DEBORAH KNIGHT, HOST: And with us as they are every Friday, the Energy Minister, Angus Taylor, and Member for the Hunter, Joel Fitzgibbon. Fellas, thanks for joining us. A lot of news to digest today with COVID and with the situation in New South Wales and in Queensland with the flight attendant, one of the positive cases, and the contact traces working overtime there. We have the New South Wales Chief Health Officer declaring the situation in Sydney a national emergency and the Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, wants the federal government to refocus the national vaccination strategy. It is urgent isn't it, Angus, that we've got to really shift things up here in Sydney.
ANGUS TAYLOR, MINISTER FOR ENERGY AND EMISSIONS REDUCTION: Well, it is urgent. There is a lot of AstraZeneca vaccine out there. We're now getting a million a week of Pfizer, you know, and actually, there's a lot of vaccine not being used. So, people have got to get out of there. We've got to get people vaccinated. Deb, I've been consistent about this on this show for a long time. That is the key and, you know, we've had lots of debate about advice coming in and all this sort of thing. But the one thing we know, for sure, is that once people have the vaccine it dramatically reduces the risk and the second dose reduces it further. And that is how we're going to get out of this. So, it's crucial, particularly with Delta variety, that we get people vaccinated as quickly as possible.
KNIGHT: And it's fair enough, isn't it to have doses redirected from other states at the moment in the midst of what we're facing in New South Wales with Delta?
TAYLOR: Well, there's a lot of vaccine out there ready. I went on to the HotDoc's website – which is a good website by the way, your listening should have a look at it if they want to know where there’s some AstraZeneca vaccinations or other vaccinations available. And, you know, looking around my electorate, there's a lot of – there's a lot of vaccine available, Deb. So, you know, it is – you've got to go looking, and that website is a very, very good way to find it near where you live. But I just again, I encourage people to get out there and get it because there's lots of it there.
KNIGHT: And Joel, there's growing pressure for ATAGI to change its advice on the AstraZeneca vaccine, and the Prime Minister has been ramping up the pressure reportedly asking them to do just that. Do you think that's appropriate?
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: Well, I think most of us, Deb, including, I believe, Angus, from the beginning of this pandemic, have urged leaders and members of the community to follow the expert medical advice. And that shouldn't change. I think the problem now is that people are seeing our leaders, the Prime Minister in particular, appearing to coerce ATAGI trying to get them to change their expert opinion. Now, I know there's an argument about probabilities and balance of risk, but that is for the leaders, the political leaders to make not for our scientists to make. I want our scientists to just give it to us as it is, and if our political leaders have to make judgment calls and take slightly more risk, well, so be it. I think that's appropriate. But gee, that was – that was a terrifying press conference we watched from the New South Wales Premier just now, wasn't it? I mean, she, she looks panicked. Her pronouncements were, I think, deliberately vague. I just don't believe she knows what to do next. She's allowed this thing to get away on her and now, of course, she's trying to push blame back to Scott Morrison. Gee, I'd love to be a fly on the wall in national cabinet this afternoon.
KNIGHT: Yeah, it's going be very fire. We've already got the Victorian Premier, Dan Andrews, ruling out redirecting vaccines from Victoria into New South Wales, because that's what we know she's going to be calling for, for the Pfizer vaccine in particular to be made available for more young people and to get it from other states. But we've got Victoria before they even step into that meeting saying: nup that's not going to happen.
FITZGIBBON: Can I just say on that, Deb. I mean this had its origins, this breakout, in Bondi in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. If Gladys have had locked down quickly then and comprehensively, we wouldn't be having this breakout today. So, you understand why the Victorians don't want, having suffered so many tough lockdowns themselves. won't want to be giving vaccinations over to New South Wales because their Premier allowed this situation to emerge.
KNIGHT: What's the solution, Angus, here? Because it does seem to be that the strategy of the New South Wales Government is not working. We're seeing more cases, more infections and more people out and about in the community while infectious, spreading even further. Do we need to have localised lockdowns of Southwest Sydney because that's where it is running rampant at the moment?
TAYLOR: Well, can I just push back a little bit of this. First thing to say is the idea that none of this is working is not right. It is clear, very clear to me that we would have had far more infections if New South Wales Government hadn't taken the action it has. Now, people are right to say we'd like to get back to zero. Of course, we would. I mean that there's no question that that is true. But I've got to say for your listeners, the most important thing they can do is get the vaccine, Deb. And there's lots of it. You know, this is the important…
KNIGHT: And there's no debate there.
TAYLOR: … the excuses for people not to get vaccinated now are running out. They really are.
TAYLOR: And this is how we're going to get through this. This is the thing that everyone can do, they can all do their bit. We talked about being in this together. Well, this is the answer. And, you know, I just ask everybody. Now, you've mentioned ATAGI a moment ago, let me just make this comment. You know, when the context changes, well, we've got to respond to that. Now, the context here is we have a far more infectious variety of this virus than we had last year. That's the reality. And that means that the reason for getting vaccinated has gone up. The rationale, the benefit of getting vaccinated has gone up substantially since last year. And this is the point the Prime Minister's making. He's absolutely right. And it's another reason why people should, you know, get on to their local doctor or on to the HotDoc's website and have a look at where they can get a vaccine.
KNIGHT: And in light of the fact that it is so contagious, and that Delta does change the entire situation where in, should we just scrap this idea, Joel, of zero cases? Because, realistically, how are we going to achieve that?
FITZGIBBON: Well, I think we would have been achieving something like that if the New South Wales Premier had acted as soon as the Bondi breakout occurred. I think that's the first point to be made. But we've seen the situation in other nation states. I know there are those who out there say, we just need to live with this thing. Well, I think they'd change their mind pretty quickly when it's their mother or father on their deathbed. We do need to clamp right down on this thing. And, again, if we'd have a short, snappy, comprehensive breakdown in Sydney, a month ago, whenever it was, then we wouldn't be facing any of these challenges. I think we need to be – we need to remain disciplined, but I do want to agree with Angus and make an appeal to people to get out and get AstraZeneca. You know, it's the government gave us too few choices, let's put that behind us. That's all that's available to them and the risk of getting sick is a much more challenging one than any risk posed by AstraZeneca. We do need to get people out there to get those two jabs.
KNIGHT: Can I just do a plea to both of you as well that you won't do what Ray has done, and Karl Sandilands has done. We don't need you guys to be rapping either. Alright?
FITZGIBBON: I think Angus – Angus and I together would be sensational.
KNIGHT: Please, spare us. We're are going through enough as it is. But look, I do want to ask about JobKeeper because this is hitting us $300 million every day with the lockdowns across the country. That's what the federal Treasurer has said, Josh Frydenberg, yesterday and with $600 a day in national disaster payments, that's all good and well for lockdowns that last for a short period of time. But if this is going to last, which it looks like it will for months and months, JobKeeper has got to come back on the table doesn't it Angus?
TAYLOR: Look it's the wrong program for the current circumstances, and here's why Deb. It took four to six weeks to get JobKeeper it into place, get it up and running, and we've got localised breakouts. So, what we need now is a program that can be turned on and off very, very quickly, and can be targeted locally. That's not JobKeeper. So, that's why we've done what we've done with the 600 – up to $600 for individuals, and then of course there's the up to $10,000 for business payroll.
KNIGHT: Will you look it up in the amount then?
TAYLOR: Well, you know, we'll keep looking at this thing, obviously. I mean, you know, the one thing we know about this. This series of events we've had in the last 12 months or longer in every country in the world is you never quite know what's around the corner, Deb. So trying to predict what is going to be required in a week or a month time is something you got to be cautious with. But the one thing we know is we need a program that's very flexible and very targeted. That's what we have here, and we'll continue to monitor the situation.
KNIGHT: All right. Now we've got the Olympics getting underway tonight, the opening ceremony of course, and Brisbane winning the 2032 games, which is phenomenal. It's going to be great for Southeast Queensland, great for the entire country. When we're talking Olympics though, I want to end by asking you about if there was an Olympic event that you could dream of competing in, maybe a secret skill that you just didn't apply yourself to from a sporting point of view that you just thought, I could have made it for the Olympics, what would it be? Joel?
FITZGIBBON: Well a quick shout out to Daniel Repacholi from my hometown of Cessnock who is in the shooting tomorrow in Tokyo. So good luck Daniel. Bring home gold please. Look, that's an easy one for me Deb, the 100 meter sprint. I've always been quite obsessive about it, I've watched it since I was a kid, you know, right back to the Carl Lewis days through to the Usain Bolts of the world.
KNIGHT: Are you any good at running?
FITZGIBBON: Well, believe it or not Deb, you wouldn't know it now, but I was a pretty fast runner. I played wing and fullback for the mighty Cessnock Goannas. I'm not going to claim to be at world record speeds, but I was pretty handy. And I’d just love to run next to one of those guys one day just to get a full appreciation of just how fast they are. I'm sure I'd be possibly at the 50 meter line when they're over the 100 meter line.
KNIGHT: Yeah, well sprinting from political enemies is probably a skill you'd need in your line of work. What about you?
KNIGHT: That is true. What about you, Angus?
FITZGIBBON: Well, Deb, as a kid, I always wanted to be a test cricketer and I failed dismally at that. But in my older age, I have since taken up what I was reasonably good at as kid, which is running and cycling, and even managed to represent Australia in triathlon. Never at the mature age level, never at that Olympic level. But gee, I tell you what, those athletes now are just unbelievable. What I would do to have an opportunity like that, and I'm so proud of the Australians over there now and what they're doing in very tough circumstances. Good on them.
KNIGHT: Yeah, absolutely. Well said. Good on you fellas. Thanks for joining us.
FITZGIBBON: Thanks Team.