Sky News - 8 June 2021

June 08, 2021

TOM CONNELL: Welcome back. Joining me live now my political panel for the day Liberal Senator Gerard Rennick. From the Labor Party, Graham Perrett, gentlemen, thanks both for your time. We're had confirmation out of Victoria Gerard, once again, now the Delta strain has come out of hotel quarantine, it highlights it's not a perfect system. Should the federal government be a bit more proactive around finding more sites rather than sitting back and saying States come to us with possibilities?

SENATOR GERARD RENNICK: I think the federal government has been very proactive. This year in Australia, we've had actually no deaths at all, from COVID in Australia from those people who've got COVID, contacted COVID in the community. We've also got Howard Springs facility up in Northern Territory. We've just committed to another 500 bed quarantine facility in Victoria. And we've offered billions of dollars in support to the States in medical services. And you have to remember, Tom that we don't run the hospitals or the health systems or the police system. So I think the federal government's done a very good job in keeping quarantine, very low, outbreaks very low. We've had 360,000 people go through quarantine, 4000 of them have tested positive and of that only six have actually got out in the community, two of which were in New South Wales who didn't have to close down at all. Two in Queensland, one in Western Australia and one in Victoria.

CONNELL: The number of total leaks is more in the low 20s isn't it that have resulted in leaks whether they've got out in the community or not? It's the virus getting out? Well?

RENNICK: Well, that's right. There's been well, I didn't know there was 20. I've thought there was six, two in New South Wales, two in Queensland, one each in Victoria and Western Australia. But the point is, is that they have been contained and we have to learn to live with COVID.

CONNELL: We had one I mean, just on the face of it, those figures can't be right. What about the South Australian quarantine leak that ended up...

RENNICK: I thought that proved to be a false case. My understanding was that was a false case. And was that that wasn't necessarily out of South Australia, or the one I'm counting from Victoria was the one from South Australia. But it

CONNELL: Well it wasn't false. That was a South Australian man in quarantine in South Australia who ended up taking the virus to Victoria.

RENNICK: Yeah, okay. Well, give a take of a couple of numbers. The point is, is that we have to learn to live with COVID and we can't lock down every time there's an outbreak Tom, no system is failsafe no system is perfect. And what we need to rely on as I've said the whole time is our contact tracing and testing.

CONNELL: Alright. Graham? No to when we're quarantined that we finally got the reasons why on Friday said the Queensland Government can from now figure out its locations, Victoria did that. It got the green light. The federal government's open to this year, hoping the Queensland Government goes down the same path.

GRAHAM PERRETT, MEMBER OF MORETON: Very much so I always thought the Toowoomba airport option because of that proximity to an international airport, good hospital system, and out of the centre of the city, made it a much more realistic option. So I'm hoping that Queensland can get  on board with this, working with the Commonwealth rather than that cheap political point scoring. Unlike Gerard, I don't think that whether or not people die should be the KPI for whether the Commonwealth is doing quarantine successfully. Getting the vaccination right is something that we need to do. That's been a very, very tardy response from the Commonwealth Government. But getting quarantine right, as the Constitution says is something that the Commonwealth should have stepped up during a pandemic. We're on, you know, getting close to a year and a half since this COVID pandemic swept across the globe, that's surely where an active government would step up and say what do we need to do? I do commend the hotels for doing the best with the resources that they have. And they're doing good things, but 21 plus breakouts in the middle of our cities is not acceptable.

CONNELL: All right, great. Let me ask you this about the vaccine element which Labor's also spoken about. The Queensland Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk the reasons have been shifting on her getting the vaccine. She eventually got Pfizer. That had to be delayed apparently because of tetanus and a dog bite and then a flu shot. Right at the start of this though, Scott Morrison got vaccinated so did Anthony Albanese as frontline workers, as people that travel all around, and the Premier didn't. Was that a bad call?

PERRETT: Look, I must admit, Tom, I haven't closely followed the personal health choices of Anastacia Palaszczuk you know. I don't know her individual circumstances. I know her age and the availability of vaccines generally. And she's certainly been a part of, with Dr Jeanette Young, keeping Queenslanders safe in all that she can. Those individual health decisions can sometimes be complicated. I don't know those dominos, I don't think it'd be fair.

CONNELL: At the start of it, Graham, at the start of it, she said I don't want to skip the queue. But that wasn't what that was about. Noone was seeing Anthony Albanese as skipping the queue or Scott Morrison.  They were setting an example now as people that were meeting a lot of people out there that didn't want to spread it. Surely the best vaccine confidence message at that time would have been to get vaccinated?

PERRETT: Well, look, it's certainly you know, showing people what you do is always a good example. But look, there are people in the Coalition who've made individual decisions about not getting vaccinated.  People have been promulgating bad messages. We need the public message to be clear, precise, that’s why with a Labor government, we'd be pumping money into public advertising to give good messages to people about vaccinating because the health response is what will make sure the economic uptake in Australia flows wider. And the benefits of that can be reaped by all Australians, because we've got to get that vaccination rollout faster, better.

CONNELL: What did you make of the Premier’s various lines on this Gerard?

RENNICK: Tom, I'm not going to dictate people's personal health choices about taking the vaccine, you know, that we've had this discussion before. What I would like to know from you know, the leadership is if people do get vaccinated, will States then commit to stay keeping their borders open? Or will they get in? And likewise, will they commit to not locking down? I mean, the question is, and we heard this in estimates that people are going to need booster shots. We're not sure of how effective it is in stopping transmission. And we don't know how long the vaccines work. So what I would like to see from the Premiers is a roadmap out of here on the assumption that people did get vaccinated.

CONNELL:  We wouldn't go to the federal government for a road map?

RENNICK:  I'm sure the federal government would love to have a greater say.  But ultimately, we aren't going to, you know, we're driven by the decisions of the States. I mean, I'm not happy about that. But that's why it works. We can't stop states from quarantining people.

CONNELL: You could override this.  

RENNICK: Well, look, I mean, we can take it back to the High Court again, I guess. I mean, Clive Palmer took it there last year. And lost, I was a bit surprised about the decision personally, but I personally would like us to take it to the High Court and just see if we can stop borders from being closed. But look, I don't want to get in an argument of constitutional responsibilities here. But we need a road map. And regardless, and you don't have to put all governments we need a road map out here on the condition that people got vaccinated or otherwise will be getting vaccinated, locked down, quarantine, whatever. Okay, but we need a way out.

CONNELL: Can I just ask you find the jury, the family from Biloela? Perhaps there's a solution coming but one is needed, isn't it? When we hear about deterrent, these parents actually arrived before the words from Kevin Rudd “no one arriving after this moment will be resettled in Australia”. There could be this decision without the floodgates opening again, surely.

RENNICK: Well, I mean, the problem is you'll have activists will use this decision if we decided to allow the family to stay, they would use that decision to open the gates. And you know, you've got to remember that the last time people died at sea.

CONNELL: The parents still came under the Coalition exemptions.

RENNICK: Well, I don't know what those exemptions were. I'm not up to speed on that. But I do know that we accept almost 20,000 refugees a year. There's millions of people across the world in refugee camps, who'd love to come to Australia. My advice is for the family to go back to Sri Lanka or apply through the proper channels to come to Australia that way, and they probably would have been here by now, rather than being used by activists to score political points.

CONNELL: Graham, did Kevin Rudd set the standard here all those years ago just before an election on his very hardline stance to try to make this political problem go away for Labor?

PERRETT: There was a surge in boat arrivals. We had a whole process there but Gerard's government is about to start its ninth year in office come September. So to shift this home to Kevin Rudd is ridiculous. As you pointed out, Tom, there's been lots of exemptions. Gerard, a family coming from Sri Lanka would barely be able to be part of the 13, 750 asylum seekers who come here by plane. That's very unlikely considered considering some of the hellholes around the world. The reality is we've got a family working hard. My sister has been an electrician in Biloela telling me that this family is very well accepted, working hard. contributing to a bush community. Surely there's a capacity for exemptions. We know there are lots of exemptions. You know, we've seen that au pairs get special treatment. Ministers have lots of powers here. And it's the public spotlight that is making a hard-hearted Scott Morrison not step in when this mess should have been sorted years ago and let people make a contribution to Australian society rather than draining taxpayer dollars on Christmas Island.

CONNELL: Graham Perrett, Gerard Rennick. Appreciate your time. Thank you.