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Politics

Ray Hadley's interview with Scott Morrison

  • Written by Ray Hadley

RAY HADLEY: Prime Minister, good morning.

 

PRIME MINISTER: G’day, Ray.

 

HADLEY: Just catching up with news, I'll bring it to you, Annastacia Palaszczuk’s just announced, from midday, Queensland will pause interstate arrivals into hotel quarantine for two weeks because they're overwhelmed. That won't have an impact on international arrivals, but it means people trying to relocate can't do it for at least two weeks. So, that's one that's happened there this morning. There's no new cases out of there. How do you convince Annastacia Palaszczuk and Mr McGowan that the path that you're plotting with the Doherty Institute, and the path that the Premier in New South Wales and I believe Victoria are plotting, is the right way to go? How do you convince them on Friday that they need to follow you?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, first of all, they've already agreed to the national plan. We've agreed it three times and we have been working up this plan since March of this year. And, so, there's been many, many iterations of this. And, the plan is important because it gives people confidence and hope and it encourages people to get vaccinated. It is a safe plan. So, we're not suggesting that Australia should be opening up on a whim or on the basis of ideology. We're saying we have a plan that is based on the best science, the best health advice and the best economic advice, which says when you get to 70 per cent and 80 per cent, then you can allow Australians to move forward and live with COVID. Now, that doesn't mean you live, you know, completely exactly as it was before. You've got to keep sensible precautions, as is occurring all around the world. But, you don't have to have these horrendous lockdowns and these arrangements where you've got people having to always quarantine if they're Australians, when they, you know, are moving from one place to the other in Australia or even returning from overseas, where they should be able to quarantine at home and things like that. The world will change and we’ll live with COVID. 

 

But, the most compelling reason to support the plan is in states like Western Australia and Queensland, which vaccination rates are lagging behind the rest of the country - and part of that is because they've got very low case numbers and so people don't feel the same compulsion to get vaccinated - that this will actually encourage those vaccination rates. The national plan improves the health and safety of the whole country, and it opens up Australia and gives businesses the confidence  they need to get through these incredibly difficult months.

 

HADLEY: See, that's the point about vaccination rates. They've skyrocketed in New South Wales because we're in the middle of a pandemic, with 753 cases yesterday.

 

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, and in Victoria.

 

HADLEY: But, Queensland’s - yeah, 71’s down to I think 45 today. But, in relation to Queensland, no new cases and there's no rush, and then you've got - I know you won’t enter this debate - you've got Dr Young saying the things she said months ago, and repeating them more recently, about AstraZeneca and the rest of it, and, so, you've got a reluctance from the population in Queensland to get vaccinated because there's no sense of urgency.

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the sense of urgency is necessary because Delta can strike in Queensland, Western Australia. You know, the powers of of state governments are not more powerful than the Delta strain of the virus, and they're not more powerful than the vaccine. What is needed for the health and safety of people right across the country, whether they're in Tasmania or New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, is getting the population vaccinated, and the national plan provides the incentives, which says you get vaccinated, then you're able to open up the country. People can go back to connecting with each other again all around the country, moving around, our economy growing, people going back to work, not having their hours reduced, and they can go forward with certainty. And, in a state like Queensland, in particular, where you have so much that depends on the tourism industry, both domestically and internationally, getting vaccinated, getting the plan going is the best plan to get Queensland moving. And, you can't sort of withdraw from that. You've got to move into it. 

 

I get the concerns. I understand that people might be concerned in Queensland listening to us right now - ‘oh, but what happens if there's cases and’ - well, that's what we've worked through. This has been a very careful plan, which took months to prepare, and was based on this, you know, the world's best advice. I mean, the Doherty Institute is the organisation which was the first lab in the world to reproduce the coronavirus and share its make up with the world. So, we're not talking about, you know, just a couple of people in some white coats. We're talking about the best scientists in this area in the world. And, that's why it's a safe plan, it's a smart plan, and it's a plan that's going to ensure our economy resoundingly comes back.

 

HADLEY: Funny you should mention blokes in white coats. There’s a few of the anti-vaxxers who need a couple of blokes in white coats and some sort of restraint, but ...

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it's great to see those vaccine hesitations falling as well, which I frankly always thought would happen, as more and more people get the vaccine. Now, just to update you, Ray. The most recent data - 307,000 vaccines yesterday administered. In New South Wales, there was 130,784. In Queensland, there was 47,283. So, that was a very strong day yesterday - 17.7 million all up; 1.9 million in the last seven days. Now, that's better on a seven day average - you know, for the size of our country - better than the UK, the United States, France, Italy, all of these countries. Today in Australia, there are, again, there are more places you can go and get vaccinated - there are 8,984 places you can get a vaccine - and that's about 10 times more than you can get a Big Mac at. And, there are more petrol stations - that's more than there are petrol stations where you can fill up. So, you know, it's out there. Please go and get it. It's a good thing for you, your country, your community, your economy.

 

HADLEY: I know personally, and as a Government, you’ve got no appetite for mandatory vaccinations.

 

PRIME MINISTER: No.

 

HADLEY: However, what I’ve tried to explain to people, including a bloke that's giving me a hammering this morning about all of this, is if he wants to travel domestically, internationally, or go to the football or go to the races or go anywhere, there will be organisations - not because they've been told to do it - who’ll say, we want to see your vaccination passport. And, I've now got it on my phone. Someone, in fact, my wife, showed me how to do it last night. So, I've got my two jabs on my phone so I can show it to people if I need to. But, I think people have got to understand that life will be different for them if they don't get vaccinated. They've got to understand that - whether you make it mandatory or not, their life will be different.

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that is true, and living with the virus will be different. I mean, it's not going anywhere. You can't eradicate it. So, it's still going to be there, and vaccination and the booster shots we've already, you know, ordered for next year will be part of, a part of that life, because you make a very good point. A business under property law has the ability to say, no, you can't come in, and they can ask for that. That's a legitimate thing for them to do. And, they are doing that to protect their own workers. To protect their other clients. And, it's not, it's got nothing to do with ideology. And, this, you know, these issues around liberty and so on. We all believe in freedom, but we also believe in people being healthy, and the sheer fact of it is, if you're not vaccinated, you represent a greater public health risk to yourself, to your family, to your community and others about you. So, it's only sensible that people will do sensible things to protect their public health.

 

HADLEY: You and I have spoken about rorts, even before you were Prime Minister.

 

PRIME MINISTER: Oh, yeah.

 

HADLEY: And, no, no, whenever, you know, whether it's pink batts, whether it's vouchers, whether it's the NDIS, people will find a way to rort the system - not many people, but they do. Now, you have been, as a Government, most generous in coming up with JobKeeper, JobSeeker, and now the $750 for areas in lockdown nationally.

 

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah.

 

HADLEY: But, I'm getting, now that we're sort of semi-opening up for the construction industry, where half the population can go to work on a worksite and all the rest of it - electrical contractor writes to me, which is indicative of about 50 emails today - he's got 60 per cent of his workforce available, 40 per cent come from restricted LGAs. We know where they are in Sydney, and those people won't get vaccinated, apparently, he says. So, they're now taking the $750 a week from the Government, topping it up with two days accrued annual leave or an RDO, they're getting in excess of a thousand bucks a week. And, the question is, when will the Government stop making these weekly payments to those that are eligible to have the capacity to work 40 hours but decide against returning to work based on vaccine hesitancy?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah.

 

HADLEY: And, that is a problem. I mean, I know that you've said initially we'll pay the bill until lockdown finishes, but if you've got people who can come back to work and refuse to do so, what do we do with them?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it's a challenge in an environment like this, Ray. And, I don't want to pretend that you can be as calibrated as you'd like in these circumstances. And, that's the challenges of, you know, lockdowns, and that's why the national plan’s so important, so we can get past all that and and get back to a new normal where you can have better compliance around these things. I mean, the way we're doing these payments now is that people have had to have lost, you know, those hours of work. There are, I should stress to anybody, that, you know, there is an obligation on those receiving those payments to advise us if there's been any change in your circumstances, just like with other welfare payments. And, this is, I'm not suggesting this is welfare in the same way, because, you know, there is things that the Government has done with restrictions that meant you haven’t been able to go to work. So, it's a very different issue. But, at the same time, if people's circumstances have changed and they have been able to work or they are getting work, then then they have an obligation to tell us that, and to adjust what support they may be receiving. But, Ray, I'm going to take on board what you've said. That's good feedback and I'll feed that back into the system. And, because they are looking at ways to ensure we can have integrity, even with these payments. 

 

On balance, the payments are important to get us through these lockdowns to ensure the economy is ready to go again. I know, it's not 100 per cent perfect, never can be in these circumstances. But, I think these are reasonable points you're making. And, you know, you know, people shouldn't have a lend of the system. I mean, it's there to help people. It's being done in an unprecedented way to help people get through this. And, I think if people are, you know, as you know, I've been an Immigration Minister, I’ve been a Treasurer, I've been a Social Services Minister. And, so, I've been in pretty much all the areas where people try and have a bit of a lend of the system. And, it's, sadly, it's a feature of it, and I would just hope and appeal to people to do the right thing by their fellow taxpayers.

 

HADLEY: You and I have known each other for a long, long time. We've butted heads over a number of things, and we’ve found agreement over a number of things. This week we find out the 13 soldiers from the SAS - given notice as show cause why they should not be dismissed after the Brereton Report came out - have now been told there's not sufficient information for their case to be referred to an investigator. These, and one of these officers is now in Kabul on our behalf, trying to repatriate people back to this country. Linda Reynolds may be a guest on the program tomorrow - the former Defence Minister - she talked about cold-blooded murder after the Brereton Report. Do you think, as Prime Minister, these men are now owed an apology by the Government for the words of that Minister?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Look, Ray, this is a very complicated issue, it's very difficult. The Brereton inquiry, the issues raised in that, of course, everybody agrees were very serious. And, that's why we've put in place a highly robust process to try and get to the bottom of these issues and where people, like those individuals you referred to, have served our country admirably and honourably, what that says to me - that they've been notified of this, about the outcome of where their cases are at - shows that the system is actually trying to resolve all of this. They’re trying to resolve all of this. 

 

Now, the comments made about the Brereton Report were not made about specific individuals. I want to stress that. They're not about specific individuals, and even those those 17 specific individuals, and we don't want to cause any hurt to our veterans community and our defence community. As you say, they are there on the deck at HKIA in Kabul right now. Last night, we got out over a thousand people out last night, in our biggest night of operations. We've got almost 2,500 people out now over the course of this past week. It's probably the most dangerous place in the world right now. And, there are Australians there, right in the middle of it - not just Defence Force, I should stress, but Home Affairs people, people from DFAT - saving lives, particularly women and children, at the moment. And, I'm very proud of what they're doing, including those who have been the subjects to some of these allegations. But, they're there serving, and I think that's their answer. They're there serving, and that's why I honour them for that service.

 

HADLEY: Okay. Well, I believe you to be a fair and just man, and I believe that you, as the titular head of that Government, you are entitled to offer an apology to these 13 men who have been vilified and called cold-blooded murderers, Prime Minister, cold-blooded murderers.

 

PRIME MINISTER: No, I understand the point you're making, Ray. I understand it.

 

HADLEY: And, and if Linda Reynolds is not prepared to apologise, nor Angus Campbell is not prepared to apologise, I think, as the Prime Minister of this country, it would be a mark of respect to say to these men, the allegations made against you, we can't proceed because there is insufficient cause for it to be referred to an investigator. We can't refer to you as a cold-blooded murderer any more. We shouldn't have done it in the first place, and we withdraw and apologise. I think it's the only way forward.

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, let’s, I understand the point you're making. And, what I'm going to continue to do is just, this process is designed to ensure that these outcomes can be reached and these matters can be clarified, and people can walk forward with honour. And, I will work to ensure that it is achieved.

 

HADLEY: So, sometime down the track, when this process is completed, there'll be an apology to these 13 men?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Oh, what I'm saying, I mean, this process is going to take a very long time. But, in case, in specific cases of individuals, who have already, you know, had had outcomes here, then what I'm telling you is I want them to be able to walk tall and to walk forward with honour, and with the full respect of my Government.

 

HADLEY: Okay. I appreciate your time. Thanks very much.

 

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks a lot, Ray. Cheers.

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