24 May 2021

Subjects: Vaccine rollout fails; vaccine passports; upper Hunter by-election

KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: Welcome back to the show. A big reset this week for our national vaccine rollout, the PM drafting plans to allow vaccinated Aussies free movement between states even in the event of covid lockdown. This comes after just half an hour ago, Sir Richard Branson absolutely bagging Australia's rollout of the vaccine, saying if we don't get our act together, then we're going to get left behind. Here he was.

RICHARD BRANSON: You know, I hope that Australians. I don't know how your vaccination program is going, but if the government can speed up the vaccination program, so everybody is vaccinated, then there's no reason at all why shouldn't you be able to get opened up?

STEFANOVIC: I'm joined now by Northern Territory Senator Malarndirri McCarthy and Scott Emerson from 4BC in Brissie. Good morning, guys. Nice to see you, Malarndirri. First of all, does he have a point?

SENATOR MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY: Of course he has a point that if the vaccination had rolled out properly in the first place, Karl, I think we've been saying that from the very beginning. You know, if the government had at least got the vaccines in when we'd been pushing for it last year. So naturally, there is a question around the rollout, but I'd still hesitate to rush simply because we need to get people overseas. So I think we have to first ask why Australians in this country are not stepping up for the vaccination.

STEFANOVIC: I think it's a fairly good point, though he makes though Scott about eventually opening up and the fact that we have been left behind when you compare us to other countries around the world.

SCOTT EMERSON, 4BC: I think everyone would have liked to see, everyone would have liked to see the roll out faster. I have no doubt about that at all. But I think what we're seeing now and the evidence coming through about I just think we'll have a glut of vaccines by the end of the year. And interesting in that Budget, we saw that expectation of everyone being vaccinated by the end of the year. On Budget night, we all said, oh, come on, we won't get that. But now we're seeing those numbers rolling out a bit more, a bit faster last week. That may be a possibility.

STEFANOVIC: We have two tiers in Australia, though. We've got a new survey today showing older Aussies want to keep the country closed while younger people want it to open up again. Malarndirri, this is going to be a perpetual problem.

MCCARTHY: Well, it's always going to show, isn't it, Karl, the the concerns around covid still. And I think that we've got to remember that we haven't conquered this disease, this pandemic, in the sense that it's still out there. So I think that we've always got to remain cautious. I'm conscious of that in the Northern Territory. We're the ones who are bringing in people from around the world to quarantine at Howard Springs. So naturally, we're increasingly conscious of the fact that the covid vaccine rollout has to occur and there's always going to be differing viewpoints on how that should happen.

STEFANOVIC: Scott, what do you make of Greg Hunt warning older Australians who refuse the AstraZeneca jab won't be given priority for the Pfizer vaccine?

EMERSON: Look, I look, obviously, I think Greg Hunt kind of put his foot in it last week when he talked about the Pfizer vaccine being available at the end of the year, and that raised all those issues about whether older people will say, look, I'm going to hold off getting the AstraZeneca until I get the Pfizer. So now he's trying to bring it back a bit. I'm in two minds about it. You can understand those who are older, they're concerned about their health. And that's why those figures you had earlier about a two tier in Australia is understandable. But if you're younger, you want to get the vaccine you can't get it at the moment. And someone's chosen previously not to have the vaccine, not to have AstraZeneca. I don't know why they'd get priority.

STEFANOVIC: We've also got the PM drafting a plan to allow vaccinated Aussies free movement between states even in the event of lockdowns. Malarndirri, is the vaccine passport something you support? John Barilaro was just on our show before saying it's a no from him. What about you?

MCCARTHY: It's not a good idea, Karl. I mean, we have to see that this vaccine program does roll out and enables Australians to do that. Why keep moving the goalposts? You know, this is really about ensuring messaging to Australians that have a - have the vaccine. But they've also said it's  not compulsory. So therefore, why would you put a penalty on it? So I just think that the messaging coming out of the Government is not clear. It's confusing and it's still causing alarm. They have to stick to one message

STEFANOVIC: And it's why the take up is slower in Queensland. What are you what's needed here, Scott, to encourage Queenslanders to roll up their sleeves?

EMERSON: Well, we haven't even had the Premier here have their vaccine shot yet. She's going to have the flu shot next week or this week, maybe now and then the AstraZeneca in a couple of weeks’ time after that flu shot. So there's no no real leadership there in terms of the premier herself having it. And it's a worry here in Queensland. The vaccine rollout, it's not because of geographical issues. WA is way ahead of us at the moment here. So I think it's some issue here with the state government's own efforts and they've got to really pick up their game.

STEFANOVIC: Malarndirri if you had yours yet?

MCCARTHY: I have. I've had the first of my AstraZeneca Karl, actually, and my next one's due in July.

STEFANOVIC: AstraZeneca, I thought you were under 30.

MCCARTHY: Well, you know, I could say I was, but, you know, I'm on national television now and everyone's gonna to watch and no, I'm not.

STEFANOVIC: Hey, let's talk about the big issues facing Labor this morning. That crushing defeat in the Upper Hunter byelection? The PM today saying it's the Coalition which now represents the values of working class voters. Malarndirri Labor has a real problem.

MCCARTHY: Well, it's certainly quite devastating for New South Wales Labor. There's no two ways about it, Karl. And clearly, there is a lot of debriefing and soul-searching that has to take place in terms of local politics. But I look at it more broadly in terms of the national scene. We saw Mark McGowan just just about take all of WA, we saw the election in Tasmania, we saw the election in Queensland and the election in the Northern Territory, where we see constituency are staying where they feel it's safe and that's with their current leaders.

STEFANOVIC: Even some of your own party, though, federally, are saying Labor's got a real problem. They need to go back to the support base, to the working class roots, and they're not.

MCCARTHY: Look, we certainly will have a challenge going towards the election, but we've always known that. I don't think the outcome in the Hunter says any differently. We know it's going to be a battle to win the next election. And we are certainly rolling our sleeves up to make sure we do win it.

STEFANOVIC: Have you lost it already?



EMERSON: Oh, look, there'd be a lot of worries now in federal Labor with the result out here. Look, this was devastating for New South Wales Labor, but this high vis vote. It Is Morrison picking up the Howard battlers. We've talked about them previously. Anthony Albanese, I don't know if he's necessarily resonating with those voters out there, the Labor voters, traditional Labor voters, that he needs to win the next election.

STEFANOVIC: Malarndirri that any leadership aspirations?

MCCARTHY: Look, I think we've certainly got an important leader here who's just made an announcement on other policies that are quite critical. For example, the cashless debit card, how we are going to make sure that is not rolling out across the country, in particular to pensioners. And that is having a huge impact even now on my social media as to people's response to that. So we are very clear of the challenges ahead of us. But we're going to stay strong as a party.

STEFANOVIC: Would a change of leadership work.

MCCARTHY: There's no need for that.

STEFANOVIC: OK, good to talk to you guys. Thank you so much for your time today.

MCCARTHY: Thank you.