Release type: Transcript


Interview with Scott Emerson, The Scott Emerson Drive Show, 4BC


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

Topics: Asteroids; The National Plan for reopening; the Queensland Government’s failure to provide certainty and confidence; Australia’s vaccine rollout and booster shots


Scott Emerson:
Queensland businesses are calling on the Palaszczuk Government to give more certainly over vaccine rules once the state reopens. The state borders will reopen on December 17 but fed up business owners are concerned about what rules will be enforced for vaccinated compared to unvaccinated. Business owners also frustrated with residents in Victorian and New South Wales are now allowed to travel overseas, while Queensland remains close to them. Stuart Robert is the Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business. And he's also on the line with us here, Minister thanks for being on the show.

Minister Robert:
Lovely to be here. And I feel a bit like that asteroid never able to land somewhere at present. 


Scott Emerson:
Oh, well that's the way it is at the moment, it is hard, isn't it? Eventually you'll circle around. You'll not as hazardous but you've touched down here on 4BC but we appreciate you being at least over the phone here on the show. Now Minister look you’re based on the Gold Coast. You understand the frustrations of many businesses down there. You can understand the call I reckon from businesses to say to the Palaszczuk Government, we want some sort of guidelines or what's going to happen after 17 December. The Roadmap talks about what the rules have been in terms of who can get into the state. But if you're a business at the moment, you just don't know what the rules will be for you letting a customer in or not.

Minister Robert:
Oh Scott, it's worse than that, if it is indeed possible. I am sitting in quarantine on the Gold Coast. Home quarantine because I've arrived from Canberra. So I've arrived from the sitting of the Federal Parliament from the most vaccinated city on earth, Canberra, and I have come to Queensland on a plane with the Defence Minister amongst others. We went straight into quarantine yet if I was in New South Wales, I could fly to Mumbai and back again and go to the footy and go out dancing all night.

Indeed whilst I have been in quarantine the Prime Minister has gone to the G20 in Rome and COP 26 in Glasgow and come home and he's now in the Hunter Valley, connecting with Australians and yet I went to the most vaccinated city on Earth and it is still a hotspot? I mean it's ridiculous, Scott just ridiculous. 

At least I got home, there are thousands of Queenslanders on the New South Wales border in tents. Mothers handing children across the border. Friends of mine had to visit their kids over an orange barricade and they can’t come home. 

Even when we hit 70 per cent from 19th of November or earlier it says they have to arrive by air?  So, what do they hire a helicopter from Murwillumbah Oval? Do they take a paraglider? Does someone have to start running a gyrocopter? I mean this is just nonsense. 

Scott Emerson:
Look I think there was an issue there Minister as you say because a lot of those just over the border, they've got cars, they've got caravans well they're not gonna be flying in. They're gonna wait and have to wait until December 17, and we have talked about this numerous times on 4BC Drive I just think it is terrible, terrible that Queenslanders can be stuck south of the border can't get home. That is an appalling situation. 

Minister Robert:
It is dreadful. No government should ever have the power to decline one of its residents one of its citizens returning home like this. It is a wider discussion for another day but I find that simply outrageous and a complete negligence of duty by Premier Palaszczuk. 

But she's got the basis of a plan that she can build on. The Premier's got a border bubble with New South Wales for emergency personnel or critical workers. Just expand it for all. Otherwise we hit 70 per cent on the 19th of November or earlier, and these residents, these citizens of the state of Queensland will have to leave their cars and caravans. What do they have to or they drive to Sydney or do they drive to Ballina and fly across to Brisbane and then get a car to take them to home quarantine? 

Or how about we just let them drive their own vehicles now and then home quarantine. 

How about we do that.

I mean it just requires the Premier to make some simple and sensible decisions in line with the national plan, Scott. 

Scott Emerson:
Look, I think that's a very sensible suggestion. We've  talked about it here. Why not just let them drive across exactly right. 

I'm talking to Stuart Robert, the Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business. Minister let's talk about business. Because we've seen the CCIQ's pulse survey has been released today. And it says look, business didn't do well in September and they worried they won't do well in December either. And their concern is that they just don't know what the rules will be for them. Now, you can understand if you're a business going and open up and as the borders open on December 17. You don't know if your allowed to put someone into your businesses whether they are vaccinated, unvaccinated what the rules will be. Shouldn't governments, in this case, the Palaszczuk Government be giving very clear rules and also can I say protections for businesses who make the decision to allow someone who's vaccinated in or keep someone out who's not vaccinated? At the moment they are just flying blind. 

Minister Robert:
Well constitutionally the states have got responsibility for Health it is why the states have been able to do some of these crazy border closures on the basis of the public health orders. So that gives them the constitutional power. The public health order is there to give clarity and confidence and the Palaszczuk Government must continue to use their public health orders to give that clarity and confidence. Because right now they’re just absent. Businesses aren't sure what to do, which is ridiculous. 

The Commonwealth is providing vaccination data to the state of Queensland for their app so that if businesses wish to see if someone's vaccinated they can. But of course you can always see the vaccination certificate that the Commonwealth provides. 

But even if once we get 80 per cent on the 17th or December, which means you can start arriving from overseas and citizens of Queensland can start flying, when they arrived home Scott there is still no guidance along how long you will be in home quarantine. 

I'm looking at the Queensland Government's site and it says 80 per cent of eligible Queenslanders, from the 17th of December you'll be able to arrive in a direct flight as long as you're a citizen, fully vaccinated negative test and undertake a period of home quarantine subject to conditions set by Queensland Health. It doesn't tell me how long, doesn't say how long I’ll be in home quarantine. 

So how do parents and families plan to travel overseas and then get back in time for school year. If they don’t know how long home quarantine is?

Everywhere I look this is ham-fisted. There is not enough clarity. The rules are not clear.

The Queensland Government has got to address this Scott as a matter of urgency. 

Scott Emerson:
Yeah look I think there's  a lot of uncertainty out there as you say minister for a lot of families. A lot of people in Queensland, particularly also businesses as well. Let me just turn to a different issue on this but related to COVID today we’ve started seeing the rollout of the booster shots. We hit over the weekend 80 per cent across Australia in terms of being doubled jabbed, but how important will these booster shots be going forward? Not for 2021 but necessarily going into 2022.

Minister Robert:
We're one of the few countries that are so advanced now that boosters are available. In Israel, maybe one or two other countries, which is superb in terms of where Australia's got to. Indeed we hit 80 per cent a day or two ago, which was about a week and a half earlier than we said we would in March. And of course you remember the Opposition was telling the nation how slow it was. And it turns out we're doing all right.

So anyone over the age of 18 is eligible for a booster shot as long as they've had six months from their last shot. Now we know the efficacy of our current vaccines is very strong. But of course booster shots are there for vulnerable communities that have been available for those immunosuppressed for a number of weeks now, of course will start to prioritise the early cohorts, aged care residents and the like. 

We know the booster shots increase the efficacy, and we certainly know that but the current vaccine regime and two shots right now is sufficient to protect people. 

Scott Emerson:
Look. Yeah, that is the way we're going now. There's been a lot of criticism over the Government's rollout of the vaccine sale. I think even the Prime Minister has conceded that he would have liked to happen faster. But obviously there were a number of issues that happened overseas and in here as well. But look at the numbers you've just mentioned there, Stuart Robert, and I look at what's happening around the rest of the world. 

We are doing incredibly well now compared to the rest of the world, especially if you look to America, which was well ahead of us initially in terms of the vaccine rollout, but we have just powering past them. 

Minister Robert:
We are and if you look down south at some of the southern states they have done exceptionally well. Unfortunately, our state Queensland, is the slowest of all the states and territories as of yesterday. I think we are at 79 ½ , give or take, per cent first dose so we're almost there. 

We just need Queenslanders now to back in the vaccine and get that second shot. Let's get the 80 per cent as per the national plan let’s move to Phase C. 

And I would simply urge the Palaszczuk Government, everyone's done so well now. Let's now take the National Plan, Premier scrap your 90 per cent constructs, scrap at 80 per cent people going back into home quarantine for undesignated periods. Follow New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT. You can see the experience they have had. You can track how things are going,

Stick to the National Plan that will give everyone certainty Scott. It will give business certainty. 

Everyone will know what's going to happen and it means travel is free and businesses have certainty coming into Christmas. 

Scott Emerson:
Minister Stuart Robert appreciate you joining us on 4BC Drive this afternoon. 

Minister Robert: 
Great to talk to you