Subjects: lockdown protests, National Cabinet, the Wiggles
KARL STEFANOVIC: A horseback protestor at Coolangatta yesterday calling on the mask-less crowds to illegally cross the border as part of the weekend of anti-lockdown protests. And the backlash was quick and fierce. Police, politicians, and thousands on social media slamming the demos for risking yet more COVID transmissions. Let’s discuss with Queensland Senator Amanda Stoker, in Canberra, and in Sydney TripleM’s Gus Worland. Nice to see you both, thanks for your time.
AMANDA STOKER: Morning.
KARL STEFANOVIC: Senator to you, first of all, what did you think of the Queensland William Wallace?
AMANDA STOKER: Look, I really do understand why people are frustrated. They’ve got pandemic fatigue, and they want to know when they’re going to be able to get back to normal life. But we have an answer to that question and the answer is vaccination. Vaccination is voluntary. It is not mandatory and I know that’s a concern some of the protestors expressed yesterday, but the fact is the more people who we have vaccinated – and we’ve got a million people getting the jab every three days, more than 17 million Australians have had a dose now – that is our path back to the kind of living freely that Australians love and want. These kinds of protests divert resources from crime in other places and they risk transmission which jeopardises the whole thing.
KARL STEFANOVIC: You’re gonna have some issues in the state that I’ll get to in a second but Gus, do you have any sympathy for the Coolangatta Cowboy?
GUS WORLAND: Look, I can sort of understand, like the Senator said, where he’s coming from but it’s because we don’t have that leadership at the moment. We don’t have that hope. We don’t have that date in the diary where, if we keep going at the vaccination levels that we’re doing at the moment, this is the date that we’ll come out of lockdown. The big circle in the diary; the hope so we know that there’s an end game. At the moment, we don’t have that. I know we’re working towards it but we have that as the date, that as the number every morning at 11 o’clock [inaudible] in Sydney when Gladys the Premier gets up and says the numbers, but the numbers of the vaccination are this. And this is the date we’ll be at 70 per cent, that’s the hope that we need to be able to get out of this so I understand the frustration that everyone is feeling at the moment. Of course, I don’t want people out there gathering and doing protesting and so forth. But that’s where it’s got to at the moment because we’re just so frustrated and there’s no real end game.
KARL STEFANOVIC: The issue, of course, about reopening Australia has set the PM on a collision course with the states. Scott Morrison declared that national cabinet has already agreed to roll back restrictions when the national vaccination rate hits 70 per cent. ‘Not so’, says Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles.
[Steven Miles footage: “Lots of people are saying that that means all restrictions are lifted. Nobody signed up to that plan”]
KARL STEFANOVIC: Mark McGowan did sign up to it but he may not enact it. Amanda, how are you gonna deal with that?
AMANDA STOKER: The difficulty is that people who play games with the pandemic like Steven Miles and Mark McGowan are rewarded for it. But the fact is Australians deserve a timeline that they can count on and reliably know that they’re going to be able to get back to business, get back to work, get back to all the things they love about enjoying life in this great country.
KARL STEFANOVIC: Yeah.
AMANDA STOKER: We have a plan to do that. There’s four steps to it, all of the states agreed to it and the team Australia approach that was so important to getting Australians through the early part of this pandemic, needs to be focused on now. Australians need to get back to normal more than ever and it’s not right for the states to start trying to move the goalposts or play games in their own interests when it’s Australians who are paying the price.
KARL STEFANOVIC: You can say whatever you like and the Prime Minister can say whatever he likes, it’s not going to change their opinion because they have the power.
AMANDA STOKER: They do have a lot of power. They’re responsible for the public health response. But I think it’s fair to say that the Prime Minister and the Federal Government have played a really cooperative team Australia kind of approach to dealing with this problem. That is something that won’t be able to be sustained if the states aren’t acting in the interests of Australians.
KARL STEFANOVIC: Oh, hang on a second. What’s he got planned?
AMANDA STOKER: Look, it’s just a matter of practicality. National cabinet depends upon the states and the federal government working together in the interests of Australians, to get through a difficult time.
KARL STEFANOVIC: But it sounds like you’ve got something planned-
AMANDA STOKER: The states have-
KARL STEFANOVIC: -if the states don’t play ball?
AMANDA STOKER: Look, I think all Australians can expect and should expect firm action from the federal government in their interests. That’s what we’re doing with getting vaccinations into the community; 17 million done already, a million every three days. We’re holding up our end of the bargain and it’s important that Australians demand the same of the rest of the states.
KARL STEFANOVIC: I know that you’re not going to say it but Gus, I sense from Amanda that you do what any parent does when you’ve got an errant child. You cut their funding off.
GUS WORLAND: Yeah, absolutely, that’s their power. That’s their power play and I understand it and I think it’s the sort of leadership that we need. We actually signed up to 70 per cent everything opens up again. If that’s what Scomo is going to tell us is okay, they can’t take that away from us. I understand Queensland, they just got in a landslide, the WA bloke got in on a landslide so of course they’ve got the power, haven’t they? For their own state. But at the end of the day we’re Australia, and like the Senator said, going back to March last year, Karl, when you and I were talking on the Today Show about team Australia, where’s that gone? So let’s get back to that and let’s realise that all these lockdowns are doing far more damage. Like I said the other week, when it comes to people’s anxiety, depression and of course the suicide rate, so lets start looking after people properly.
KARL STEFANOVIC: Yeah, it’s just terrible what is happening behind closed doors out there. Just before we go, later in the show we’re featuring this wonderful group.
[Video clip of the Wiggles plays]
KARL STEFANOVIC: Diverse. Double the size. [inaudible] Wiggles. Matt Canavan, who’s a killjoy on this kind of stuff, weighs into it this morning and says, ‘you go woke, you go broke’. Amanda, are you on Matt’s side on this one?
AMANDA STOKER: Look, time will tell whether he’s right. But the Wiggles are an international money-making machine and I strongly suspect that a lot of this will continue that export success story by being able to appeal to international markets. I think there will be some parents who are concerned about the age-appropriateness of some of the messages around gender and so forth, but in terms of being able to continue that export success story, I can understand why they’re doing what they’re doing.
KARL STEFANOVIC: Excellent stuff. Maybe you should cut the Wiggles off to the states? Gussy, one final one?
GUS WORLAND: Yeah I mean fruit salad, yummy yummy. Hot potato, hot potato. All that stuff, is awesome, you know? And if there’s some stuff there that the parents need to explain to their kids, then be a parent and explain it to the kids. I think it’s great, the fact that their audience is changing, so they’re changing as well. And as we know, the Wiggles, as the Senator said, you know, international sensation. I saw them in London when we were living there. They are literally awesome so let’s just let them do what they want. If any questions pop up, be a parent and actually answer them.
KARL STEFANOVIC: The Wiggles are the greatest babysitters in the world. Much appreciated, good to talk to you.