NATALIE BARR, HOST: Thanks Kochie, the New South Wales Government has joined calls for a Commonwealth run quarantine facility to allow the state to accept more stranded Aussies. The push comes after the federal government rejected Queensland's demands for a facility near Toowoomba, before striking a deal with Victoria. For their take, I'm joined by Nationals MP, Barnaby Joyce, and Labor MP, Joel Fitzgibbon. Morning to you both. Barnaby, there's been a push for purpose-built quarantine facilities for a long time. What do we need to do here? How – do we need more? How many do we need? And where?
BARNABY JOYCE, MEMBER FOR NEW ENGLAND: Well, I think we do need them actually. I think we – we've got Howard springs, obviously. But we – it's quite obvious that if we get another variant of this disease, we're going to have to have the capacity to put them somewhere where we can manage it. And my – they're building one at Avalon, so we all hear. My inclination is out – more out in the country would be probably better. Building a quarantine facility in the middle, in the middle of the city. Well, I hope it works. But they're moving down that path. This is a moving beast, how we manage this virus, and this is the next iteration of it.
BARR: So why are we only doing one then, Barnaby?
JOYCE: Well, I suppose at the epicentre of it now the issue that needs to be managed now is Melbourne. I've no doubt and I know how government works overtime as information changes as it becomes more prevalent as how you manage this going forward, they'll probably look at a further one. We've got Howard springs; they'll soon have Avalon. But as I said my inclination would be to try and move the doctors and the resources to a place that's remote. I just have my concerns about building one in the middle of the city. But, anyway, they've all agreed to do that. So, off they go and do it.
BARR: Joel, what do you think?
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: It's amazing, isn't it, Nat. it seems everyone supports the establishment of purpose-built quarantine facilities now. Yet the federal government resisted them for many, many months. You know, we all know from our bitter experiences in life, that you can't reverse a mistake, but you can start to make up for them. And, of course, this is a good development. We can't get back to normal, either our lives or our economy, until we have mass vaccination and dedicated quarantine facilities. That's pretty clear. And it's good now that the federal government is finally, reluctantly as it seems, but finally agreeing that this must be done, and we need to get on with it.
BARR: Okay, the government's also giving an extra 100,000 Pfizer vaccines to Victoria to shore up supplies. Barnaby, is that going to be enough to prevent another lockdown?
JOYCE: Well, we've got to stop another lockdown. All these answers, you know, it's, I don't know, let's hope it is. What we have to do is get a general vaccination within the population. And once we got that, then the community safety and the capacity for herd immunity rises. Australia still has to realise, we're so lucky. If you're in England, I think it's about 1,500 to every million have died of the disease. It might even be more than that. I think in the United States, it's 1,200. Maybe more than that, but what I do know, it's about 84 per million or 83 per million in Australia. We have done an exceptional job, we being the Australian people and assisted by the government, and basically just that diligence of the Australian people to do the right thing which hasn't happened in other countries and they got major problems, but we can't rest on it. We have to plan for this disease. And we have to plan for variants of this disease. And we have to work out a way going forward, and 100,000 Pfizer vaccines is a, is a great move towards that. The vaccine rollout is happening. Millions and millions of people have been vaccinated, and we're heading towards a good number of people now being vaccinated a second time. And the reason that Australia is not as is not as prescient as other – it's not as pressing, sorry – as other countries is that their death rate is astronomical. We've been very, very lucky.
BARR: Yeah, Joel, we have been lucky. But that is the reason why, and the government has done a great job on this, we know in the last year, but that is the reason a lot of people are giving for saying I think I’ll wait.
FITZGIBBON: Yeah, Nat, the government has done some things well, but it's failed in critical areas. We just spoke about quarantine facilities, and now we're having this debate about who gets a jab and who doesn't get a jab. The reports this morning suggest that they're holding vaccines back from people who are searching for their first jab because they want to give it to people searching for their second job first. Now, this all goes back again to nearly 12 months ago when we argued that the government needed more options for vaccine supply, like most countries had done. And, now, again, the mistakes been made. We can try to make up for it, and the government now seems to be scrambling, but the damage is done.
BARR: Let's go to the Newspoll. Sorry, Barnaby?
JOYCE: I don't know about that. The issue there is we did have – we organised the vaccines, a lot of the countries withheld them. That was one of the problems we encountered, it was withheld from Europe for a period. It's not – you can have all the agreements you like and unless people are willing to honour them, it's a bit more difficult than you say.
FITZGIBBON: But, we didn't, we didn't hedge our bets. We didn't spread the risk. We should have sought more options as most countries did.
JOYCE: Let's believe in people who will honour their agreement. Ok.
BARR: Ok. Let's talk about the Newspoll because this is how people are viewing the government and the opposition at the moment. The government has gained one point to draw level with Labor on two-party preferred basis in the latest Newspoll published in the Australians morning. Labor has dropped one. It's the first time since February that both parties have been deadlocked. News not as good for the PM, no support for Scott Morrison, fell two points to 53 per cent; Albanese gained two points to sit at 32. Barnaby, what do you make of these figures?
JOYCE: Well, it probably means the public thinks that either side of politics would make a big difference on how the Pfizer vaccine or AstraZeneca vaccine – it's so cold here, that's why I got a hat on – is being rolled, rolled out. It's, it's, you know, they're basically sitting back it's very – we know, just what by the numbers in the parliament, it's a close-run thing. What is also quite evident, and we also know it's more, as far as popularity goes, it's Morrison then daylight, then daylight, then more daylight, then poor old Albo, and – but you know, our concern, of course, is if they change from Albo because then that'll be a completely different kettle of fish. But what we know about the Labor Party is they won't.
BARR: Joel, ok, it's in your court now. Because, you know, in February, you guys were two points ahead. And then we've had the vaccine rollout which a lot of people have been critical of. Do you think it's poor old Albo?
JOYCE: I can see a little smile on Joel's face there. A little smile.
FITZGIBBON: The movement in the primary and two-party preferred is just within the margin of error, Nat. I think the critical thing here is that Scott Morrison's popularity has collapsed – not collapse, sorry, it's declined substantially…
JOYCE: It hasn't collapsed.
FITZGIBBON: Last, and I know
BARR: It's still 20 points ahead, though.
JOEL FITZGIBBON: [inaudible].
FITZGIBBON: It's gone south because of the two things we were talking about earlier – vaccination and quarantine. And the government has clearly failed. Scott Morrison argued vigorously and aggressively towards our cause for more vaccine options and for dedicated quarantine facilities, he ignored them and now he's paying a price. It's pretty simple.
JOYCE: Joel, I want you to tell me honestly, what do you think of Albanese's polling? What do you think's going on there?
FITZGIBBON: I think Albanese is, like every opposition, living in a difficult time when incumbency during COVID is very, very powerful. Thanks for the interview – thanks for the interview Barnaby, it was really good.
JOYCE: He's not he's not living in...
FITZGIBBON: ... A little bit more media training, possibly, but not a bad start.
JOYCE: The guy is out in intensive care, he's not living in difficult times, he's only just with us. He's like he's out in the frost here. He's running around the frost.
FITZGIBBON: Yeah, and how's Michael McCormack going, Barnaby, your leader. I know you strongly support him.
JOYCE: He was up in Tamworth the other day.
FITZGIBBON: Oh, how did that go for you?
BARR: Okay, we will leave this friendly chat, because we've got to go. Thank you very much for your insight gents. Barnaby is getting a bit cold there, that's why he's wearing his hat today. See you next week.