DEBORAH KNIGHT, HOST: Let's look at some of the big issues of the week with Energy Minister Angus Taylor and Member for the Hunter, Joel Fitzgibbon. I wonder if they're tea drinkers. Angus, do you like a good cup of tea?
ANGUS TAYLOR, MINISTER FOR ENERGY AND EMISSIONS REDUCTION: I do like a good cup of tea, Deb. I particularly like billy tea because it's nice and strong.
KNIGHT: It's very good. Joel, you'd love a tea, wouldn't you?
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: Of course, Deb. I'm Irish by background. I Iike a bit of English Breakfast, though, with a teaspoon of honey.
KNIGHT: Oh, bit of honey, bit of a sweet tooth? Oh, very good. Very good. Well, I think tea drinkers are hard done by and we'll take some more calls on that a little bit later. But I wanted to start with you guys with the vaccine rollout. Because it's not happening quickly enough. We were by now meant to have 4 million Aussies with the first jab. Just over 700,000 have had it. We're well behind. Angus, wasn't it former PM John Howard, who had the motto to under promise and over deliver? Should that have been the approach for the vaccine rollout?
TAYLOR: No, I understand that, Deb. But look, let's get it into perspective. We've got a record number of vaccines administered on the 30th of March - 73,000. We're moving up towards a million now. But, you know, the broader perspective here is this: Yesterday, we had 590,000 new cases across the world, we had three in Australia. You know, we're doing pretty damn well here.
KNIGHT: Well, we are.
TAYLOR: We do have to get the vaccine rolled out. We'll have it rolled out across the board by October, everyone will have had at least one vaccine by then. And we're in a position where we're having an Easter like almost no other country on the planet and we should be very appreciative of that. It's a wonderful place to be at the moment, Australia. And we will continue to roll this out in a sensible - it's not a race - but in a sensible way to get to the outcome we need to by October.
KNIGHT: And you're right. We haven't had the cases that they have, like somewhere in the UK. But in the UK, they're averaging over 300,000 jabs each day compared to what we're doing. And it's been a war of words this week between state and territory leaders and Canberra sparked by the Daily Telegraph by their reporting of the vaccine rollout. Now, the State leaders, they're right, aren't they, in rejecting the accusations that they've been hoarding doses? You can understand their frustration.
TAYLOR: Well yeah, look, we're all trying to get this out as fast as we can, but sensibly. The UK has been in a very different position, their country has been locked down, Deb, and so they had to rush, and in it they've taken some risks along the way. There's no question about that. We're doing it in a sensible way. We're working with the states. It's absolutely appropriate. I mean, the states have actually been doing a good job, but we need to keep the pressure on across the board to make this work. We're different from many other countries in having a federal system, and so we have to work together and we'll continue to. And look, as I say, I think we can be very appreciative of being in Australia right now.
KNIGHT: Well, I agree with that. But I think the blame game has definitely been front of focus this week with the vaccine rollout. And Joel, State and Territory leaders like the New South Wales Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, she's been offering to do more, but the Federal Government hasn't been taking up the offer. It's a wasted opportunity, isn't it?
FITZGIBBON: That's right, Deb. And Scott Morrison has done what many have failed to do. And that is to unite the premiers of all political persuasions. So, I don't need to be critical of Scott Morrison. Gladys Berejiklian and Brad Hazzard, the Health Minister are doing that for me. And Angus is right, we've been very fortunate relative to the rest of the world. It's one of the advantages of being an island state. We've been able to close our borders to the rest of the world, but we can't with certainly get our economy going again until we have widespread vaccination. And you're right, Scott Morrison was crazy to over promise in the way he did. He's not been able to deliver. That's what the states are saying. But look, let's just get on with it. We need this done. And I feel for all those people who are still locked down in aged care homes, still divided from their, separated from their families this Easter because they haven't been able to get access to the vaccination.
KNIGHT: Yeah, well, every aged care resident, which is the Federal Government responsibility was meant to be vaccinated by this week, but around half still haven't had the first dose. So you're right, we do need to get on with it, and we need to ensure that it is a smooth cooperation between the Federal Government and the states and moving forward on the vaccine. I want to touch on this as well, which I'm sure you have both got something to say on it, on Malcolm Turnbull. He said he wouldn't be the miserable ghost, but he's the definition of it at the moment. He was appointed by the New South Wales Government as chair of the Net-zero Emissions and Clean Economy Board this week, which is a fair enough appointment even though the warnings were don't do it. But he then said that we should pause all new coal mines. Angus, with the Upper Hunter by-election coming up in New South Wales, coal country, how damaging is this sort of rhetoric for the Liberal Party?
TAYLOR: Well, whatever the politics of it, it was just the wrong thing to say. Now, there are a lot of Liberal voters who are fed up with Malcolm's interventions. There's also a lot of Labor voters who are fed up with Kevin Rudd's interventions. Former Prime Ministers should stay above the fray, we see that with people like John Howard and Julia Gillard. That's the way we expect them to behave. And as I say, I'm hearing in my electorate and elsewhere, people on my side of politics are fed up with it. And he should behave as other former Prime Ministers are behaving.
KNIGHT: And could there be a conflict of interest here, because Malcolm Turnbull is also chairman of Fortescue Future Industries, and that's a subsidiary of Fortescue Metals Group. They're looking at a green hydrogen generation project in New South Wales. Have you got any concerns about that?
TAYLOR: Well, it's a matter for Matt Kean and the New South Wales Government. There's no question about that. And they're going to have to make sure they manage that conflict very, very carefully. You're right to raise it, Deb, and I think it is a real issue for them.
KNIGHT: Alright. And Joel, you know a thing or two about the damage voters can inflict in coal country if you get miners offside. It nearly cost you your seat at the last Federal election.
FITZGIBBON: I do, indeed, Deb, and I do my best to respect the Office of the Prime Minister and all those who have held it, but Malcolm is just becoming a serial pest. Determined, it seems, to go after anyone that never recognised his genius. And you know, I could have thrown something at the radio when I was listening to his interview on Wednesday morning talking about coal in the Hunter Valley. Coal in the Hunter Valley is the backbone of the economy, and much of what he said about the future of the industry was just plain wrong. Now that Upper Hunter by-election is going to be tight. It's anybody's race. Labor will run a strong candidate and be talking about jobs and job security...
KNIGHT: ... And the Shooters and Fishers will be in with a good chance too.
FITZGIBBON: That'll have to include a strong message about our support for the coal mining industry. And what State Labor should do is just run Malcolm Turnbull's interview over and over again on the loudspeakers.
KNIGHT: Yeah, it'll do damage, that's for sure. And you had your Labor National Conference this week, Joel. You've done it. The official policy is to support coal.
FITZGIBBON: Putting labour back into the Labor Party, Deb...
TAYLOR: ... Well, there's a difference between the rhetoric and the reality.
FITZGIBBON: Yes, coal is back in Labor's platform as it always was, but it needed to be spelt out very clearly and I welcome the fact that we've made our support for the industry loud and clear. And that's a good thing for the party, it's a good thing for my communities, and it's a good thing for the Australian economy.
KNIGHT: And playing devil's advocate, Angus, is Malcolm Turnbull right in what he's saying, because you were part of this net-zero conference hosted by the International Energy Agency and the British Government, and the US Climate Envoy, John Kerry, he reportedly said that coal use must be immediately abandoned if the world wants any chance of meeting the Paris Agreement.
TAYLOR: Well, I think there's some verbling going on there. Nowhere in that article was there a reference to a direct quote from John Kerry. And he said we've got to apply common sense to this. But look, the truth of the matter...
KNIGHT: ... He said reducing the cost of renewables and global cooperation were needed.
TAYLOR: Yeah sure, of course. But that's, that doesn't say that coal has got to stop tomorrow. And it can't. I mean, it's 60 per cent of our energy source right now. It's a crucial industry, as Joel and I, of course, are in furious agreement on this, and it has a crucial role in our energy system and will do for many years to come. So, you know, Malcolm is not right in what he said. And, as I say, people are fed up with his interventions, as they are with Kevin Rudd's.
KNIGHT: Yeah, well, the two are singing from the same song sheet, it seems, and both of them did promise that they wouldn't be hanging around like miserable ghosts, and that they are. I wanted to ask too, about the music industry, which is something that I've been passionately supporting. And Byron Bay, the Blues Fest being cancelled is devastating. But Joel, again, another example of the creative arts and live entertainment being hit hard. Do they need more help?
FITZGIBBON: They've had very little support from day one of the pandemic, Deb. That's the truth of it. They were locked out of Jobkeeper, for example. And one can't help but feel that, look - I mean, the music and entertainment industry is pretty progressive, isn't it? I mean, I think there are a fair few Labor voters within that cohort of people. I don't want to misrepresent some, but I think that's basically true. And you just wonder whether they're being punished for their progressiveness. I can't believe the extent to which Scott Morrison has just ignored such an important part of both our economy and our cultural community.
KNIGHT: Well, Angus, there's been help for the film, for the TV production industry, they've received that $50 million temporary interruption fund, basically insurance. There should be something similar for live entertainment, shouldn't there?
TAYLOR: Let me make a couple points here. The first is Joel said that they've been locked out of Jobkeeper. That is absolutely wrong. And this is a broader thing than just music events, although I love my music like you, Deb. But you know, events more generally have had access to Jobkeeper. It's been a very tough time for them. There's no question about that. And I've spoken to a number of event organisers, including in my electorate, about the challenges. But they have had access to Jobkeeper. And the arts and entertainment industry has had targeted support. You know, there's no question, it's a tough time. And the important thing now is to get on with it as best we can. It was a very unfortunate isolated breakout we saw in Byron Bay which led to this. And that's been pretty unique in what we're seeing at the moment. But it's important we just get on with things as best we can. Lockdown those targeted areas where we've seen outbreaks - and they're very, very minor at this point. And get all of these industries back on their feet.
KNIGHT: Yeah. There are a lot of sole-contractors though, and it's a casualised workplace. So a lot of them weren't eligible for access to Jobkeeper. So in terms of locked out, that's what the reference to it was there. And I know a lot of people in that sector crying out for more help. I want to end on something good, on something positive. Easter, of course, one of the most important dates, Good Friday, on the Christian calendar. What's your message to share with listeners this Easter, Joel?
FITZGIBBON: Remember the meaning of Easter, Deb. Be patient, be tolerant, be safe, and get on the Newcastle Knights against the Dragons on Sunday.
KNIGHT: I'm not sure who I tipped there. I'll have to remember. What about you, Angus?
TAYLOR: Well, obviously stay safe. Lots of people driving on the roads. I was on the road yesterday and it was very busy, incredibly important time to stay safe because it is a time where we want people to spend time with their families and enjoy it. But also enjoy the fact that we are in what I believe to be the greatest nation on Earth right now. Remember this time last year, we had a limit of two people in anybody's home from outside and we're now having a relatively normal Easter. It's not absolutely there, but we're a long way towards it. And I think we should enjoy the fact that we're able to do that.
KNIGHT: Well, you both have a wonderful Easter. I'll be off next week, so we'll have a bit of a break from Friday Question Time and I'll be back with you after that. But have a safe and happy Easter with your own families. And thank you so much for joining us.
TAYLOR: Thanks Deb.
FITZGIBBON: Our pleasure, Deb.
KNIGHT: There they are, Joel Fitzgibbon and Angus Taylor.