Subjects: Queensland border
CHRIS KENNY: Amanda Stoker, she’s the Assistant Minister for Women and the Assistant Minister to the Attorney-General, as well, thanks for joining us Amanda. I wanted to get your thoughts first up on the protests on the border between New South Wales and Queensland. There seems to be a lot of animosity towards anybody protesting these days, but this is an unacceptable situation for that part of this country. It’s one community and that border just tears them apart.
AMANDA STOKER: It is unacceptable and to try and pretend that the border between Queensland and New South Wales doesn’t tear apart a community is utterly unfair. Insult is added to injury though, when the Premier says the state is incapable of taking in any more people and can’t put them in quarantine because they don’t have the capacity to do that anymore, and yet we find out that 100 NRL players’ families from Sydney – coming from a hotspot – are made space for, are found a place in quarantine; while people who are working FIFO, who are missing family, who are even serving in this Parliament, can’t get back home to Queensland. It makes a mockery of the deep harm that is done when you tear families apart, harm businesses with closed borders and deny people the easy access to medical care that comes with these quite arbitrary restrictions.
CHRIS KENNY: Well, you’ve pre-empted what was going to be my next question. Because this issue with the NRL families is extraordinary, isn’t it? Because, you know, over the past 18 months on this program and others on Sky, we’ve highlighted some of the personal trauma of families being torn apart by that New South Wales border-Queensland, women being refused access to Queensland hospitals and having to go 1,000kms or more to Sydney, ‘go to your own hospitals,’ says Anastacia Palaszczuk. Yet she lets in movie stars and now NRL families.
AMANDA STOKER: It is madness and Queenslanders and New South Welshmen alike have a right to be angry about this because the Queensland Government, along with every other state and territory, agreed with the Commonwealth on a National Plan to get us out of this mess. It depends on good vaccination rates and it depends on everybody pulling their weight. Queensland undermines confidence in the AstraZeneca vaccine, announces white elephant quarantine facilities that won’t even be ready until a point at which we should’ve reached the vaccination target anyway - and that are two hours’ away from the international airport, and meanwhile, keep insisting that they reserve the right to snap up into lockdown and to keep our borders closed indefinitely. This trauma must stop. The uncertainty is damaging the economy so much, it’s damaging mental health so much, and I can’t help but think that all of this behaviour is really just because the Queensland Government knows its management of the Queensland health system is so poor that it doesn’t have confidence that it could handle living with COVID, rather than hiding in fear from it under the doona.
CHRIS KENNY: I think you’re right.
AMANDA STOKER: Ambulance ramping rates that are so high, you know-
CHRIS KENNY: Yeah, I highlighted that -
AMANDA STOKER: 58 per cent at Logan.
CHRIS KENNY: I highlighted at the top of the program how there are ramping issues in Western Australia and South Australia, should’ve done a check right around the country. I know that, as you say, Queensland has got those issues as well.
AMANDA STOKER: Shocking.
CHRIS KENNY: Here’s something that really troubles me though. I agree when you say that about the border and the way Queensland insists on managing it. I had the Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce on the show last week, who was also highly critical of it. So, there you have an Assistant Minister and a Deputy Prime Minister critical of the way management of this interstate border, yet the Federal Government is supplying Australian Defence Force personnel to help implement that border. Shouldn’t, at the very least, the Federal Government say, ‘no, you know, if we don’t agree with the way you’re managing this, don’t do it with our soldiers’?
AMANDA STOKER: Look, I think you can expect that as Queensland, in particular, seems to want to shuffle back from its commitment to the National Plan, they can expect less and less cooperation from the Commonwealth Government. If we want to say, ‘we’re all in this together’, well, we’ve got a plan, let’s implement it together so that Australians can get back to all that is great about living in this country. I fully expect that the leadership that we have seen and will continue to see from the Prime Minister and from the Morrison Government’s leadership team, will keep ramping up that pressure - not for ourselves, not for a political point - but because Australians and Queenslanders need it. And our duty is to them. It’s not to Anastacia Palaszczuk’s convenience.
CHRIS KENNY: We are, after all, one country. Thank you for joining us, Senator.
AMANDA STOKER: Thank you.