DEBORAH KNIGHT, HOST: And they join us every Friday to wrap up the week in politics, Energy Minister Angus Taylor and the Member for the Hunter, Joel Fitzgibbon. And, Joel, I know that you've been attending the state funeral for Bob Fulton, who you like many admired and loved. A terrible loss, but a really lovely celebration of his life.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: Yes, it certainly was, Deb. Very sad, of course, but a wonderful experience being part of that send off. And, of course, great eulogies from Alan Jones, Ray Hadley, Peter Peters, and, of course, one of Bob's sons, Brett, and of course, Archbishop Anthony Fisher provided a wonderful homily as well. So, sad but a great farewell for trade champion.
KNIGHT: Absolutely. And just quickly, we've had the news break a little earlier that Michael Daley has withdrawn from the New South Wales Labor leadership race. Is Chris Minns in your view, Joel, the right man for the job?
FITZGIBBON: Yes, he is, Deb, in my view, and I think he'll do a very good job. But it makes a farce of this arrangement we have, doesn't it? People say we have to have democracy in the party, that is extend to the rank and file membership a vote of the leadership. I remain convinced that the best people – the best place people to determine who should be the leader are those who work alongside the person on a daily basis. But the farcical part is those arguing for this great act of democracy are the same people making sure we only have one nomination, so we don't have to go through this great process of democracy.
KNIGHT: Yeah, well, it would have state Labor leaderless for three, three months – rudderless. If they're not already rudderless.
FITZGIBBON: It is a crazy process, we all....
KNIGHT: Oh Joel, I think we lost...
FITZGIBBON: ... we should be able to vote. We should be – we all go to the Parliamentary party on behalf of our local branches as their delegate. We should be able to make a decision on their behalf. And again, those who work alongside the various candidates every day are best placed to determine who is the best person to lead the party?
KNIGHT: Well, look, I don't think he'll really take any paint off Gladys Berejiklian, but I agree, I think Chris Minns is the best pick for the state Labor Party in New South Wales. Now, Angus, the federal government has finally agreed to fund this purpose built quarantine facility in Victoria. But why did it take state governments to push and push for this? Because the experts have been calling for purpose-built facilities, like Howard Springs, which has been 100 per cent effective – failsafe – since last year. Why did it take so long to sign off on this idea, Angus?
ANGUS TAYLOR, MINISTER FOR ENERGY AND EMISSIONS REDUCTION: Well, Jane Halton, who's the expert you're talking about recommended that we build a national facility. And we did that – Howard springs. As you know…
KNIGHT: And then they've been calling for more since then.
TAYLOR: Well as that's what Jane Halton recommended, and we've done that. Now, we've said all along that if there's good state proposals coming forward, we'll work with the states to make them happen, and that's exactly what we're doing in Victoria. Look, we are dealing in a highly uncertain environment as you know, Deb. This thing is changing all the time and has – our knowledge of it has changed and ventilation systems and so on. And so, we've got to deal with that uncertainty in, in the real world. But we are absolutely committed to bringing forward proposals that work and this one now, clearly does.
KNIGHT: And what about the temporary COVID disaster payment, again, it seems as though the federal government's been dragged kicking and screaming into this. It's a lot of argy-bargy with the state government. First, you were saying no way, no chance. Now, once the lockdown was extended for another seven days, you've given in and provided this, this COVID payment. But surely, I mean, it just seems as though you're stepping up reluctantly to a lot of these decisions.
TAYLOR: Well, we're stewards of taxpayers' money. I mean that, that is a crucial role here for any government to be a steward of taxpayers' money, to make sure that the money is spent well. We've already spent $43 billion in Victoria and so we've got to be – we've got to be careful with taxpayers' money…
KNIGHT: And yet you're spending like drunken sailors in the budget?
TAYLOR: Well, well, yeah but we have to spend the money well. And it is important we do this right. We are absolutely supporting those who are being locked down. We hope the lockdown is short so that will be absolutely minimal. That's in everybody's interest
KNIGHT: Of course.
TAYLOR: Deb, but ultimately, this role of government has been, you know, doing the right thing with taxpayers' money is extremely important and that's why we do these things, but we do them carefully and in a targeted way. And that's exactly what we've done with – and using the disaster payment mechanism, which is a good mechanism. We know it from bushfires and floods and so on. I see it around my electorate, we use it, where we have to, it's the right way to do it.
KNIGHT: Joel, do you think they're being quick enough with these decisions?
FITZGIBBON: It's tempting to feel sorry for, Angus, isn't it, Deb? Rolled out every Friday to try to defend Scott Morrison – Scott Morrison and his team. I mean, they're they are agile, if nothing else, Deb. The fact is, we've been calling upon a quarantine facility now for many months. Howard Springs was gifted to the government by the gas company INPEX. Yes, they expanded and upgraded it a bit, but it's just been so bleeding obvious to everyone that we need a decent, isolated quarantine facility closer to a capital city. Now, finally, we are, we are securing that – thank goodness for that the Victorian Government, of course, took the lead. And it's the same thing with the payments. I mean, on just about every matter, other than things that seem to provide an immediate political dividend, the government is reluctant to act.
KNIGHT: I want to play for you, Angus, we spoke to the CEO of Anglicare Sydney, Grant Millard on the show yesterday, and he was really clear when it comes to the vaccine rollout that it is slower than it should have been. And particularly with aged care, he's of the view that it should be made mandatory for workers. Have a little listen to Grant Millard from yesterday.
GRANT MILLARD: We were wanting vaccination for aged care workers, both in residential community, to there to be a compulsory requirement for work.
KNIGHT : So why isn't it mandatory?
GRANT MILLARD: Our view is it should have it?
KNIGHT: Why isn't it mandatory, Angus?
TAYLOR: Because the health experts recommended against that. Now it is true…
KNIGHT: But you can take recommendations and you can run with them or you can reject them. And if the flu vaccine is mandatory, why not the COVID vaccine?
TAYLOR: Right, and there were good reasons the health experts proposed that it not be mandatory. And look, let's be clear here, let's be very clear, Deb.
KNIGHT: Well what were the good reasons?
TAYLOR: Well, the health experts were concerned that that would mean that we didn't have the aged care workforce in place as we needed. And that was the concern. Now they made that very clear. There's no ambiguity about it. It is up to states to choose whether they want to make it mandatory and they have WA. Others are free to go ahead and do that.
KNIGHT: Do you think it should be mandatory?
TAYLOR: Well, you know, it needs to be considered on the merits, and at the end of the day, what is most important is people who are eligible go and get the vaccine, Deb. Now, I'm the only one on this program right now who has done it, as I understand it, that may have changed, but certainly that was the case last week...
KNIGHT: I got my first jab of Pfizer on last Monday.
TAYLOR: Good on you. Well done, well done. So that's great news. But it is so important, if you are eligible, just get it done. And the demand side of this is really now the key. And that means we've all got to be speaking from the same hymn sheet here, all of us, that you need to get the vaccine. It's crucial that those of us in public life lead by example. That's exactly what I did, I did on the second day I was eligible. And that, that is where we have to focus our efforts.
KNIGHT: And speaking of merit, I guess, Joel, what do you think is Richard Colbeck there in the role of Aged Care Minister on merit? Is he doing a good job?
FITZGIBBON: I think poor old Richard just keeps getting thrown in the deep end, Deb. The Prime Minister controls his press conferences pretty well. But it's Richard that has to roll up to a grilling in Senate Estimates. He hasn't done much of a job of it, I have to say. I like Richard, he is a good guy, but he has struggled. But he's been given a very tough job by a government which likes to avoid asking the questions – answering the questions but is happy to throw someone else like poor old Richard into Senate Estimates?
KNIGHT: Yeah, I just think he is underperforming and in that crucial ministerial portfolio of aged care, you need someone who is up to the task, and I don't think he is. Angus, reports yesterday, the ABC management have pulled an episode of Four Corners focusing on the Prime Minister and his relationship with an alleged QAnon conspiracy theory. And that was pulled largely, according to the reports, to appease the government. There are now calls for Ita Buttrose to go because the ABC is becoming more and more biased. Do you agree? Should Ita Buttrose be pulled from the organisation?
TAYLOR: No, and that's not, that's not something I'm going to get engaged in talking about sacking a chairman of the ABC. But what I will say is this, Deb, you know, as a regional MP, I am forever being stopped in the street about ABC content. I know how vital the ABC is in keeping Australians informed, especially in a time of crisis, bush fires or floods. But sometimes, and unfortunately, it's becoming more and more frequent the ABC steps out of its lane. And the ABC has a duty to report on what is in the community's interest, not peddle conspiracy theories. And so, the pulling of the story is understandable in those circumstances.
KNIGHT: And do you hear the same thing, Joel?
FITZGIBBON: Well, that's a big defence from Angus, isn't it Deb? For the pulling of the story, it looks like we might be hearing a little bit more about that. We mentioned Senate Estimates, I understand that the CEO of ABC, the managing director, will be before – it's meeting sometime soon, and I suspect very strongly that the Labor Senators will be asking him more than a few questions. But it's probably wise Angus to stay out of the Ita Buttrose stuff. It's a shame that the Prime Minister didn't stay out of the Christine Holgate episode at Australia Post.
KNIGHT: That's a fair cop. Now look, before we go, I just want to ask you about this in the US. There's all sorts of incentives to get people vaccinated. They're doing things like free tacos, million dollar lotteries, free doughnuts, I reckon we probably should forget the democracy sausage and bring on the vaccination – vaccination sausage and then have them in Bunnings car parks. But what incentive would work do you reckon, Angus?
TAYLOR: Well, I frankly think the greatest incentive of all is that it keeps us safe and the people around us safe, to be - and I know that sort of...
KNIGHT: We know that but people are still vaccine hesitancy.
TAYLOR: .. but well, it is so important and there will be less hesitancy if people in public life go and get the jab and tell people it's important they get the jab. Look, the truth is there are, look, there are great incentives and there will be overtime – going overseas and a holiday that will be an important part of how this unfolds no doubt and having a vaccine will give you an advantage on that in one form or other. But look, the most important thing is, Deb, is just get the jab if you're eligible, and lots of people are eligible now I'm sure lots of listeners are.
KNIGHT: It's national donut day and fish and chip day. What do you reckon, Joel? Should we offer free doughnuts to people? What would work?
FITZGIBBON: Free tickets to your favourite sporting event or cultural entertainment, Deb. That will get people in. I'd love a ticket to watch the Newcastle Knights win this year's Grand Final.
KNIGHT: Good luck with that? On both fronts. All right. We're out of time fellas, thanks so much for joining us. You have a great weekend. We'll talk next week.
TAYLOR: Thanks Deb and Joel.
FITZGIBBON: Thanks Team.