Release type: Transcript

Date:

Interview - Channel 9 Today with Karl Stefanovic

Ministers:

The Hon Stuart Robert MP
Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business

E&OE-------------------------------------

Topics: Victoria's roadmap, vaccination rollout in Queensland, Bondi vaccination rates, Christian Porter

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Joining me now is Minister for Employment, Stuart Robert, who joins us on a very ugly day on the Gold Coast. And in Sydney, Triple M’s Gus Worland. Good morning guys. Nice to see you.

MINISTER ROBERT:

Good morning, Karl.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Minister to you, first up, let's go to Melbourne. The Herald Sun carries a brutal editorial today saying the Andrews Government has, quote, failed the people of Melbourne at almost every turn. They call it a shameful indictment. And now the Victorian Chamber of Commerce says it will lose business to New South Wales. Has Victoria got it right?

MINISTER ROBERT:

At least there's a plan they can see now, Karl. Now, small businesses, it's heart breaking to see what's happening. Though there's light, they can see where they're going, the National Plan spells out 70 to 80 per cent so they can sort of see what's happening. Five, six weeks to go, just get the vaccination numbers up, because otherwise economically it's going to be heart breaking for Christmas.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

It's very hard to have confidence though as a small business, when things just keep getting pushed back. And when you look at New South Wales, that makes it even harder, I think, Stuart.

MINISTER ROBERT:

Here on the Gold Coast, of course, everything is open. There's people walking on the beach and it’s a beautiful day and hotels are filling up. It's a tale of two different approaches. But now there's a light. Premier Andrews has said coming through to 7 November, that's when they’re looking at 80 per cent or thereabouts. We just need to get the vaccination numbers up and then get out to small businesses and spend.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Fingers crossed. Okay, Gus, the Burnet Institute, those purveyors of doom and gloom.  It's probably a little bit unfair, but there's not a lot of light coming out of there. [They] warn that Victoria's ICUs will be pushed to breaking point in the coming months. Compare that to those relaxed scenes at Bondi last night that we saw. Do you get the feeling that they've gone a little early?

GUS WORLAND:

Yeah, definitely. Gone a little bit early and it was expected, though. The Aussies will always take the mickey if we possibly get the opportunity to. We’ll always go to the line and creep a little bit over it as well. A lot of those people sitting there yesterday are just fed up, Karl, like the rest of us are. We see an opportunity. A lot of those people might have been double vaxxed, we don't know that. I know a lot of the police that work in that area. It was all very jovial and so forth, and it was just like, at last a little bit of freedom and stuff. So, I can understand why we're trying to be as human as possible through this. We are so close now. It's just a matter of time. We’ve- like always, we’re going to go a little bit early.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Stuart, do you think that- Queensland's vaccination rate is well behind, I think it's along the lines of WA. But do you think when they get to 80 and 90 per cent, Annastacia Palaszczuk will open the border up definitively?

MINISTER ROBERT:

That’s the National Plan, Karl, and that’s what our expectation is and that’s what we’ll be asking Premier Palaszczuk. 

I took my sons – two boys, 14, 15 – to the vax centres on Saturday. Great experience, seamless. I’d encourage all Queenslanders to get out.

But the key message is once we hit those 70, 80 per cent, borders have to come down. We have to get back to normal. And that is the expectation of the average Queenslander, Karl. That's what they expect from the government.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Okay, the Queensland- the Courier Mail has a very funny front page today, it says back in the race, but it also says COVID shot turnout beats New South Wales. I mean…

MINISTER ROBERT:

I mean, by a thousand. I think it’s the first time today. We celebrate the little things.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Yeah. And pretty low numbers. But they're going to have to get them up and it has been sluggish. You’d have to concede that.

MINISTER ROBERT:

It has been. And it's got to get faster. You are looking at New South Wales coming in to 70 per cent in October and then 80 per cent after that. So we need Queensland to really catch up and catch up quickly.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Just south- not far south of the border there, the anti-vax capital of the world, Byron Bay. Just 31 per cent fully jabbed. I mean, what do you say? I mean, come Christmas, this could turn ugly for them. Stuart?

MINISTER ROBERT:

It's nuts, Karl. People need to understand in Byron Bay and northern New South Wales that white flowing linen is not going to protect you from COVID. It’s just not going to run.

Get out there and get vaccinated. Come down from the hills in Mullumbimby and Nimbin and get into a vaccination centre. Come on.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

We may have to take the vaccine to them, Stuart. I mean…

MINISTER ROBERT:

It’s just- it’s not hard. Just as you are driving down to the beach, and for your- sort of, soy latte cafe with an orange twist, get vaccinated on the way.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

There you go. That sounds like you, Gus. A soy latte and a bit of linen.

GUS WORLAND:

I am a chai latte man, you know that. So many people now- schoolies, my daughter just booked Byron Bay for schoolies because the HSC has moved on a month and all their Gold Coast stuff had to be cancelled. So, yeah, we want that place up and running and we want it completely open. How much fun are they going to be having up there? So, yeah, get the jab. I know it's not what you want, but we live in a democracy. It means sort of, basically, majority rules. So, we need the jab to move forward so please go ahead and do that.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

It's pretty expensive that time of year too, Stuart, going into Byron Bay. Do you know what we all need? We all need a little blind trust to fund our holiday, don't you reckon?

MINISTER ROBERT:

That's a little harsh, a little tough, Karl. I think it's been pretty difficult for Christian Porter. He put a statement out yesterday. It's heartbreaking reading when you look at what he's been through. But he's made a decision, he’s upheld ministerial standards and that’s- I guess that’s where it lies.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

He didn’t say sorry, he didn't apologise. He just blamed trial by the mob and only admitted to a, quote, unhelpful distraction. Why doesn't he just say sorry and get on with it?

MINISTER ROBERT:

We can't speak for other people but he- certainly after a conversation with the Prime Minister, tendered his resignation, that is a tough path to walk. 

He is an incredibly decent operator and a very smart operator and we will certain miss his international rigour at a Cabinet level. But he recognised the spirit of the standard wasn't kept and took the appropriate action.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Have you ever used a blind trust in Parliament?

MINISTER ROBERT:

I do. Because all the bits and pieces that you own, you can't have control of them as a minister, but they're the things you already own so they get pushed into a blind trust and there's enormous processes that sit over the top of it to ensure you don't have access to it. 

That is the time-honoured way that ministers move their own private affairs that they have already got before coming into Parliament.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

The very idea of a blind trust for me creates an element of hiding certain thing. Have you always been open and accountable to who has supplied you cash in a blind trust?

MINISTER ROBERT:

You've actually got to demonstrate to the Prime Minister and Cabinet, you’ve got to produce all of the assets, you’ve got to have a legal and accounting signoff. It's an exorbitantly long process for it to be approved through the ministerial standards, and of course, then it's constantly oversighted by Prime Minister and Cabinet.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Can I be honest with you? I can't believe these things exist. I can't believe as a Member of Parliament you've got such a thing as a blind trust where you can't say exactly- well, precisely where money is coming from. I mean, it just sounds like some sort of dodgy cover-up scheme.

MINISTER ROBERT:

It's more about who's managing your assets because you can't manage them yourselves. Otherwise you would be saying to anyone coming into Parliament, you have to sell absolutely everything and own nothing before coming into Parliament. That is not going to work. So you’ve got to have a way where you're at arm's length for everything and it’s all professionally managed with full transparency to the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Gus, what do you think, blind trusts?

GUS WORLAND:

Yeah, I mean, the way that the minister just described it, I sort of understand it because you want good people in Parliament and good people normally have got some stuff behind them. You can't expect them to give that all away to get into a position of authority. So, I understand that. But, yeah, I'm with you, Karl, as a general man, a general member of the public, it all sounds a little bit how you going, but there’s got to be processes in place. And when they're broken, we saw what happened yesterday. But if they're not broken, then we can get good people doing good stuff for us because we want intelligent people running our country…

KARL STEFANOVIC:

[Talks over] That’s for sure.

GUS WORLAND:

… And if that's the way we need to do it, Stevie Wonder can run my trust for me. I’ve got nothing. So, there you go.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

I will let you get away with that. It's Monday morning.

GUS WORLAND:

Okay.

MINISTER ROBERT:

Thanks Karl.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

And Stuart, I will let you get away with wearing your linen shirt and having a soy latte on the way to Mullumbimby to inject the anti-vaxxers.

MINISTER ROBERT:

White flowing linen, Karl. Flowing is the operative word.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Good to talk to you guys. Thank you.

[ENDS]