NATALIE BARR, HOST: Well, the first Australians have been vaccinated against COVID-19, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison at an event broadcast live in Sydney. A small group of people were given the first doses of the Pfizer shots to boost confidence in the rollout. It officially begins around the country today; the government aims to deliver 60,000 doses by the end of the week. For their take, we’re joined by Nationals MP, Barnaby Joyce, and Labor MP, Joel Fitzgibbon. Good morning, Gents. Barnaby, we've seen hesitancy about this vaccine actually increase in recent months, and we're seeing protests around the country. How confident are you that enough people are going to want to get this jab?
BARNABY JOYCE, MEMBER FOR NEW ENGLAND: Well, the herd immunity, Nat, something is virulent, and measles needs about a 95% vaccination rate. COVID, because it's less virulent, but obviously a lot more dangerous, if you get it, we're looking at around about – the World Health Organisation says around about 70 per cent up to 80 per cent. So even for those who for whatever reason decided they don't want to and I'm not one of them, as long as everybody else is vigilant and gets the vaccine, then we should herd immunity, and that’s the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines. No doubt others will come online. Now we're very lucky in Australia that we don't have the half a million dead, like they have in the United States at the moment, more than the First World War, Second World War and Vietnam combined. Therefore, you know, the reality is that we've done a very good job. So, we can - we can stand a little bit down the track from where America or the other countries are.
BARR: Yes, but Joel, could that almost work against us because it's not flowing through the community like it has in a lot of countries? And, you know, people aren't dying in big numbers, people might not want to have the job.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: Yes, that's absolutely true. Ironically, our success now is our major barrier to success on vaccination. And the fact is, we all have a role to play now. It's hard to really interpret with precision what the reaction of the crowd at the Australian Open last night meant during the chairman's speech, but I think it does highlight that we have a significant challenge in front of us. And that is no doubt, in part, a result of the fact that we don't have broad community transmission. So we all have a role to play – me and Barnaby and every member of parliament in particular – to say to people at every opportunity every day, please get out there and get vaccinated because this is our pathway to a more normal economy and our pathway back to a more normal way of living here in Australia.
BARR: Joel, could the government be doing more to sell the vaccine then they're doing?
FITZGIBBON: Look, I think the marketing campaign is going to be really important because we do have a big challenge in front of us. But the government will spend a lot of taxpayers' money marketing the vaccination – we support that, we think that's a good thing. And we encourage it to roll that out and to get this job done as quickly as possible.
JOYCE: Apparently after this, we are going to have a mud bath with myself and Joel and we will both be given needles, and we have to jab each other in the arm and hopefully that raises the profile of it.
BARR: Okay, that could put most people…
FITZGIBBON: That is just taking it too far.
BARR : Yes... Okay... Maybe just the marketing campaign might be...
FITZGIBBON: Moving on.
BARR: … Moving on. Look, this is obviously the story that's been front and centre all week. Now we're hearing a third woman has made sexual assault allegations against that same Liberal staffer accused of raping Brittany Higgins. The Australian reports the then Liberal volunteer was attacked following a night of drinking during the 2016 election campaign. This is the third woman that's come forward. It comes after a second woman came forward over the weekend. Barnaby, what is happening in Parliament House? How serious is the culture problem in that building?
JOYCE: With a daughter who's a staffer who's 24, obviously this is close to my heart. I'll be really succinct. Number one, the issue of the criminality is to be dealt with by the police in the courts, and that process is underway. And we've also had other allegations out there today, which have proven true so a pattern of behaviour. Number two, the who, what, where, and why, and whether has to be dealt with by the parliament and I expect there to be vigilant and erudite questions held by the Opposition so we can nail this down so it doesn't happen again. And number three, I think it's really important for Brittany for her – Brittany and the others – for their own mental health and for their own position to let the solicitor – their solicitors – do the talking from this point forward. I think all these things need to be managed.
BARR: There seems to be a problem, though, where the decision is left up to the woman who is suffering at the end of this. A police officer, a senior police officer came out on the weekend said do we change the whole the way we treat our sexual assault like we have changed the discussion on domestic violence where police stepping in to a woman who's been affected. Joel, what do you think of that? Because this is not working.
FITZGIBBON: Yeah, certainly the law has to be a sufficient deterrent. Men have to understand that if they do these things, the full force of the law will come down upon them. Here in Parliament House, the systems have obviously been inadequate, and that needs to be fixed on a bipartisan basis. But you're right, Nat, to describe this as a cultural problem. And it's a cultural problem, not just here in Parliament House, but it permeates right throughout our society, and in fact, around the world. And we need to learn that this is a men problem. And men are best placed to fix it. And the best place to fix it is for all men to send a very clear signal to the minority, who still treat women like an object, that this is unacceptable to them, and then make it clear to them that they'll be ostracised from society and from their friendship groups, if there's a hint that they're being capable of doing such terrible things to women who are vulnerable.
JOYCE: I think – I think we've got to go the next step, Joel. I know the culture issue is incredibly important. But what these people need was someone that they could see who is not part of the political machine.
JOYCE: And someone who can inform them of their rights and then also inform the Parliament and the politicians of their obligations. And that's the incredibly important thing. It's not just about the person's rights, it's about other people's obligations and what they do. If you have to go see your boss about a problem in your office, I don't think that's a good way to start at all. I think you've got to have an external body which you go to, and both parties, to be frank, need to be – need to go on a proper process for both the protection of the person making the allegation and the protection of the person who will have to lodge the defence.
BARR: Yep, and if this is happening in that house, the so-called top of Australia, boy, have we got a problem right across this country. Thanks very much Gents. We'll talk to you next week.
JOYCE: You're welcome.