Release type: Transcript

Date:

Interview — Sky News Live Afternoon Agenda with Kieran Gilbert

Ministers:

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

Topics: Vaccine rollout, unemployment rate, the failures of the Queensland Government; Religious Freedom; Integrity Commission bill

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

KIERAN GILBERT:

I want to bring in now the Employment Minister, Stuart Robert, who joins us live from Queensland, and very relevant to what Andrew was just talking about Stuart Robert is, does the Federal Government have double standards here? Because we’re seeing in New South Wales, as Andrew said, you can’t get a beer, you can’t get a coffee, unless you’re vaccinated, that’s up to 95 per cent. Prime Minister is saying at 80 per cent, they should ease the rules for unvaccinated in your home state. Isn’t that a double standard?

MINISTER ROBERT:

The Prime Minister is being completely consistent, Kieran, with the national plan, backed in by the world leading Doherty Institute and the Doherty modelling that all state and territory premiers have got, and of course, agree with. The bottom line is; we’re not mandating vaccines except in areas of acute need in terms of disability or aged care. Apart from that, if business wishes to satisfy their occupational health and safety requirements, they’re decisions for them. Governments should not be determining, as the Prime Minister said this morning, who can have a cup of coffee when.

KIERAN GILBERT:

But your home state has struggled in terms of its vaccination rates, and Mr Miles, the Deputy Premier, said since that planned mandate- venue mandate has been announced, there's been a surge in vaccination numbers, vaccination coverage. Isn't that a good thing?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Well, the Deputy Premier and the Premier of Queensland should perhaps reflect on some of their earlier public comments during the year to answer the question as to why there's a greater degree of hesitancy in Queensland. There's no question, though, that greater levels of vaccine or vaccinated Queenslanders is an excellent thing, as we move towards that 80 per cent. But at 80 per cent, we stick to the national plan. That's when borders should open, let businesses make their own determinations based on their own risk profiles. Governments will use their public health orders for the only critical issues in terms of care for elderly and those with disability. And let's get the place opened. Let's stop government telling Australians or, in this case, Queenslanders, how to live.

KIERAN GILBERT:

The Deputy Premier says the Prime Minister has thrown the weight of his office behind dangerous fringe elements to curry favour with coffee baron donors and lunatic backbenchers. Have you been motivated here by polling that says you're hurting in the face of the Palmer Party and the Hanson Party?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Goodness, no, Kieran. And the Deputy Premier's comments, at least they're consistently stupid and they have been all year, so I'll give him credit for consistency. The bottom line is this: stick to the national plan. Follow the Doherty modelling. It’s what the Federal Government's doing. It’s what the other states and are doing. It’s Queensland that's decided to be an outlier on this. Let businesses determine what they do in their own businesses. Let's not keep telling Queenslanders what they can do, where they can go. Open the borders in line with the Doherty modelling. Let's be consistent.

KIERAN GILBERT:

But you've got your own requirements when it comes to the international borders, haven’t you, for those that are unvaccinated? It's a different treatment for those unvaccinated versus those with the vaccine passport that you and I have discussed on several occasions, Minister.

MINISTER ROBERT:

We have. We've got an international vaccination passport or credential to allow Australians to travel with great confidence. Now Australians, of course, can travel, being double-vaccinated, in line with the national plan and can come back again. And especially into Victoria, New South Wales, and ACT without any quarantine at all. So it's completely consistent in terms of where international travel is up to. And also consistent with what countries are doing overseas.

KIERAN GILBERT:

So, the Federal Government has got its own treatment of vaccinated versus unvaccinated. Why shouldn’t Queensland do the same?

MINISTER ROBERT:

The Federal Government’s got its vaccination requirements for international travel, and very much in line with the international community. And what we’re saying is for Australians to come back being vaccinated, with their parents, of course, as a priority, and for Australians can travel and come in and out freely being vaccinated. And that’s going out and coming in, Kieran. It’s consistent completely. We’re not saying to Australian citizens where you can or can’t go in the ordinary passage of life based on vaccinations. Now they are areas for the states. They’re governed by public health orders by virtue of the state’s acceptance of health under section 51 of the Constitution. What we're simply saying is vaccines aren't mandated, except in areas of critical health and disability. Let businesses determine what they do in their own businesses. This is not government's role.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Is there a risk, though, for you and for the Prime Minister, Stuart Robert, that your- you welcome the high vaccination rates when they're achieved, but when a government at a state level tries to drive the uptake of the jab, you're having a crack at them?

MINISTER ROBERT:

No, not at all. We're backing in on the side of Queenslanders’ freedom. And that's what's important. We've seen right across the country vaccine levels getting high, indeed across the nation. In terms of first dose they’re in the 90s, and second dose across the nation in the early 80s. So we're seeing that rise consistently. We're seeing Queensland lagging behind, thanks in most part to some unfortunate political commentary by the Premier and her Ministers. And of course, we welcome the increase in vaccinations. What we want to see, though, is not a government telling citizens where they can go or what they can do. Let businesses to take care of that. Let businesses manage their own risks, and let's get government out of people's lives.

KIERAN GILBERT:

You and the PM have welcomed the fact that the latest data shows hundreds of thousands, not just tens, but hundreds of thousands of jobs to be filled over the next couple of months. Is it inevitable, and obviously a good outcome, that unemployment rate will fall in November and December?

MINISTER ROBERT:

The unemployment rates, of course, always when the numbers come out, they're in arrears. So the numbers we saw recently go back to October where there were lockdowns. The next series of numbers come out may well cover some of that lockdown process as well. But as the economy roars back, I think we will start to see employment figures in positive territory. And we've seen that during the pandemic, Kieran. We saw pre delta roll out as it came out of lockdown. We saw numbers surging to well over 13.1 million Australians. Indeed, Australia had more of its citizens employed at that time, than pre-COVID, that no other industrialised nation could actually claim. So the economy is robust. It does want to scream back. There are hundreds and hundreds of thousands of jobs available, so there is a lot of opportunity for Australians.

KIERAN GILBERT:

It's central to your re-election pitch, that's for sure. We have many months to talk about it. Let's- just on a couple of other matters before you go. The final sitting fortnight for the year starts on Monday. The religious freedom laws, is the Government legit about this? Do you really want to get it through before the election or will it just be simply shuffled off and you'll be happy to deal with it after the poll?

MINISTER ROBERT:

We made a commitment to the Australian people that this is something we would do. The Attorney-General has been working through it sensibly and keeping everyone abreast in terms of where we're going with the bill. It's sensible, it's proportionate. And absolutely, the Government is looking to keep all of its election commitments, including this one.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Will the Integrity Commission- on that front, will the Integrity Commission proposal be put to parliament in the next fortnight as well?

MINISTER ROBERT:

And again, we committed in terms of the Integrity Commission bill, and that bill will be an exposure draft release in the fullness of time. The Attorney-General can speak to that. But the intent is to ensure that that is fully available for people to speak into at the same time, Kieran.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Stuart, Robert, we'll talk to you soon. Thanks.

MINISTER ROBERT:

Great to talk to you.