Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for South Australia
Richard Marles MP
Deputy Leader of the Opposition
Member for Corio
Date: Friday, 3 September 2021
Karl Stefanovic: It's on like Donkey Kong. Finance Minister Simon Birmingham is in Adelaide. And Deputy Opposition Leader Richard Marles in Geelong. Morning guys, nice to see you this morning. To you, first of all, Simon. Josh Frydenberg said yesterday it's a, quote, desperate denial of reality and is not based on medical advice. Are you going to pull Queensland and WA into line as well?
Simon Birmingham: Karl, look, what I'd urge every leader to do is to focus on facts not fear, to accept some of the realities that we all have to acknowledge as well. COVID-19 is endemic across the world. The Delta variant is endemic across the world. We can see just how transmissible it is. We've got to just work with all of those facts. And those facts include the facts that vaccination is a pathway for us. As we hit those 70 and 80 per cent markers we can see through the data in the modelling, that with some appropriate safeguards we are able to keep our population safe, to resume some of the greater normalities of life in places like New South Wales and Victoria. And we're hitting those vaccination targets at great rate now. It took us three days to get from 19 million doses being administered across the country to 20 million doses being administered. Another half million landed from Singapore overnight. And we've just got to keep that going and every state leader should focus on that as their number one priority.
Karl Stefanovic: Are you saying open, open up 70 percent effectively? Do you know more than the AMA? Because they say if you open up, the health system will crash-
Simon Birmingham: Karl, let's be clear, that is not what the plan says, it doesn't say open up at 70 per cent and nothing happens from there. It says you take a very cautious, careful, staged approach. And so we don't want to encourage states to do things that are reckless at the 70 per cent mark. We want to make sure everyone takes the careful approach. That's why there are 70 per cent and 80 per cent thresholds in place. That's why we're also opening up to kids from 12 to 15, to be able to get them vaccinated in addition to those targets, which will see an even greater proportion of Australians with that protection. And it's through older siblings, parents, teachers, grandparents all being vaccinated. That we're then able to protect those who are under 12, because right now, nowhere in the world has approved vaccines for those under 12.
Karl Stefanovic: So is Annastacia Palaszczuk wrong?
Simon Birmingham: She is, I think focussing on the fear side rather than on the factual calm analysis that needs to be undertaken on educating the population. And as I say, first and foremost, on encouraging that vaccine take up to continue and to reach into every pocket of the community. That's the way a responsible leader should behave.
Karl Stefanovic: Richard, Annastacia Palaszczuk is copping it from all sides right now, even though health officials say she's probably right to keep it out as long as possible. You wouldn't leave her out to dry would you?
Richard Marles: Well, I think there are differing experiences being had across the country, and you can expect premiers are going to speak for their own experience and their own state. I don't want to see Australia in one extra day of lockdown than it needs to be. It's why we do support, federal Labor, supports the plan, with the Doherty modelling. What's really important now is that the Prime Minister actually uses national cabinet today to get everyone on the same page in this country.
Karl Stefanovic: You're not even on the same page, are you on the same page as Annastacia Palaszczuk or not?
Richard Marles: I would be distancing myself from the comments of Annastacia is the honest answer to that question. I mean, we need to be following the health advice when it comes to the impact and who we should be vaccinating when we don't want to be spending an extra day in lockdown. But at the end of the day, you know, you can understand why states that don't have COVID want to stay in that situation. And we need to see the Prime Minister actually getting the country on a plan on the same page so that we get to the other side of this. But can I say, Karl, at the end of the day, the most critical thing here is getting the country vaccinated. And sure, we've seen a lot of people getting vaccinated in recent days. But we're still at a point where less than 30 percent of the entire population are vaccinated, we are playing catch up footy. And that's fundamentally because Scott Morrison said this wasn't a race.
Karl Stefanovic: I can't believe I'm hearing this this morning that federal Labor is abandoning Annastacia Palaszczuk, who's just trying to keep COVID out of her state.
Richard Marles: It's not abandoning Annastacia. I think you can you can understand state premiers standing up for their states. That's what they are elected to do. But at the end of the day, we need a national interest here. There's one person who's been elected to provide that for the country. It's Scott Morrison. And from day one, he has patently failed to lead this country and to get the country on the same page.
Karl Stefanovic: At least. I mean, I'm not sure exactly what you're saying here, but I think before you said Annastacia was wrong. That's a conflict. Simon, I'm going to go back to you. The PM has been completely soft on Annastacia Palaszczuk. Is he worried about losing Queensland at the next election?
Simon Birmingham: No, no, Karl, what we want to do is make sure everybody is focussed as we are on delivery of the plan. The plan about getting Australians vaccinated. Every state who doesn't have COVID spreading across their community at present should want to keep it suppressed for as long as possible while they drive their vaccine rates up to those 70 and 80 per cent targets. There's nothing wrong with that. But what they shouldn't be doing as state leaders is whipping up fear, suggesting that even at those points of the plan, it still won't work because we've-
Karl Stefanovic: So you're saying that's what's she's doing?
Simon Birmingham: -a plan based on scientific modelling. Well, that sounds exactly like what she was doing in those comments yesterday, and that's just not helpful. You know, as a leader, she needs to lead to and her leadership should be about ensuring she is encouraging her state to hit those vaccination targets, to explain what the plan for the future means in terms of how we manage as a country and as each state, and to live with the realities of COVID, not just to whip up fear and scare mongering in ways that, frankly, are not constructive.
Karl Stefanovic: Well, at least you're both in this together. And it leaves Annastacia Palaszczuk on her own there in Queensland. And you know what happens in Queensland? She'll just get more popular. Thanks for your time today, boys. Really appreciate it. And have a great weekend. And good luck with that weather down there. Richard, it looks like a tempest. It's like National cabinet this morning.
Richard Marles: Set the tone.
Karl Stefanovic: Everyone needs an umbrella holder.
Richard Marles: It's because T.J came here.
Karl Stefanovic: Thanks, guys. Appreciate it. See you soon, T.J.
Simon Birmingham: Cheers.