Release type: Transcript


Interview - Sky News Live Afternoon Agenda with Kieran Gilbert


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


Topics: Protests in Melbourne; Queensland businesses; The National Plan for reopening; COVID disaster payments


I want to bring in the Minister for Employment, The Federal Minister, Stuart Robert, as we see this ongoing crisis in Melbourne. Stuart Robert, thanks for your time. I’m not sure whether you’ve seen these images but I’ll explain them to you because this is a crisis that is continuing in one of our major cities. It’s at the Shrine of Remembrance. Hundreds of defiant protests there on the steps of the Shrine of Remembrance. Riot police by the dozen, then various, hundreds of other police behind them. Lines and lines of police ready. This is a standoff. It is a flash point. And this is Australia in the second year of a pandemic. How do you respond to what we're observing in Melbourne today?


Thanks Kieran. I’m in Queensland, in the north speaking to small business operators about the challenges that exist here. 

I'm looking with dismay and some degree of sadness about what's happening in Victoria. We aren't going to get through this with demonstrations, we're going to get through this with vaccinations so I hope everyone on the street there who's demonstrating is vaccinated. I hope they're wearing a mask and I hope they're following the requirements of the law. Looking at the images, I tend to think that’s not the case, and that's disappointing. I know it's hard, goodness I can't begin to imagine what Victorians are going through, but we are weeks, maybe eight weeks away from 80 per cent. That is the point at which the National Plan then starts to see borders unlocked and normality return. 

It's really important that we respect the Shrine of Remembrance and remember what those who have gone before have done for us the name of freedom and we remember the freedom we're going to provide for our communities by getting vaccinated., that's the message Kieran, not demonstrating.


There are some fringe groups involved, but there are still many construction workers and those that want to get back to work who are involved as well. Do you believe that the state government inflamed the situation to an extent by shutting down the construction industry?


I've been in North Queensland all week sitting with and talking with operators and small business about how we get tourism flowing. And of course, Queensland desperately needs the southern states as 80 per cent of our tourists come from Victoria and New South Wales. 

I will let Premier Andrews speak for himself but I’d just love the demonstrators to get vaccinated, go home and then come and then come and travel to Queensland. Take a break. Heaven knows you need it after such a long time of being locked down.

But looking at your images, Kieran, this is not Australia, this is not who we are. We're better than this. Those demonstrators or demonstrating know we’re better than this. 

Let's get vaccinated. Let's go home. Let’s get through this together.


The Federal Government is not going to provide any additional support on top of the disaster payments that are already flowing in the face of the lockdown. Apparently, the Victorian Government requested that. Josh Frydenberg has rejected that. Why? Why is that the position?


I haven't spoken to the Treasurer, but if that's the Treasurer's line, I can only assume that it's because we treat all Australians the same way. 

We've got a process by where a Commonwealth hotspot is declared and then the first week is provided for by the state. And then, of course, after that, the Federal Government steps in with the COVID disaster payment. It's consistent, it's fair right across all Australia, and it's been the way we've done the process since we began the new COVID disaster payments. So if that's the Treasurer's rationale and his consistency, I support him 100 per cent because it’s fair. 

We don't have different groups of Australians, Kieran, we have one Australia. We have one approach. We’ve got one National Plan on how we're going to reopen and we've got one approach to vaccination and that is to encourage everyone to get vaccinated, so we can open up and we don't have to see these quite distressing scenes.


Yeah, they are distressing, indeed. Stuart Robert, Minister for Employment, thank you for joining us live from Queensland.