NATALIE BARR, HOST: Thanks Koche. Well, an extra $10 billion will be spent on new infrastructure investment in what's being called the centrepiece of the country's post-COVID recovery plan. But the Government will be hoping its budget measures focused on women also win votes. The Treasurer has pledged $354 million for increasing breast and cervical cancer screening, eating disorder programs and endometriosis support. It'll be cheaper medicine to prevent premature births too, more genetic testing of embryos and mental health support for new mothers. The budget will also include the largest aged care package in the nation's history. For their take I'm joined by Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce, and Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon. Gents, good morning. Now the Treasurer will be hoping to address the criticism of Parliament's treatment of women with a female friendly budget. Barnaby, will this funding address that?
BARNABY JOYCE, MEMBER FOR NEW ENGLAND: Well, I'm sure, it certainly shows an indication that we're taking the issue seriously, but it's not just that. The big issue is aged care. Of course, there's so many aged care facilities and certainly in regional Australia which need the help otherwise they close down and people end up in palliative care, mental health issue, the childcare rebates, infrastructure as you were mentioning, but in particularly you've got things such as the road west that goes out, road west goes out and thank Andrew Gee for that, fighting for that. The road north, heads up right through the middle of Maranoa, and Flynn, and up to Charters Towers, and to Bob Katter territory, that's incredibly important, and roads everywhere else as well. So you can thank the iron ore industry, for giving you $40 billion, you can thank the coal industry and the Hunter, and you can thank the coal industry and gas industry in Central Queensland. Every time you see one of those boats, just say thank you for my health care, thank you for my aged care, thank you for giving us an extra $40 billion in the budget, and don't run the industries down.
BARR: Yep, particularly the iron ore industry, I know, family in WA are talking about that. So, $10 billion for the Aged Care Package. Joel, the Opposition is saying this falls well short of what's needed, what would Labor like to see?
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: Now, whether it be childcare, aged care, women's initiatives, these are all areas which have been underfunded for too many years. So of course, we welcome the government's decision to play catch up in all of these areas. It's about to rain money here in Canberra, Nat. Josh Frydenberg, notwithstanding he has about a $200 billion budget deficit, is going to get a green tick to spend as much money as he likes. He borrowed money, we already have a trillion-dollar debt, but borrowed money tomorrow night, wherever he wants. So, it's very much a pre-election budget. Let's just hope that the money is spent wisely and drives productivity. And I agree with Barnaby that our export income from iron ore and the mining industry more generally is critically important to the nation's fortunes.
BARR: Yes. Do we have to be nicer to China, Barnaby?
JOYCE: Well, our budget deficit is coming down by $40 billion on what was projected but Joel's right. Thank the mining industry, don't run it down. Thank them, because that's where your childcare, your aged care, your health care, your mental health care and so much else is coming from. China, we have got to make a call that we [inaudible] and I say it over and over again, become as powerful as possible, as quickly as possible, find your alternate markets and understand that China is our major trading partner. But unfortunately, it comes with some other issues that we have to manage.
BARR: Okay, last year's budget assumed international borders would be reopened by the end of this year. The Treasurer now saying we could be waiting till 2022. Barnaby, is there a risk we're being too cautious here? What do you think of that date, the Prime Minister saying over the weekend, there's no appetite to travel?
JOYCE: Well, we've got to make sure that we get the farmworkers in, that we get the chefs in, that we get the people who clean the hospital rooms, the hospitals and clean the motel rooms in. And if we don't, you're seeing it now, of course your unemployment goes down, but ultimately your wage inflation will go up. And if wage inflation goes up, interest rates go up. And for all the people who've borrowed money, it can be a bit of a concern. So I hope that we get a flow of people as quickly as possible to fill the jobs that Australians just don't want to do so that we can get the economy absolutely humming and maybe help those other places where the people come from to get some money back to them. But we do need to fill these jobs. And if as a politician for regional Australia, I wouldn't be being straight with you if I said anything else.
BARR: Yeah, Joel, how are we going to get a flow of people as soon as possible into this country to fill those positions? We're talking about huge infrastructure projects, you know, obviously, the building industry is advertising far and wide. You can't even get tradies, you can't get labourers.
FITZGIBBON: We certainly are approaching a workforce shortage, Nat. That reminds us now how dependent we have been on International labour and it's a longer-term issue we need to address. But the only way to get those borders open earlier is to get mass vaccination. And it's just not been good enough. And quarantine hasn't been good enough. So, for all of its bluster on these issues, I mean, the government was so critical of the state Premiers for closing borders down. Now it's doing just that. It's learned that people do want to be kept safe. So, the only way we get them open without threatening the health and safety of our community, of course, is to get that mass vaccination rolled out and rolled out much more quickly than we are doing so now.
BARR: Okay, despite a third day of no local cases in Sydney, those restrictions have been extended another week, it's being blamed on this mystery spreader – still hasn't been found. Barnaby, do you think the restrictions are too tough or has Gladys Berejiklian struck this right balance?
JOYCE: I do get the sense after a while there's an inclination of politics, rather than epidemiology that comes into it. And, you know, yes, they've got to be cautious, and they do the tests on sewerage water and they understand that there's still cases around but they're getting that in a number of places. We have to learn to live with the conditions. We've been very, very good in Australia. We're responsible for the fact that it hasn't gone crazy, like it's gone and other countries, the vaccinations are rolling out. But to just that, it's just the reality, we don't have the same problem that United States or Brazil or India have. And so, you know, we have basically dealt with this issue in a vastly more pertinent way than I can think virtually any other country on the planet. So you have got to give the government a tick for that. I mean, that is incredible...
BARR: ...Yeah, we do, we do. But everyone agrees I think the vaccination has been a little underdone and a little bit slow. Joel, what do you think about the, over the weekend, the restrictions, were they necessary?
FITZGIBBON: Look, you can understand Gladys Berejiklian being cautious, Nat. We do not want another lockdown. But on vaccination, you know, we have too few choices. And sadly, people are losing confidence in AstraZeneca. That's a great shame. But we've got limited choices, people can't get Pfizer, and where do they turn? So we have a real problem here, Nat, and we're not through these issues yet. So you can understand state Premiers generally, and indeed the Prime Minister, being cautious. We see what other countries around the world are doing, their vaccination programs are far in advance of our own. People have far more choices in terms of the vaccine they secure, so we're behind the eight ball here and we need to do better.
BARR: Yep, still one and a half to two years if we vaccinate at this rate. Okay, thank you gents. Talk to you next week.