Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for South Australia
Date: Sunday, 17 October 2021
Charles Croucher: The big news out of Canberra this week actually came out of Sydney. The newly-appointed Premier of New South Wales stepping on the Prime Minister’s toes and opening up international borders. Joining me to discuss, Finance Minister Simon Birmingham in sunny Adelaide, and Shadow Minister Tanya Plibersek who’s in Sydney. Good morning to you both.
Tanya Plibersek: Good morning.
Charles Croucher: Simon, you’re in the Cabinet. Let’s get a straight answer on this. Did you, did the Prime Minister know this was going to happen before Dominic Perrottet announced it?
Simon Birmingham: Well good morning, Charles, good morning, Tanya. Look, it was quite clear that the government had already announced and said that we wanted to see, from the 80 per cent double vax targets, progress in relation to opening up international borders, and as the Prime Minister said on Friday, you know the first step in that is to get returning Australians, Australian citizens, their family members, their permanent residents back, and to support that movement of those who are fully vaccinated and that’s step one and we’ll move through everybody else in the further steps and it’s building on the 650,000 who have already returned during the pandemic, overwhelmingly safely, but now we get to open up so that all Australian citizens, they can have that movement if they’re fully vaccinated.
Charles Croucher: That plan involved home quarantine as part of the roadmap though. Did you know this was going to be no quarantine at all?
Simon Birmingham: Well, these are decisions that ultimately we will control the international borders, New South Wales gets to set decisions as they relate to their jurisdiction in terms of those quarantine arrangements, but importantly, it’s focused on those who are fully vaccinated, and of course we want to make sure that that system works, works effectively so that we can keep Australians safe and secure but also get the dividend of having a highly vaccinated population and give people back their freedoms.
Charles Croucher: Tanya, what did you make of the decision to do away with both hotel and home quarantine?
Tanya Plibersek: Well, it’s great to have the opportunity to get Australians home. Scott Morrison said he’d have Australians home by last Christmas. There’s still 45,000 stuck overseas, desperate to get home. So we’re very keen to see Australians able to come home safely. If the New South Wales government is confident that double vaxxed people can enter safely under these circumstances that’s good. We’d like to see all the Australians home so that we can start to welcome fully vaccinated tourists, international students and others as well. It’s important for the Australian economy that we do this and it’s a real indicator of how badly Scott Morrison failed on vaccine and quarantine that once again, it’s been left up to the states to get this happening.
Charles Croucher: We’ll see how it develops. There’s a massive billboard in Times Square that’s currently shaming Australia’s climate change policies. Simon, this is an issue that is stuck with both sides of Parliament now for it seems like decades. What do you make of this approach and what’s likely to happen today with the Nationals?
Simon Birmingham: Well Charles, I mean that sort of approach is frankly a bit misleading. Australia has reduced its emissions by 20 per cent since 2005. We have in fact reduced our emissions by more than many other countries and our emissions continue to track down and we’re on track confidently to meet, and I trust to, exceed our Paris commitment targets for 2030, just as we’ve met and exceeded all previous commitments that Australia has made.
Now of course going to Glasgow, as the Prime Minister will to participate in the climate change discussions, we’re going to make sure we take further detailed commitments and plans as part of that, and they’re the discussions were having inside the government – plans to make sure that we can keep jobs and regions and communities secure whilst driving down emissions towards net zero, and the difference between us and the Labor Party there is that we’re doing all of that work concurrently – the commitments as well as the plans to protect jobs and regions and how we’re going to get there. Labor have just made the promise about net zero, but never detailed the ‘how you would actually achieve it’ or the plans to secure the jobs in those regions and communities.
Charles Croucher: Tanya I feel like you’ve got something to say about this.
Tanya Plibersek: Well honestly, if you care about jobs in the region, the biggest jobs killer we’ve seen is the chaos and confusion from the Liberals and the Nationals on energy policy. They have had 22 energy policies and not one of them has stuck. There is a reason that one in four Australian homes now has a solar panel on the roof. It’s not because they’re all mad greenies. It’s because they know that we get cheaper, cleaner energy from renewables like solar. We are, you know one of the best placed countries in the world to get cheaper, cleaner energy from solar and get the jobs that come with that. Right now we are being left behind. Our competitors around the world are rubbing their hands in glee because Australia can’t take up the opportunities that are right there in front of its nose because the National Party has got the foot on the brake and won’t allow this progress to happen.
Charles Croucher: A big two weeks of sittings coming up, but Tanya Plibersek and Simon Birmingham, appreciate it.