NATALIE BARR, HOST: For more let's bring in Nationals MP, Barnaby Joyce, and Labor MP, Joel Fitzgibbon - good morning. Barnaby, if you're sitting at home in Melbourne in Victoria this morning, in this lockdown, and you're off work, what are you entitled to?
BARNABY JOYCE, MEMBER FOR NEW ENGLAND: Well, we have over the past made massive, massive investments in JobKeeper, JobSeeker around about $45 billion in Victoria. Obviously, the state government have now announced their package and I welcome them doing that. If you said, are you entitled to the packages - the Commonwealth packages that are there before and have ceased? No you're not, they’re over. And, you know, that's a straight answer, because we ultimately get to a point where we just can't keep putting things on the credit card. And this is, this is the stark reality, we have to make sure that we've learned to work with the fact that there is a virus in the community otherwise, and try and minimize the spread. But if the solution to everything is more debt, then it will come to an end. And that'll be a problem as bad as COVID.
BARR: Yeah, Joel, Josh Frydenberg does say that the federal government has spent three times as much as the state government in direct economic support. Is that fair enough?
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: Well, there's this thing called vertical fiscal imbalance, Nat, it reminds people that the Commonwealth is the big taxer, and the holder of most of the money. Now we are all only as good as our last game. It's not good enough for Scott Morrison to say that a year ago, I did x, y and z. And by the way, he did so by borrowing lots of money on behalf the taxpayer, which he said was justified. Now he's pulled all of that support, Nat, and Victorians are in trouble. And they are in trouble for the same reasons people were in trouble a year or more ago. And the fact that this virus came from South Australia, and before that across our international borders, reminds us that this is a Commonwealth responsibility. And Barnaby’s just made the point; there is no Centrelink support available for these people because they're not unemployed, Nat. They have been stood down, by necessity, by their employers, because there is a necessary lockdown. I haven't heard anyone in the government say there shouldn't be a lockdown. So let's get on and support those people.
BARR: Yeah, Barnaby, this is the problem, isn't it? I heard the Prime Minister over the weekend say, well, it's the, it's the state's choice to go into lockdown; Queensland managed a short lockdown, so did WA. But Victorians have felt, Victorians have had more lockdowns than anyone in this country. And the Victorian Treasurer is now saying a lot of this is caused by the slow vaccine rollout and hotel quarantine programs that need to be changed and improved. What do you say to that?
JOYCE: Why is it that Victoria is unable to manage it like other states can? And why, when they can't manage it like other states can, they have to blame somebody else? And where do we actually, if the solution to everything is borrow more money, because that's the solution, well, you know, it's got a finite time period before your credit rating goes down, before the whole structure of the nation starts to become affected by the debt that we've taken on board. Now, Victoria has got to manage their own state. I mean, they can't just say, well, we can be parochial, we can do this, we can do that. Until we, until something goes wrong, they're going to blame somebody else. Victoria has got to govern. It has got a state Labor Government. If they can't manage it, they are unable to manage their own issues, then get out and give it to somebody else to do.
FITZGIBBON: Well, Victoria is a densely populated urban population, Nat. It's always been a challenge for that state. And if the Commonwealth Government had properly and quickly rolled out a vaccination program, we probably wouldn't be having this crisis in Victoria at the moment. So, no matter which way you cut it, Nat, it's pretty obvious that Victoria and the people of Victoria have been let down by this federal government.
JOYCE: Well, then why don't we have a crisis in Sydney? I mean, what's different with Sydney...
FITZGIBBON: ... We don't have a crisis in Sydney, because the virus didn't come from India, through South Australia, and into Sydney, Barnaby. It came from overseas, through Adelaide, into Melbourne.
BARR: ... Well...
JOYCE: We've had other breakouts in Sydney. They've managed to manage them. It's just that Victoria can't. And that's the difference. There's more people in New South Wales than Victoria and there's more people in Sydney than Melbourne. But for some magical reason, Berejiklian is able to manage it. But the Dan Andrews on holiday government can't.
BARR: You know, epidemiologists will say there could be a crisis in Sydney. This Indian variant spreads really quickly in a day as opposed to four or five days. So this brings me to my next question - the Deputy PM and the Trade Minister said on the weekend, it is not a race to get people vaccinated. This federal, the federal government, Barnaby, keeps sending out this message. Why isn't it a race? Because a lot of businesses around this country who are struggling would say, why can't it be a race? We need it to be one.
JOYCE: Well, they probably could have chosen better words. I would say you do it as quickly and as prudently as possible. And that is exactly what is happening. I don't think there's any person involved with the vaccine saying, well, we'll just put our feet up and take the day off. We're rolling it out as prudently and as quickly as possible. But the biggest issue is to maintain the social practices that limit the capacity for the virus to spread and maintain the testing. We have a rollout process on board, we did not have the deaths they have had in India or in other countries proximate to us, even the UK, or the United States. Therefore, if one life is worth as much as another, then we've got to understand that the vaccine is going to be rolled out first and foremost where it's paramount in how it is killing people. And that is not Australia, we've been incredibly lucky, incredibly fortunate. And that's, that's thanks to the Australian people, but to say that we're not actually rolling it out as prudently and quickly as possible is not correct. We're doing the best job we can. I don't know what the, how there's some terminology about what a race is, maybe just expeditiously is probably a better word. That's what we have got to do.
BARR: Well, a lot of people are saying it's too slow. In that nursing home where a worker has just tested positive, a third of the staff, only a third of the staff have been vaccinated. There are 29 aged care facilities in Victoria who haven't had any kind of vaccination, Joel.
FITZGIBBON: It's always great, Nat, to see Barnaby backing in his leader. His name is Michael McCormack, Barnaby. But Michael McCormack is wrong. People are literally, Nat, in a race for their lives, particularly those, for example, in the aged care sector, which you've noted. This is hopeless, and we need to get on with it. We are in a race for our lives.
BARR: Okay. Thank you very much. We'll talk to you next week, both of you.