Release type: Transcript

Date:

Interview, Channel Nine - Today Show

Ministers:

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

Topics: National Cabinet, PCR tests for domestic travel, shop with small businesses this Christmas.

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

JAYNE AZZOPARDI:

So there we had it. The much-heralded National Cabinet meeting with so much on the agenda, so much to discuss, but what decisions were actually made? Well, according to editorials in today's Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, not much. No coordinated national response, Queensland travel testing stays despite the huge queues in other states, masks recommended but not mandated, and a decision on changing booster shots deferred to ATAGI. Let's discuss all this with Tasmanian Senator, Jacqui Lambie, or should I say Christmas Elf, who joins us from Burnie, and our Employment Minister, Stuart Robert, on the Gold Coast. Jacqui, with those earrings flashing away, we have to go to you first. The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age is saying that two years into the pandemic, the Australian response remains a mish mash of different policies. Do you agree?

JACQUI LAMBIE:

I just thought because of the Christmas spirit whole thing, all the premiers would have come together. Anyway, look, I think the problem is here, we're all running on a very different health system. And we certainly know what ours is like here in Tasmania. And I think for those premiers, I think they need to make their own decisions depending on whether they've got the work force to cater for this, whatever else is going on. But I certainly know something, is that if you're going to put your underpants on every morning, then you know what, grab your mask. Treat it as part of your wardrobe now. Go and put it on. We put it here in Tasmania on Tuesday. You could see them walking straight out of the supermarkets and taking them off. By yesterday, they weren’t even doing that. So they’re already getting comfortable with it. We have to do what we possibly can to slow the spread and not pass it on to others where we possibly can and putting a mask on is not a lot to ask. So…

JAYNE AZZOPARDI:

[Interrupts] And you think it should be mandated?

JACQUI LAMBIE:

I think people should just put their big girl pants on and do the right thing by the health workers, their family, their friends, and at Christmas time. And for goodness sake, just make it part of your daily clothing change and put your mask on when you walk outside. It’s simple. I don't think it should be mandated. I think you should just do it because it is the right thing to do.

JAYNE AZZOPARDI:

Stuart, what do you think? Is National Cabinet delivering what the country needs right now?

MINISTER ROBERT:

It’s the 58th National Cabinet meeting yesterday, Jayne. It’s about coordinating various state and territory premiers. Jacqui and I find ourselves on a unity ticket on this particular issue in that the various health systems are run by the states. It’s their constitutional responsibility. The Prime Minister is coordinating and pulling them together, but ultimately responsibility for health lies with state premiers. We want less government in our lives now, but we also want Australians to do the right thing. It’s, as Jacqui said, time for all of us to be grown-ups, to take personal responsibility.

JAYNE AZZOPARDI:

Well, the nation's top doctor is now warning that Queensland's travel testing requirements is disrupting legitimate health testing in other states. We've seen those long queues over the last few days. Jacqui, is Annastacia Palaszczuk right to stick to that testing?

JACQUI LAMBIE:

Look, I think, like, it's so divided out there on what each state is doing. It’s really difficult to keep up with what is going on. If she's got long lines out there, then put more people on. But do something. I certainly know for Tasmanians, I think a lot of them just said: do you know what? It’ll be safer to stay at home this year. We’re not going to travel. And I think a lot of them have actually put their travel plans either on hold, or have just said: you know, we're just going to stay around here and we’re going to try and keep safe with our masks on.

JAYNE AZZOPARDI:

Well, Stuart, you're in the state that a lot of people are trying to get into, do you support the Premier's stance?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Absolutely not, Jayne, and nor does the principal health committee which includes the chief medical officers of each state and territory, the AHPPC. There’s no medical advice to support it. It’s taking up resources. There’s no need for it. It’s holding plans up. Since last Monday, over a quarter of a million Australians have descended into Queensland, which is fabulous, and the tourism is great, and great for small business, and we want more people coming here and we shouldn't be slowing it down with a requirement that even the medical advice says is not necessary.

JAYNE AZZOPARDI:

Do you think your government could be making rapid antigen tests free to, sort of, take some of the load off here?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Currently, the rapid antigen tests have passed the TGA approval advice. The Prime Minister has made the point we are 50/50 in terms of the health response in terms of working with states and territories for PCR testing and other areas of testing. So the Commonwealth is already there in terms of our fiscal support. It’s now up to states and territories to determine their health response.

JAYNE AZZOPARDI:

Well. I mean, not really. If people want a rapid test, they still have to go and fork out for it. So it’s still quite expensive and prohibitive for a lot of people. But I want to move on to another proposal now that the New South Wales Government is reportedly considering. We're talking about people taking responsibility for their own actions, wearing their own masks, that sort of thing. One of the things that New South Wales is apparently discussing is forcing unvaccinated people to pay for their own medical care if they go to hospital. Jacqui, the AMA is calling that unethical. What do you think about it?

JACQUI LAMBIE:

I absolutely agree with them. Everybody pays their taxes in this country. We've always had free health care. People out there that smoke, that get lung cancer, we still look after them. We do everything we possibly can. That is the Australian way. They choose not to, it’s still our responsibility to make sure that we can provide the best healthcare that we possibly can in this country, and we have always done that and we should continue to do that.

JAYNE AZZOPARDI:

Stuart?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Jacqui is right, Jayne. Healthcare is freely available as a basic right for Australians. We- I was critical of the Queensland Premier when she made the statement that the Queensland hospitals are for Queenslanders only. No, they're not. They're for Australians who find themselves in need regardless of how they found themselves in need. So I think it's an unwise direction should any state wish to go that path.

JAYNE AZZOPARDI:

Okay, I've had enough of talking about COVID for this morning. I think we could all deserve a little bit of a break about now. The results of this next survey don't come as any surprise to me given the guy sitting beside me today. 44 per cent of Australians still haven't finished their Christmas shopping. Stuart, are you one of them?

MINISTER ROBERT:

I haven't even started, Jayne, let alone sought to finish. But as soon as the shops open, I'm there. Go local first. It's small business, I'm the Small Business Minister too, so I want every one – every one of the viewers out there, Jayne, get down to your local small business, go local first. Shop local. That's where I'm heading. And hopefully I'll get it cracked by today, maybe tomorrow.

JAYNE AZZOPARDI:

Okay. Jacqui, I can see…

MINISTER ROBERT:

[Talks over] We'll see.

JAYNE AZZOPARDI:

I'm guessing your house is pretty well decorated if your outfit is anything to go by but have you done your shopping yet?

JACQUI LAMBIE:

Yeah. Same thing. Shop local. Go local. These guys have done it really, really tough. I think we're all doing the same thing by the amount of foot traffic that’s out there on the streets. I can tell you, everybody else is thinking the same way, which is great for small business. I'm pretty much done. I'm doing the lunch here this year for the family so I'm more worried about making sure I've got, you know, the roast duck, the stuffing, all the rest. I'm more concentrated on that. Not so many gifts. There’s only a few awkward [indistinct] so I've been let off a little bit lightly. But I'm more focused on making sure that the turkey is not burnt, it’s put on the table, and the ham and the prawns are there, you know. And, of course, the old Tassie lamb.

JAYNE AZZOPARDI:

Of course.

JACQUI LAMBIE:

I'm looking very forward to that.

JAYNE AZZOPARDI:

Delicious. And I hesitate to ask this next question, but I’m going to do it anyway - are you going to be on Santa's naughty or nice list, Jacqui?

JACQUI LAMBIE:

No, I'm definitely like Karl Stefanovic, we're definitely on the naughty list. I've already seen that list. Not good. So I imagine he’ll be getting a wooden spoon coming down his chimney for Karl.

CLINT STANAWAY:

You can be on both. You can be on both, Jacqui. Hey, Jacqui…

JAYNE AZZOPARDI:

[Interrupts] [Indistinct] each way.

CLINT STANAWAY:

I'm just about to drag make-up in to basically do what you've done to Jayne. I like the rosy cheeks. What do you think?

JAYNE AZZOPARDI:

I thought I had a natural glow this morning but it’s nothing compared to Jacqui.

JACQUI LAMBIE:

Glowing. Glowing. It’s all about Christmas spirit. Glowing.

JAYNE AZZOPARDI:

It is indeed.

JACQUI LAMBIE:

I’m certainly not pregnant. I'm certainly not pregnant, so let's not start that rumour. So it’s definitely the Christmas spirit.

JAYNE AZZOPARDI:

Me either. I'm done. Okay, well, congratulations to you both. Thank you for joining us from two very beautiful parts of the country, very beautiful places to spend Christmas. Thanks for your time this morning.

[ENDS]