Transcript - Prime 7, Sunrise

NATALIE BARR: The battle over our national COVID plan has escalated after the Treasurer put State Premiers on notice. He’s warned the economy will suffer if borders don’t re‑open when vaccination targets are met, but WA Premier Mark McGowan wasted no time rebutting that claim.

[EXCERPT] MARK McGOWAN: They’re just in cloud cuckoo land if they think Western Australia is somehow holding back the national economy.

NATALIE BARR: Queensland hasn’t ruled out taking the Commonwealth to the High Court to settle the border issue.

For their opinion, I’m joined by Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon. Good morning.

BARNABY JOYCE: Good morning, Nat.

NATALIE BARR: Barnaby, if Mark McGowan’s right and WA is benefitting both economically and medically, why should they open their borders?

BARNABY JOYCE: Because we have to get this nation going and I understand that, you know, Premier McGowan at this stage is saying, “Well, we don’t have COVID here”, but ultimately Western Australia has to become part of the globe again. It has to become part of the nation again. Section 92 of the Constitution is quite clear. Trade, commerce and the exchange of people between borders, it’s quite clear that’s supposed to be open and free since Federation and Sir Henry Parkes.

Subsequently, states have brought in other health restrictions and the question is reasonable. Now, when the rest of the nation is heading towards 70 per cent vaccination, we’re going to have to be reasonable. We’re going to have to learn to live with COVID because when he says, when the states say lockdown, that is saying that people must stay in quarantine, stay locked in their houses. Lock down the states is the same logic as saying lock down your houses. And as we get the vaccine rates up, so we make people basically safer, I’m not saying right now, as we get the suppression and vaccine rates up, we’ve got to open up otherwise we don’t have a nation anymore and the economy – if the economy fails in general, it fails in every part. So we have got to make sure that we have a mind to how we get this show going. And by gosh people are sick of lockdowns. They want their liberties and their freedoms back, not their liberties and freedoms back just on the eastern side and the middle side of Australia.

NATALIE BARR: Joel, in WA they’re not sick of lockdowns because they’re not locked down. They’re really happy. Most of them, like their Premier, they don’t want to live with COVID so they don’t want to open up. So what are they going to do over there?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Yes, Mark McGowan remains a very popular Premier because people there have supported his response to COVID‑19. Mark McGowan doesn’t want to keep Western Australia locked down. He wants to open it up.

NATALIE BARR: Well he seems to think he does. He keeps saying it.

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Well first and foremost, he wants to keep his people safe and he’d be able to open up more quickly if the Government hadn’t failed so badly on both quarantine and vaccinations. That’s what this is all about. The other point Mark McGowan is making is that despite their lockdown, the export earnings they earn on behalf of the country is bolstering the national economy. Now, what Josh Frydenberg and Scott Morrison really need to do if they want to ensure that we open up more quickly, which we all want to do, is to provide more vaccines and to provide more resources to the states for their hospital systems. Because the real fear of people like Mark McGowan is the prospect of COVID spreading again very quickly and their hospitals becoming overwhelmed.

NATALIE BARR: Yes.

BARNABY JOYCE: We’ve had 19 million people now receive one inoculation. Two million people last week. It’s racing ahead. The vaccines are there… 

JOEL FITZGIBBON: You’re still –

NATALIE BARR: We’re still halfway to where we want to be.

JOEL FITZGIBBON: No, Barnaby, you’re doing much better but still playing catch up.

BARNABY JOYCE: Well over half of our people have had a first inoculation.

NATALIE BARR: Exactly. Here’s the test, the national test to see what people think of where we are at the moment. The latest Newspoll shows the Coalition is in trouble, falling to its lowest primary rating since the 2019 election. Barnaby, why do you think voters are turning away? Because this is the largest lead Labor has had since the last election.

BARNABY JOYCE: I said that before at the start of the COVID pandemic, I said to my colleagues nationally the polls are going to go down, it’s going to be a tough time. And in any game of cricket, in any innings you get a time where, you know, you’re spending more time in your crease batting things away and staying in, then things open up. This is around about the same polling, around about where the Coalition was last time before they won the election. I’ll tell you someone’s polling’s gone up. Joel Fitzgibbon’s, his polling’s gone up since he distanced himself from Anthony Albanese. His polling’s gone right up by five per cent and that says something, doesn’t it? Don’t think that all nirvana resides with Anthony Albanese. He’s just sitting back quietly, but ultimately he has to come out, start putting some costs on his plan. And we’ve got some time until the election and by gosh, by that time we’ll let you know what happens if you buy Mr Anthony Albanese.

NATALIE BARR: It’s not going to be until May, is it, Barnaby?

BARNABY JOYCE: It’s not going to be this year, I doubt very much. It will be at the Prime Minister’s choosing.

NATALIE BARR: So closer to May.

BARNABY JOYCE: By that time we’ll have put a price on Mr Albanese, on what he’s saying and we’ll clearly spell out to the people in the areas whose jobs are going to be lost because Mr Albanese was elected.

NATALIE BARR: Okay, so we’ve got a while. Okay, thank you very much, gents, we’ll talk to you next week.