2.14pm | February 09, 2021




SUBJECTS:  Vaccine rollout, WA lockdown, climate change, Collingwood AFL club report on structural racism.
PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: Time for my first political panel of 2021, Liberal MP Katie Allen and Labor Senator Jenny McAllister. The Prime Minister was asked about the vaccine rollout, after his Press Club address. Given the Government is doing an ad blitz on the rollout of the vaccine, should MPs that spread disinformation be pulled into line?
KATIE ALLEN: The most important thing is health advice from the government websites and not from Facebook. And I think it's really important that there's a lot of information out there, and we want to direct people to the right information. As a doctor, I say don’t get your information from Facebook, you try to get it from the authorised websites. That's what I stick with.
KARVELAS: OK. But you have got MPs in your own government providing the wrong advice. What is your message to them?
ALLEN: My message is, please, we need to be all on the same page with regards to particularly this vaccine rollout. We want Australians to know they're in safe and certain hands. And that we are partnering with the Australian people with information as it comes to light, so they can balance the risks for themselves and make the decisions that are right for them.
KARVELAS: OK. So, does that - does that mean those MPs, I'm talking about Craig Kelly here, specifically, they should maybe zip it?
ALLEN: It's up to individual constituents to make decisions.
KARVELAS: But that's in next election. This is a vaccine rollout. Should he be - should he be silent instead of giving misinformation about these issues?
ALLEN: Well, I don't follow individual MPs Facebooks.
KARVELAS: You know what he's been saying?
ALLEN: I don't know the detail - I don't follow him on Facebook. What I do is speak to my colleagues about what think is the right evidence based expert informed approach and I've been very clear with that, speaking to my colleagues inside the tent, and I will continue to do that. The most important thing is that the Australian people understand, trust, and respect the government's information that is on the website, the authorised websites, the authorised information, and obviously people can have differences of opinions about things. I would say that as a doctor, I dealt with lots of people who come to me and say I don't believe X, Y, and Z. It's not my job to say you are not right. My job was to point them in the direction, the right direction for them to make the decision that was right for them. And I continue to do that. I mean, the point about debate is that we need to have a respectful debate and there are people in the community, let's put aside federal members of Parliament, there will be members of the community who have different opinions. I would say very clearly that vaccines are the way to go with regards to this pandemic globally. And that as a government, we are partnering with people to provide clear, concise and effective information, in a calm and considered way. There will be always be people in the community, concerned rightly or wrongly, about different aspects of government recommendations. It's important we continue to have the conversation, have the debate, and partner with people to make sure they can make the decisions that are right for them.
KARVELAS: Jenny McAllister,  the Prime Minister was asked this question as well in his Press Club address at the end, and he made it clear he doesn't think people should rely on what they see in Facebook, but should rely on the medical advice. Is the government handling the issue well?
MCALLISTER: It's baffling to me that the Prime Minister won't make it clear he disapproves of Craig Kelly's behaviour. Mr Kelly is afforded a privileged position as a pre-selected member of the Liberal Party, as a member of the Australian Parliament. I don't think it should be beyond Mr Morrison to say very clearly what Mr Kelly is saying is wrong and dangerous and people in the community should not listen to him. Generallised warnings, pointing people to websites is not enough. Mr Kelly is a member of Mr Morrison's party room, surely Mr Morrison can find it within himself to have an opinion about the wrong and dangerous ideas espoused by Mr Kelly.
KARVELAS: WA has gotten into a lockdown, they have been contentious in the past, we've seen now when there's even one case, a couple of states approach it this way, including South Australia. What are your thoughts on this, given the more virulent strains we now know exist, unfortunately. Is this the right strategy?
ALLEN: I think that prevention is always better than cure. It's important the people on WA are getting on top of their contact tracing. I don't know whether they are or not. If the Premier believes a short sharp lockdown allows him to get on top of contact tracing, that's a good thing. I would say the hot spot approach has been the right way forward rather than a whole of state approach. We saw that effectively done in the Northern Beaches. And we also saw in South Australia a walkback from the 6-day lockdown to a 3-day lockdown when it was clear - the unknowns became known. Now, this is a more virulent, or there's more virulent species around. So, things are evolving as we speak. But I would say in this circumstance it's good it seems there's only one case at this point in time. And it may be well, hopefully that WA walks back from their 6-day lockdown if they find their contact tracing is in hand and it is confined to a small number of people.
KARVELAS: Jenny, moving on, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says it's his government's preference for Australia to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, but hasn't committed to that target. Why, why is this an issue that Labor keeps raising? The Prime Minister says he wants to work on getting there, even earlier if the government can, and is working on the technology solutions. Is that an inadequate answer?
MCALLISTER: We've got very little confidence that this government is working in a meaningful way on solutions because we've had 7 years where we literally have not had an energy policy. And the root cause of that is because there's deep division in the coalition about whether or not to make this transition at all. Mr Morrison is saying we hope to get to net zero by 2050 is cold comfort when we had the National Party releasing publications asking for new coal fired power stations to be built in Queensland. There's a complete incapacity in the coalition to do anything about the transition. It means that Australians miss out on cheaper energy prices and they miss out on jobs. That's why we're talking about it. Because the transition to net zero is actually an enormous economic opportunity. Every day of delay leaves us behind a global community that's moving. Mr Morrison is very isolated on this question. And being so isolated and so stubborn and unable to control the deniers and the non-believers in the coalition, he's jeopardising Australia's economic future. And that's why we're raising it.
KARVELAS: Katie Allen, we have spoken about your views in relation to emissions reduction targets. Do you think the government should commit to reaching the 2050 net zero emissions now? As you go into an election year, making it clear you want to decarbonise the economy?
ALLEN: What you're hearing from the Prime Minister today is very strong language regarding a plan, a plan for the future, for a zero net carbon future, that hopefully, preferably, is before 2050, and that plan is what I've been focused on right back in interviews with you, discussing this, the plan is the most important thing. A costed plan, a plan that brings the Australian economy and the people with it, and the low emissions technology statement with five stretch targets of hydrogen, green aluminium, and green - as well as carbon capture and storage, but also looking at new technologies as we move forward is really the way to go. We heard today about commercialisation of technology, as being at the centre plank of the plan to move forward. I feel a great sense of optimism we're moving forward with a Liberal lens. There's a commitment today by the Prime Minister. It's about how to get there. Not what or if, it's how to get there. I think it's very strong language and there's a great sense of optimism that Australia has the opportunity to grab this opportunity with both hands, create new jobs in new technology areas, and I'm interested in a whole lot of new technologies that are coming online. So a science and technology led future, I think we're seeing a huge amount of moving onto the front foot with $1.9 billion commitment to this low emissions technology strategy, but Alan Finkel, the previous chief scientist, he's going to bring this energy and drive to a very critical issue for Australia.
KARVELAS: Just very briefly, there's been this report leaked and now clearly confirmed about systemic racism in the Collingwood Football Club. Staying with you, Katie Allen, do you think that Eddie McGuire should stand down earlier?
ALLEN: I don't like to comment on what should or shouldn't happen, other than to say importantly an independent inquiry has found a problem and they have outlined 18 recommendations. So, the proof as the pudding that the recommendations that seem quite practical and pragmatic. The recognition of the problem is an important first step. Sport is something that is very important to Australia's culture.
KARVELAS: Does it disturb you that this kind of level of racism exists in one of our - I'm a Collingwood supporter, I have to reveal, in one of the most important football clubs in the country?
ALLEN:  I think that people will be disturbed by those reports. My brother is a Collingwood supporter. I'm sure he's in the same bag as you. It's really upsetting to hear. People will be very, very disappointed by what they're hearing. I hope they take away from this a desire for action, because it is an incredibly important issue for Australia itself. The very heart of Australia is in our sport and our culture. It's something we take credibly seriously. I welcome the recommendations and I really want to see Collingwood lean into this. It will be incredibly important.
KARVELAS: Jenny McAllister?
MCALLISTER: It's one of the big upsides, actually, of 2020, we managed to elevate a really important conversation about structural racism. The truth is that sporting clubs are immensely important, not just at the elite level, but at the amateur level, kids' sport. And every child, whether they're at First Nations child, an African child who has made home here, needs to know they go into one of those clubs and they feel safe. And that if people are hurting them, or harming them, those are the people who will face consequences in the club. Obviously, there are problems at Collingwood. And it's immensely important that a review of this kind has set out a pathway forward for that club. They'll have a lot to reflect on. I'm not a person who thinks a lot of time thinking about AFL. But it's obvious this is a really important national question and people will be watching very closely.
KARVELAS: Thank you so much for both of you for joining us.