JIM CHALMERS MP
MEMBER FOR RANKIN
THURSDAY, 22 JULY 2021
SUBJECTS: Brisbane 2032 Olympic Games; Scott Morrison’s failures on vaccines, quarantine and JobKeeper costing the economy $300 million a day; PM takes credit but not responsibility.
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: Congratulations to Premier Palaszczuk and everybody involved in this stunning victory for Brisbane and Southeast Queensland to host the 2032 Olympic Games. This wonderful news couldn't have come at a better time for Australians who are doing it tough.
This gives people something to look forward to, young athletes something to aspire to, the volunteer army something to contribute to, and it's something the whole nation can be proud of. It's a coup for Southeast Queensland but all of Australia can benefit. This is all about jobs and opportunities and the big chance to shine in the eyes of the world. So congratulations to everybody who's been involved in this victorious bid, it really is a wonderful day, wonderful news, especially for people doing it tough. And we've heard more difficult news from down south when it comes to infection numbers in the last hour or two.
Now, true to form, Scott Morrison goes missing for days and just happens to pop up for a photo on the day that Australia secures the Olympic Games. Scott Morrison is always there to take credit but he's never there to take responsibility.
Yesterday was Scott Morrison's Prime Ministership in a nutshell - he went missing, when he finally popped up it was just to apportion blame to others, he picked a fight with the Premiers, he got a bit shirty, he staged the photo, and then he went to bed ready to do it all again today.
If the Olympic Games were the blame games, Scott Morrison would be a gold medallist. Joining him on the podium would be the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.
Josh Frydenberg says today that Scott Morrison's lockdowns are costing the economy something like $300 million a day and a couple of billion dollars a week. The economy is bleeding hundreds of millions of dollars a day because of Scott Morrison's failures on vaccine and quarantine. The economy is bleeding billions of dollars a week because Scott Morrison hasn't done his job and rolled out the vaccine and built quarantine facilities. The economy is bleeding because Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg haven't done the right thing on vaccines and quarantine and reinstating JobKeeper to properly support people who are doing it tough as a consequence of this Government's failures.
The Prime Minister and the Treasurer should take responsibility for this debacle which is costing the economy hundreds of millions of dollars a day. The Treasurer and the Prime Minister should apologise for what's happened here. The Treasurer and the Prime Minister need to say sorry to the Australian people for a debacle on vaccines and quarantine and JobKeeper, which is costing the economy dearly, hundreds of millions of dollars a day. This is on the Prime Minister and he should come out and say sorry.
JOURNALIST: Mr Chalmers, thanks very much for your time. First of all, congratulations to the Sunshine State on the Olympics victory for the good of the nation. Can I ask you though, is it appropriate do you think for the Prime Minister to publicly call on ATAGI to reconsider its medical advice around AstraZeneca?
CHALMERS: Mark Butler will have more to say about this during the course of the day in his portfolio, but clearly one of the reasons why the advice has been so confusing is because the Prime Minister, in playing the blame game, has sent out confusing mixed messages. This vaccine rollout has been a debacle from the beginning because of Scott Morrison's failures to send a clear message, but most of all to secure enough vaccines.
JOURNALIST: (inaudible) Does the Government need to offer additional support to airlines and if so what should it look like?
CHALMERS: First and foremost the Government needs to offer additional support to people who are the unwilling victims of Scott Morrison's lockdown. The most important priority here needs to be to reinstate JobKeeper without the rorts, or something better than that, so that people maintain the link between employer and employee and get the support that they need and deserve.
We wouldn't be in this position if Scott Morrison had done his job on vaccines and quarantine. The people of Sydney, Victoria, South Australia, and right around Australia, are the unwilling victims of Scott Morrison's failure to take responsibility for this debacle. They should be the first port of call when it comes to extra support to get them through a difficult time.
JOURNALIST: Just on lockdowns, you mentioned earlier the Treasurer's comments about them costing $300 million a day, $2 billion a week. How much responsibility do the State hold for this?
CHALMERS: The state governments of either political persuasion are trying to do the best they can to allow for Scott Morrison's failures on vaccines and quarantine. States and cities are being locked down and will continue to be locked down because of those twin failures, which are costing the economy dearly.
State governments are trying to do their best to limit the spread of this virus, but when it comes to these lockdowns we wouldn't be in this position if Scott Morrison had done what other countries are doing far more effectively, which is to roll out the vaccine. We need to see those purpose-built quarantine facilities, we need to see JobKeeper reinstated without the rorts or something better than that. The Prime Minister's inability to do those things means that we will have more of these lockdowns for longer and the states will have to respond with the kinds of difficult decisions that we've seen today.
JOURNALIST: (inaudible) What's your view on how the country should re-open? (inaudible)
CHALMERS: Clearly, the nation's ability to open up again is heavily reliant on our capacity to supply enough vaccines and to get them into enough people's arms to make that possible. That is self-evident I think. You look at the Treasury assumptions about lockdowns into the future, they are assuming in the Treasurer's own Budget, that there'll be more lockdowns for longer. That is a consequence of the Government's inability to do the sorts of things that we have proposed - to fix the vaccine rollout, build purpose-built quarantine, get the inflammation campaign right, and manufacture mRNA vaccines.
The failure to do not just all of those things, but any of those things properly, is costing the economy dearly, jeopardising the reopening of the Australian economy, and putting the recovery of the economy at risk. And if you combine that with the Government's decision, which looks dumber and dumber by the day, to end JobKeeper before the pandemic ends, then all of that combined means that Australia will be locked-down for longer than is necessary at the same time as other countries are opening up.
CHALMERS: It's been obvious for some time that we need to have the capacity to manufacture mRNA vaccines, I don't think that's news to most people but it might be news to the Government. Our ability to open up again on any reasonable timeframe is heavily dependent on being able to supply vaccines. The fact that the Prime Minister has failed miserably on that front means that Australia will be locked-down for longer than is necessary. The key reason why Australia is locked-down while other countries are opening up, is because other countries have done a far better job than Scott Morrison has been able to manage when it comes to the vaccine.
CHALMERS: Governments of all persuasions here and around the world have got to come to the best judgment they can about the best balance of risks. And I think here in Australia it's very clear, and the Premiers of either political persuasion have come to this conclusion, that we need to do all we can to limit the spread of the virus. Australians are doing their bit, particularly in those locked-down communities. What we need to see is Scott Morrison do his bit and roll out the vaccine quickly, efficiently, appropriately, so that we can move on as soon as possible.
JOURNALIST: Just going back to your comment on mRNA. If Labor is elected to Government you would obviously be Treasurer. Would you provide though looking into the economic status to have a sovereign mRNA vaccine capability before you would consider opening up the economy?
CHALMERS: It's absolutely crucial that we have that capacity to manufacture vaccines here in Australia, we've said that for some time. It beggars belief that the Government hasn't got cracking on this front. So we need to see that happening. That's one of the many considerations that an incoming Labor Government would have to take into account, but first and foremost, this debacle on vaccines, which is Scott Morrison's responsibility alone, needs to be rectified if the country is to open up.
JOURNALIST: So can you guarantee you would go to an election telling the Australian people that the country would open anytime in 2022?
CHALMERS: We would go to the election guaranteeing the Australian people that we would always take health and economic decisions in their interests. Part of that is making sure that the vaccine's being rolled out, we've got that purpose-built quarantine, we've got a proper information campaign, and we've got the capacity to manufacture vaccines here.
JOURNALIST: But that's not a guarantee you'd open the country next year is it?
CHALMERS: I don't think anybody's in a position to give those kinds of guarantees while Scott Morrison is failing so badly on the vaccine rollout. You know, we've seen him make commitments in the past about aged care workers, disability care workers, the broader population, that he's got nowhere near meeting. So we'll see what conditions we inherit depending on when the election is. But I think Anthony is making a very reasonable and very valid point that we want to have that capacity. Our ability to open up again depends so heavily on fixing the mess that Scott Morrison has made of vaccines. Manufacturing is part of that story. The rollout is part of that story but also quarantine and the information campaign.
CHALMERS: Can you repeat the question sorry mate? We've got some industrial noise.
CHALMERS: We obviously need to be a far more active player in the global market for these vaccines. The fact that the Prime Minister didn't ring the Global Head of Pfizer for the first 18 months of the pandemic, the fact that he didn't do enough deals, the fact that he hasn't acted with enough urgency, the fact that he's had this worst combination of arrogance and complacency all along, is costing the economy and costing the people of this country.
Ideally, we'd be far more active players in the market. Other countries have been in conversations for example with the Americans about their vaccines. It seems like Scott Morrison hasn't been on the task, hasn't been doing his job as effectively as we need him to be. So we'd be far more active on that front, we've been saying that for some time.
JOURNALIST: Was it appropriate for the PM to publicly call on ATAGI to reconsider the medical advice on AstraZeneca?
CHALMERS: Look, Mark Butler will cover this at the next opportunity, but clearly one of the reasons we've got mixed messages on the vaccines is because Scott Morrison alternates between hiding behind the advice and bullying the people providing that advice. Clearly, that's been a big problem here, but the bigger problem is his inability to get vaccines deployed effectively. That's one of the main reasons why the economy in the Treasurer's own estimation is bleeding hundreds of millions of dollars a day.
CHALMERS: The Government hasn't had a comprehensive plan for aviation since the beginning of this crisis. They've come to the table from time to time with piecemeal measures but not an overarching national plan. The first priority though when it comes to support during Scott Morrison's lockdowns need to be the people of those locked-down communities and the small businesses of those locked-down communities who are the unwilling victims of these lockdowns made necessary by Scott Morrison's inability to do those two jobs on vaccines and quarantine.
The highest priority here is to fix the vaccine rollout, to fix quarantine, the information campaign, the manufacturing of vaccines, but also to make sure that JobKeeper without the rorts is reinstated or something better than that, whatever they want to call it. The Government's had three cracks now and replacing JobKeeper, at every turn it has been inferior. The people and small businesses of locked-down communities are crying out for more support. Unfortunately, we've got a Prime Minister who takes the credit but doesn't take responsibility. And that's what we're seeing when it comes to economic support. Thanks very much.