the Nationals, in particular, always sticking up for coal miners. But how come the Resources Minister Keith Pitt has been removed from the Cabinet?
TAYLOR: Well, you know, Keith Pitt is a great Minister and he continues to be the Resources Minister. But let me say this: resources are extremely well represented in Cabinet. I have a strong background, having worked in the resources sector before I went into politics. Melissa Price, of course, as well, who represents the Pilbara region worked in resources before she went into politics and lots of other experience, deep experience with resources, strong support. The resources sector knows that the Coalition has enormous support for it..
KNIGHT: ... But if Labor removed it from the Cabinet, you'd be screaming from the rooftops.
TAYLOR: Well, let me tell you something, you know, the best we got from Labor this week and you know, I'll put Joel aside on this because he has been a strong supporter of the resources sector, is Albo going to a coal mine and keeping the media away. He didn't want to admit that he gone to a coal mine. I mean, seriously, representing resources mean standing up for it. That's what we do every day. And we'll continue to.
KNIGHT: That's a fair cop, Joel.
FITZGIBBON: Oh Deb, the fact is that resources will no longer be sitting around the Cabinet table when the important discussions are being had. That is the point here. And you're right, Deb. If the Labor Party had taken resources out of the Cabinet, they'd be hell to play. It's a double standard. It's disappointing. The sector is most disappointed, and it's not too late to correct it, by the way. It needs to be fixed.
KNIGHT: Alright. Now, I want to end on something a bit fun. We kicked off the week with this extraordinary event, Richard Branson flying into space onboard the Virgin Galactic Unity. The first ever crewed spaceflight. And we'll have Jeff Bezos from Amazon, trying to catch up and do the same in the next few days. Now, one of the spots on that flight was auctioned off. And the winning bidder paid about 30 million US for it. He couldn't go though, because of a scheduling conflict can you believe, and an 18 year old pilot is going to take their place. But we were wondering if either of you guys could send someone into space, who would it be? Angus?
TAYLOR: Well, Joel and I might be able to agree on sending some former Prime Ministers into space...
KNIGHT: ... Not just you two, might be more.
TAYLOR: We can't send two. So I'm to be really cheesy and say I'd love to send Covid into space right now so it never comes back. Frankly, Deb, that's where I stand.
KNIGHT: Good riddance to it, for sure. What about you, Joel?
FITZGIBBON: Well, I could think of a few people if it was a one way ticket, Deb.
FITZGIBBON: And some of those people Angus made reference to might be amongst them. But look, if it's a round trip as it is, I'm sending myself. I've always dreamed of spaceflight since I was a young boy and if someone offered me an opportunity tomorrow, I would rip their arm off.
KNIGHT: You'd free the schedule up. You would rip the arm off and free the schedule. Well, it's good to have you guys back, in our orbit, and we'll talk to you again next week.
FITZGIBBON: Thanks team.
TAYLOR: Thanks Deb. Thanks Joel.