ABC News Breakfast 02/09/21

02 September 2021

SUBJECTS: National plan; Scott Morrison silent on vaccination plans for children; National Accounts; Australia’s growth now slower than US, UK, and the OECD average.




SUBJECTS: National plan; Scott Morrison silent on vaccination plans for children; National Accounts; Australia’s growth now slower than US, UK, and the OECD average.


LISA MILLAR, HOST: Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers joins us from Brisbane. Good morning to you.


MILLAR: I want to start with those lockdowns. Given that federal Labor has backed this national roadmap, seeing Australia freed up certainly with 70%, 80% vaccinations, what do you say to this change in language from the Queensland Premier who is walking away from that roadmap?

CHALMERS: I think the Premiers, in different ways around the country, are saying it's one thing to have a national plan but let's make sure that we get all the constituent parts of that right. Our view in federal Labor is we support the national plan but what it requires is us to get a few things right as a nation - whether it's test, and trace, and track, and isolate, and quarantine, whether it's making sure that hospitals can cope, not leaving people behind, making sure there's a plan for twelve to fifteen year olds - we need to make sure that we can get all these things right. We want to open up as a country but we need to do that safely and confidently. That requires those things to go well. But most fundamentally, the reason we're locked down, the reason the economy was slowing in the last quarter and shrinking in this quarter, is because the Prime Minister hasn't done his job on vaccines and quarantine. Those are the two most important things that Scott Morrison needs to get right if we are to open up like people want us to.

MILLAR: Jim Chalmers, I just want to stick with the Queensland issue at the moment because this is certainly a change in language, the Queensland Premier suggesting that borders won't open until children under twelve are vaccinated and yet that's not happening anywhere in the world. Do you support those words from the Queensland Premier?

CHALMERS: The Queensland Premier can speak for herself. The point that we're making is that she is reflecting a lot of concern, a lot of anxiety in the community, that people have about the vaccination of our kids.

MILLAR: She's been accused of scaremongering though. Is she scaremongering?

CHALMERS: Well not by me, Lisa. No, of course not. And the Premier right throughout this pandemic has made the right decisions on the basis of good health advice to keep Queenslanders safe. I'm here on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, and the businesses here want to see the economy open up but they want to see it opened up safely. And that means making sure that we limit the spread of the virus and the Premier has been spectacularly successful at that. She's earned the right to have an opinion about these issues. The point that I'm making, is that the Prime Minister doesn't even have a plan to vaccinate the twelve to fifteen year olds, before we even get to the under twelves. There is a lot of anxiety amongst Australian parents, they haven't heard from the Prime Minister how he intends to vaccinate our kids. That seems to be a key gap in the national plan. We want to see the national plan implemented, but in order to do that we've got to have a plan for kids, we've got to have a plan for hospitals, for isolation, for quarantine, for tracing. All of these issues, priority groups, making sure they're vaccinated. This national plan talks about seven or eight in ten Australians being fully vaccinated, we're at barely three in ten at the moment. And that's because the Prime Minister hasn't got his act together. That's why the economy is slowing last quarter and shrinking this quarter, it's why there's all this social dislocation and economic damage being done.

MILLAR: Jim Chalmers, you say that people are anxious, but the critics say the Queensland Premier is adding to that anxiety. When all of the health experts say that children are not at high risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID, she's changed the goalposts here. And you say 'well, that's up to her', but what is the national roadmap if the Queensland Premier is changing the goalposts like this, based on health advice, perhaps that no health expert is agreeing with this morning.

CHALMERS: Look, if the health experts can give Australian parents comfort on this front that's a good thing. Let's have a discussion about it. The national plan is silent about kids. The point that we're making is that not even twelve to fifteen year olds – a key group when it comes to vaccinations - we haven't heard from the Prime Minister how he intends to even vaccinate that cohort of Australian kids. I think Australian parents have a right to know what the story is here and what the plan is here. There are important elements of the national plan which need to be implemented competently, and safely, and confidently, but the Prime Minister has been silent about kids. We need to have a plan. There's a lot of anxiety amongst the Australian community. We want to hear from the health experts. The Premier has got a discussion going about kids, about how we vaccinate our kids. My personal view, is let's hear from the Prime Minister about the twelve to fifteen year eight year olds as a matter of some urgency,

MILLAR: Just one quick question on Victoria, because we heard changes as well, and how it's going to progress basically zero-COVID is being chucked in the dustbin. The Treasurer insists that the economy will bounce back but with these two huge states now in indefinite lockdowns, where do you think the economy is going to be by Christmas?

CHALMERS: We want the economy to recover strongly. It's slowed in the June quarter, it's shrinking now in the September quarter, that is beyond doubt. It remains to be seen what will happen in the December quarter around Christmas. We want to see it rebound strongly but in order for that to happen we need to do a much better job as a country, and the Federal Government needs to do a much better job, on vaccinations and quarantine, in particular. We are at the back of the pack in the developed world when it comes to economic growth in the June quarter, we're at the back of the pack when it comes to vaccinations, and those two failures from Scott Morrison are related.

MILLAR: Jim Chalmers, thanks for your time this morning.

CHALMERS: Thanks for your time, Lisa.