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, 24 September 2021
Allison Langdon: Well, it's Friday, which means it's time to talk politics, and there's plenty to discuss this week. Let's bring in Finance Minister Simon Birmingham and Deputy Opposition Leader Richard Marles. Nice to see you both this morning. First to you, Richard. I mean, goodness me your home, your city this week. How much more can be thrown at you?
Richard Marles: It's been a very tumultuous week. I mean, when the earthquake happened, there was a sense of being completely surreal and we were wondering what else could be thrown in our direction. But you know, I think Sally Capp put it really well then about what we've seen with the protests. But at the same time, what we've seen with people in this state doing the right thing and going off and getting vaccinated. And we all feel the complete anger about the way in which the protesters have gone about their business. It has been selfish and indulgent. It's not solving any problems as we're now see making matters much worse. But they are a fringe group and the vast bulk of Victorians are doing what they need to do to get to the other side of this. And we are just trying to get through every day making sure that we understand that getting vaccinated is the pathway to getting to the other side of this and seeing normality return.
Allison Langdon: Yeah. And this, of course, as we hear this morning that one of those protesters has tested positive is now so sick that he's in hospital. Simon, all of this as we learn that nurses are being spat on.
Simon Birmingham: But there's no place for violence, there's no place for disrespect. It's just such appalling behaviour and these thugs, these morons just really ought to pull their heads in and acknowledge the fact that the vast majority of Australians, the vast majority of Victorians, are doing the right thing. More than 74 per cent of Australians over the age of 16 have turned out for their first dose by now. That's where the focus ought to be and the thanks and the gratitude to the medical staff who are helping them get there.
Allison Langdon: What they've done over the past couple of days has not helped their cause at all. And look, we're we also know look, Victoria, New South Wales is going to soon open to each other, but Queensland could keep borders shut for Christmas. Simon, Annastacia Palaszczuk. She's running her own race and well, there ain't nothing you can do about it. Is there?
Simon Birmingham: Well, these really are questions for Annastacia Palaszczuk, the question of, if not, then if not at the 80 per cent vaccination threshold, then when? Because so many Queensland businesses, tourism operators, families wanting to be reunited, they all want to know when these opportunities are going to open up. As I said before our vaccination rates, we've done two million doses just in the last seven days, so we are charging towards the 80 per cent rate. Indeed, over 70s more than 90 per cent of them, around 93 per cent have been vaccinated. So people understandably now want to know the dividends they're going to get for those vaccines beyond the safety that it gives them.
Allison Langdon: It must get your goat, though, that she won't toe the line.
Simon Birmingham: Look, you know, as I say, I think it's the frustrations that so many small business owners, tourism operators, as well as families who are currently being kept apart feel, you know, that's really. They're the people we've got to worry about most, and they're the ones I hope can get some answers sometime soon about when we're going to see the reopening that people deserve from going out in such huge numbers to get vaccinated.
Allison Langdon: Look, I mean, what she's doing is popular with the people. Richard, have you spoken to Anastasia? Have you encouraged her to play ball with the rest of the country or are you a little bit scared of her?
Richard Marles: No, I haven't spoken to her on this. But there is no doubt that Anastasia is very formidable, and she's doing a great job as the premier of Queensland. Look, you can you can completely understand premiers standing up for their own states. And if you're Anastasia, she has done a great job in keeping Queensland, you know, relatively free of COVID-19. There are a whole lot of freedoms that people are enjoying in Perth- in Brisbane now that we're not enjoying here in Victoria and New South Wales, so I can understand that. But look where I am in Geelong, where you are in Sydney, people in Melbourne, I actually think in the coming months it is about doing the things we need to do to get vaccinated so we can get our kids back to school so that we can get our businesses open so that we can see some kind of normality returning to life here. And to be honest, I don't think the Queensland border or other borders are really front of mind. It's really about what we need to do right now to get a sense of normality here and I think particularly getting our kids back to school.
Allison Langdon: Yeah, I think that's critical, isn't it? Hey, Simon, has the PM managed to get through to the French president yet? Because it is, it is so embarrassing him not taking a call from us.
Simon Birmingham: Look, I think the disappointment of the French is completely understandable, this was always going to be a difficult decision, but it's the right decision for the long term. If we wanted to worry about short term interests, it would have been easier and not to go down the path of nuclear powered submarines. But for Australia's long term interests to make sure our Navy, our defence forces have the best possible equipment available to them. This was the right long term decision, and yes, it's been difficult in some quarters. But as governments, we've got to take those long term decisions and that's what Scott Morrison has done.
Allison Langdon: I mean, Macron, he's spoken to Biden, but I reckon it might be a little while before he takes that phone call from Scott Morrison. Look, Richard, it had to happen. They had to scuttle that deal. But how would you mend that fence with France?
Richard Marles: Well, let's be clear. I mean, we support nuclear submarines as the propulsion system, which is the best capability for the future, but we're in this situation right now because the government completely bungled the submarine program with France, and that's a point that we've been making for a long time. And Scott Morrison was at pains to point out that France had met its obligations under that deal. So the idea that this was somehow inevitable, this happened because this government could not manage the program that they signed up to with the French. And as a result, you know, we've seen billions of dollars lost in Simon's home state. We've see thousands of jobs go begging. We've got eight lost years at a time where we couldn't afford that and inevitably enormous damage has been done to the relationship with France. The starting point is we've actually got to see the federal government say that-.
Simon Birmingham: - [Inaudible] technology changed.
Richard Marles: No, it's not. That's just not right. I mean, that is absolutely not right. That question of being able to pursue that technology-
Simon Birmingham: It is. The technology changed and the [inaudible] -
Richard Marles: -has been around for the last two years. This is about that. This is about the failure of this government to manage that program. We saw blow-outs of costs almost doubling of the cost. We saw the program go be delayed by 10 years over a period of about six or seven years. It was hopeless management on the part of this government because they are incompetent. But to get the relationship right with France first, they've got to make it clear they value the relationship with France and then they've got to actually start saying what the plan is to get it right. And France matters. You know, we don't think about it like this, but in many ways they're our nearest neighbour. We've got a whole lot of shared interests in the Pacific, and they need to fix this.
Allison Langdon: I don't know. France is our nearest neighbour on that one, Richard, but I get your point and look, and it's going to be a drama, how does Australia-
Richard Marles: Well, the closest overseas population to you right now is in France.
Allison Langdon: Hey, look, I do want to ask you this, Simon. Josh Frydenberg says he's happy with zero emissions by 2050. How's Barnaby with that? And actually, how's Matt Canavan with that?
Simon Birmingham: Look, you know, getting towards net zero is the prime minister said at the earliest opportunity is important. It's important, as Josh is pointing out in his speech today, not just for environmental reasons, but also for economic reasons. Now, Australia's seen a reduction in our emissions of some 20 per cent on 2005 levels. We will meet and I've got no doubt exceed our 2030 targets that we've committed to, and we're continuing to invest in hydrogen technology in the types of pumped hydro technologies that are necessary to get clean energy right through our system. These are the practical investments that are giving transformation right across our energy markets and the systems, and that's really what's so essential. And we have just got to point out in relation to what Richard said before that, you know, technologies have changed. The willingness to share them have changed. That's why we could make this change right now, not earlier.
Allison Langdon: Okay. And just very quickly, Richard, who are you tipping for the AFL this weekend?
Richard Marles: I'm still bitter, Ali. The cat's aren't playing, but if you're, you know, so that really defines the grand final. I guess it's Footscray, the dogs, whatever.
Allison Langdon: Oh, I just want to give you a hug. Tell you it's all going to be OK. All right.
Richard Marles: I'm sort of wearing red, white and blue. All right. Is it going to be okay?
Allison Langdon: Look and joy. Look, enjoy the football this weekend. I mean, it might be in Perth. It's going to be a terrific game. Take care, both of you.