NATALIE BARR, HOST: Thanks Kochie. Sydney's construction industry has ground to a halt this morning, as the state imposes tough new restrictions three weeks after going into lockdown. There has been mounting pressure on the New South Wales Premier to tighten stay at home orders. Daily cases have remained stubbornly high, with the concerning numbers still infectious in the community. For their opinion, I'm joined by Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, and Labor MP, Joel Fitzgibbon. Good morning to you gents. Barnaby, is the federal government to blame here for calling New South Wales the gold standard? I guess, you know, the question is should Sydney have locked down sooner? Or should people have been doing what they were told sooner?
BARNABY JOYCE, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, they should be doing what they're told sooner, and we have to work these things out as they go along. Quite obviously, we haven't had the compliance that we'd expect amongst our [inaudible] range of people, which can be seen from parties and other bits and pieces have been going on. And if we, if you don't get that, just the virus spreads. Now, as the virus spreads, we came more profound on how it spread, then we got to become harder in how we lock it down. But that's a decision from the states and I'm taking it.
BARR: Well, Joel, Labor Premiers, of course, right across the country say it's pretty simple: you lock down hard, you lock down fast. I guess we will see what happens with Melbourne this week.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: Yes, we will, Nat, but the government response in New South Wales is at best vague and confused. It's the lockdown you have when you're not having a lockdown. And people are hurting very badly there. They don't understand the rules. You'll see in the newspapers this morning even the Premier is struggling to interpret and comply with her own lockdown rules. So, you know, I think the most effective lockdowns are the fast and comprehensive ones. And we missed that opportunity and we are now paying a price. But if we're going to lockdown, Nat, people and businesses need to be adequately compensated. People have been forced to flout the rules because they are financially desperate. It's a very bad situation in Southwest Sydney.
BARR: Yeah. On the good news, though, we got a million new Pfizers hitting the streets today and every week, so that is one good thing. Let's move on to the latest Newspoll published in the Australian this morning. The federal government has dropped to its lowest polling position this term with a four-point shift in the two-party preferred vote 53 to 47 in favour of Labor. Meanwhile, Scott Morrison has had a two-point dip but remains 18 points ahead of his opposition as the preferred PM on 51 per cent, compared to Anthony Albanese's 33 per cent. Barnaby, as the Deputy PM, are you worried about these figures now? That's a bigger gap than normal.
JOYCE: Well, obviously with the – with what's happening that the virus, it's making life tough. I understand that. We have got a program running out for businesses. They get between $1,500-$10,000 or 40 per cent of their payroll. That's available to them now. Individuals 600 – up to $600 if they lost more than 20 hours work, and we're vaccinating about a million people a week now. And we got a million Pfizer vaccines turning up. But it's been tough for everybody. And when it's tough for everybody, people get frustrated, but this won't be the issue at the election. I know too much about this, as does Joel. I've been around for a long time. The issue of the election won’t be this, it'll be other things.
BARR: Yeah. So, Joel, I know – I mean, Barnaby – I know, a lot of people don't put much credence in the polls, because we've shown that around the world over the last few years that they don't necessarily count. But as the Deputy PM, you're waking up this morning, it's six points, the difference. Would your guys be a bit worried?
JOYCE: Well, I wouldn't want to go to an election in the middle of the Coronavirus. I mean, that's a statement of the bleeding obvious. And the reason is that people are frustrated, and they look for a way to vent their frustration, often that can be done in the polling. But all the time you're talking about, you know, four or five per cent of people in the middle. And once the election comes, you bet your life, there'll be other issues that are on the agenda because we'll have by then – we've got about 10 million people who, 10 million inoculations that have gone out already. Now we've got millions of vaccines turning up now. This is a week. We got about a million a week of Pfizer and we got a heap of AstraZeneca, we got Moderna turning up – it'll just be a different dynamic when the election comes in. I just know it. It won't – if the election was now yeah, you'd probably have a problem but it's not now.
BARR: Joel, I guess that means that the election is not coming anytime soon?
FITZGIBBON: Well, Barnaby says we won't be fighting an election in a COVID environment, I hope he's right. Because a year ago, we could not have imagined we'd be back in this situation this year. But remember, Nat, it wasn't all that long ago, governments would have been very happy to have an election in the middle of COVID-19, in the middle of a pandemic because the advantages of incumbency seem to be so powerful – Mark McGowen in western Australia proved that to be the case. But Scott Morrison has flushed that advantage down the toilet. That is the reality. And this poll we see this morning is effectively a plebiscite on his performance on both quarantine and vaccination. And they've certainly sent a very, very clear message.
BARR: Finally, conservative media personality…
BARR: Yes Barnaby?
JOYCE: ... [inaudible]... then Mr Albanese at 33 per cent as the leader would be got rid of tomorrow. So, is that plebiscite going to be adhered to or is it only some plebiscites?
FITZGIBBON: Well, Barnaby loves to try to turn the spotlight back on the opposition. He is the government. He's the Deputy Prime Minister. He was on national television yesterday arguing against his own government, asking his own government what the rules would be around zero net emissions. So, I think we should start talking more about the government and less about the opposition. This is a vote [in audible]
BARR: Let's have a little look at this one because this was a big story on the weekend. Conservative media personality, Katie Hopkins, has caused a stir after she deliberately broke hotel quarantine laws. Take a look:
AUDIO OF KATIE HOPKINS: The police officer who checked me told me when they knock on my door, I have to [laughing] I have to wait 30 seconds till I can open the door. And then I'm allowed to open the door – but I think it might be the 5am or might be jetlag, got a bit of hysterical – I can open the door, but only doing it in a face mask...
BARR: Barnaby, her visa has been cancelled, she will return to the UK; was that the right decision? And a lot of people saying why was she given a place in the first place?
JOYCE: Well, look, I must say she, she doesn't come across as a great asset for our nation visiting us. But more importantly, people just can't come in and flout our laws. They might agree with them and they may not agree with them, but they're our laws and you don't flout them and if you do flout them, then, as I said, you just pack up your bags, get out and go. We don't want you here like it's – if you believe that your personal sovereignty is better than our national sovereignty, then well, I don't know, swim away. I don't know, do whatever you have to do. Get out of our country. And she's going, bye bye.
BARR: But 30,000 Australians trying to fly back home, and they can't, do you think it was a mistake to give her that right in the first place, Barnaby?
JOYCE: Well, we haven't seen her performance in a more sort of express form than just recently, and we've seen that now, and she's gone.
FITZGIBBON: Every day, Nat, Members of Parliament, including me, and I've no doubt Barnaby, deal with desperate families trying to get loved ones back into the country, often to see dying relatives, sometimes parents and what we are doing allowing this nutjob into the country, I do not know. She was not only flouting our rules, she was taking the P – I won't use the word – out of all of us laughing at us, Nat.
FITZGIBBON: So, the quicker she goes home, the better and I hope she flies economy all the way
BARR: And she's gone. Okay, thank you very much Gents. Talk to you next week. Here's Kochie.