NATALIE BARR, HOST: Thanks Kochie. Australians have been promised a four-phase National COVID Response Plan which will eventually see the end of lockdowns and our international borders reopened. The plan is pegged on more Australians being vaccinated, but exact targets haven't been decided. For now, lock downs will be used as a last resort to stop the spread of dangerous variants and fortress Australia is being tightened with international arrivals halved from July 14. This phase also includes the trial of alternative quarantine options, including home quarantine for returning vaccinated travellers. But is all this enough? Live now to Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon, morning to you. Joel, this plan doesn't include a firm vaccine target at this stage, no exact timeline on those international borders reopening. When will the government be able to reveal any kind of dates?
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: Yes, 18 months on, Nat. It's not much of a plan, isn't it - is it? I mean, it's, you don't get to steps two, three and four until you've completed step one. And, of course, the centrepiece of step one is broadscale vaccination. Yet, this is the new barbecue stopper in Australia, at least for those who can have a barbecue. Everyone in my communities is talking about one thing only, and that's the stuff up in vaccination. We can't return to any form of normality, we can't get over these ridiculous lockdowns, we can't get the economy pumping again until we get broadscale vaccination, and that terrible incident in that Baulkham Hills nursing home yesterday reminds us yet again, how poorly we are doing on the vaccination front.
BARR: Yeah, I know. Let's bring in Barnaby Joyce, the Deputy Prime Minister. Barnaby, business groups today say we are being held hostage to vaccine hesitancy.
BARNABY JOYCE, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: I can’t hear.
BARR: You can't hear us Barnaby? Okay, we'll put you aside and we'll just get our audio guys to fix that. Joel, we are being held hostage to vaccine hesitancy according to business groups. We need realistic, achievable targets. The government isn't putting any timeline on this. Is this because when they did put a timeline and say, you know, certain groups will be vaccinated by April, it blew out?
FITZGIBBON: Yeah, I suspect there's some hesitancy there, Nat. There is no doubt that Scott Morrison is now in trouble. As I said, people everywhere are talking about one thing only: that's his failure on vaccination. He's probably reluctant to put a target on it. But what does the four-step process mean if there's no target on vaccination? And what does it mean after all this time having trials on hotel quarantine, we've been saying for more than 12 months, we need purpose built, more isolated quarantine facilities. This is - these are the simple things that could have been done a long time ago. And now sadly, arguably by necessity, we're looking more and more Aussies out of our country because we've failed on the important points. This is getting worse now. Scott Morrison will need a political fixed pretty soon. But he doesn't seem to be able to come up with one.
BARR: Yeah, Barnaby. It was the topic of conversation over the weekend and has been for weeks. When are we going to get the rollout back on track? Business leaders are now saying we need realistic and achievable targets. We need clear metrics in that four-phase plan, which did seem good. There are no numbers, there are no dates, why not?
JOYCE: Well, the numbers are there. And in what we're doing, we're in except now – I'm sorry, I have to hold my phone. But the numbers are in excess of 8 million. We're getting through at an increasingly quicker rate. But obviously, I'd say by the end of this week, we'll be well over 9 million. And that is, that's the metric you work. It's a metric that basically the speed we can get the vaccine out. We've increased the people who can get the AstraZeneca vaccine. We've actually got them in store. So, one thing we want is to use them before they run out of date. So, it's not a case of there's no vaccine around. There's obviously a greater, obviously, draw on the Pfizer vaccine. We're not the only country in the world having to deal with this, other countries such as Canada and Mexico, are trying to draw on the Pfizer vaccine as well. So, this sort of idea that the Pfizer vaccine issue is an unique Australian problem is not correct. And I believe more and more – I went around the footy yesterday, Walcha, more and more people have had one – have had one shot and are heading towards getting their second shot. You see it in your own communities, you see it in your own workplaces. So many people have had a shot now. It is rolling out.
BARR: Yeah, look, we know it's rolling out. But still on the list of on a world scale on the list of people who've had two jabs, we're still well down. Why wouldn't the government set targets for when the country will open up? When we will get everyone vaccinated? Why weren't those targets attached to that four-point plan, Barnaby?
JOYCE: Well, the most important thing, I mean, I can't speak into the mind of other people as why they're not. But I'd suggest that I wouldn't do it because what you want to make sure is you work to a plan that works with the states that says, we're going to have to live with this virus, but we're not going to be – we're not going to be getting rid of it. Even if everybody's vaccinated and all, you can get 90% vaccination, you're still going to have the virus in the community. And so you've got to make sure that you conditioned people to the idea that our job is to keep you alive and to stop you from getting sick, we are not going to be able to eradicate COVID-19 – that's just not going to happen. What we have to do is create a society where we can live with the virus like we live with the flu, like you have to do with measles or mumps or rubella. You don't want them, but you don't close down the economy because they're there. And that's precisely what we're doing. And I think the states are now coming on board with that idea. And that's the very – that sets our nation up in a much stronger place.
BARR: But it seems every fortnight we see something that we wished could have been improved. Joel, three residents have tested positive to COVID-19 at a Sydney aged care home. They've been vaccinated, but we've just found out in this last week, two thirds of staff haven't been. That is so frustrating to a lot of people, Joel Fitzgibbon.
FITZGIBBON: And there can be no better example of failure than that, Nat. There must be lots of concerned families in that part of the world at the moment and nothing Barnaby just said justifies or explains why only one third of that workforce has been vaccinated. There are systemic failures here, started in the beginning when we limited our options on supply. Barnaby now says the supply is there. Well, I don't see much evidence of that and Baulkham Hills, of course, is another sad example and I think evidence of that.
BARR: Barnaby, last Monday the Prime Minister of this country announced that vaccination was mandatory for aged care workers. Last Monday.
JOYCE: Well, then you have to find out why those people weren't vaccinated. There is no, there is a supply of AstraZeneca vaccine, I didn't say Pfizer. As I said, we're trying to grab that just like Canada, just like Mexico, we're not unique in the world, and that there is a demand for the Pfizer vaccine. We are unique in the world that the number of people who have died from COVID-19 this year is quite unique. We have no one who has died from community transmission in Australia. So that is the unique number that we want to work on. And also, to teaching people the reality of – unfortunately the reality that we're not going to get rid of this virus. And now of regards to aged care workers, yeah, if there's an issue there, we need to work out where the – we didn't go the way it should of and fixed it. And that's what happens in any crisis like this as you go along, you fix your problems. You don't, you don't go in with perfect knowledge. And to – if you're going to – want to hold us to account for something hold us to account for having deaths like they have in other countries because we just don't. We've been remarkably successful in this nation.
BARR: Okay, thank you both. Thanks. Good job, Barnaby on holding your phone. Good luck see you next week.