Transcript - Interview with Neil Breen, 4BC

NEIL BREEN

With me now is the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack. He’s in Cairns. Yes, he’s got to talk up Queensland tourism and also the travel bubble with New Zealand. It opens today. Plenty to talk about. And Deputy Prime Minister. I’ve been watching you – not listening, but watching your live crosses on television this morning, and you’re getting hammered by a rain bomb.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Indeed. I haven’t actually gone for a swim here in Cairns, Neil, but I might as well have. I was soaking wet when I crossed to Karl Stefanovic –

NEIL BREEN

I saw you.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

And, look, there’s – you know, the weather forecasts aren’t great, I’ve got to tell you, for Cairns this week, but having spoken to a number of people who are holidaying here for the first time taking advantage of those half price tickets, they tell me there’s still plenty to see and do despite the weather.

NEIL BREEN

And it clears up – it always does. I can see now –

MICHAEL McCORMACK

It always does; it’s the tropical far north.

NEIL BREEN

Exactly right. It’s part of the adventure. Those half price flights, I’ve done a bit of searching and a bit of looking around. They are there, people can access them. But, you know, you want to be flexible with your flight time. What’s the take-up been like?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

More than 472,000 have already been snapped up. Of course, we initially put on offer 800,000. But, look, I would urge those people to have a discussion with their travel agent. The travel agents are there. They’re friendly, they’re there to do whatever needs to be done to get you where you want to go. And obviously there’s a number of places right around the country to visit. And I spoke to this lady in the lift from Tasmania here yesterday, and she was visiting Cairns for the first time. She said, “Normally I wouldn’t go to Queensland at this time of the year.” She said, “I just wouldn’t do it. I’d either go overseas or I’d go, you know, somewhere else, or I probably wouldn’t even take a holiday.” But she said, “What the heck, we thought we’d do it because we’d take advantage of it.” And she said, “We’re having the time of our lives.” And she said, “And we’ll be back.” And that’s the sort of holidaying at home attitude that we want all Australians to adopt.

NEIL BREEN

Yeah, and I’d like to know where people are going. I think a lot of Queenslanders are taking advantage of the cheap flights to Launceston you can get from Brisbane. Of course, travel wise there’s a lot on the agenda today, Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack. The bubble with New Zealand, the two-way bubble – it used to be one way but now people can go to New Zealand without quarantining – that opens today. It looks like 10,000 people are flying that route today.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Gate queue 201, has never been so popular. And I know it’s arriving in Auckland I think at 11.20 and they’re ready and willing and they’ve got a big ceremony to welcome those Aussies over the ditch. Or the “dutch” as I should say.

NEIL BREEN

Yeah.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

But, look, it’s great. And I know Geoff Colbert, the CEO of Sydney Airport is delighted. The activity through that gateway is just phenomenal. Compare that now to what happened last year where there was absolutely no-one in the airport at Sydney or let alone any other airport in Australia. So, you know, planes in the air, that’s jobs on the ground. And we want Australians to be travelling again. And that initial bubble, we’ll get more. We’ll get more of these international bubbles as, you know, when it’s safe to do so. And this is a good thing.

NEIL BREEN

Yeah, that’s right. What about Singapore? Singapore seems to be the next cab of the rank. Am I jumping the queue there? We’re going for Singapore second?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, we had preliminary discussions with the ministries of transport between the two countries. We’ve had those initial preliminary talks. So we’ll do it when the Chief Medical Officer says that it’s right and proper and protocols are in place and it’s safe to do so. We’ve taken on board the best possible medical advice all the way through this pandemic. And that’s what’s kept Australians safe. That’s what’s kept us the envy of the world both as far as the health outcomes and the economic outcomes are concerned. And when it’s right and proper to get one of those travel bubbles with Singapore or, indeed, with perhaps Korea, South Korea, or Japan or one of those South Pacific island nations, we’ll do just that.

NEIL BREEN

There’s a couple of other issues I wouldn’t mind asking you about while I’ve got you on the line, Deputy Prime Minister.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Sure.

NEIL BREEN

Firstly, National Cabinet will meet today, twice a week. You know, our Premier said some things last week saying, “Oh, the Premiers are busy. It will be interesting to get us there twice a week.” But this is about the vaccine rollout. Everybody’s just got to get on the same page here, right?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Yeah, we can’t be too busy when we’re talking about addressing the issues around the global pandemic. And I’m sure Annastacia Palaszczuk won’t be. I’m sure she’ll be – she’ll make available. And this is important. It’s – you know, these meetings, whether via teleconference or however else, are important, and, you know, the National Cabinet process, yes, it’s had its critics, but it has worked to keep Australians safe. And the Commonwealth has been at pains to make sure that people know that we have faith and trust in the public health authorities at the State and Territory level and we’ve made sure that we’ve worked with our Premiers, with our Territory Chief Ministers all the way through. Politics, we’ve got to push it aside at the moment. We’ve got to put the politics to the side. That’s why we’re so pleased that we’re able to get in place that National Freight Code in a matter of hours – not days or weeks – because I did have a good relationship with the Ministers of all political persuasion right across the country. And that’s what we need to do – cooperate, collaborate, get things done, because that’s what Australians expect. That’s what they deserve.

NEIL BREEN

Can we expect some changes, do you think, with the rollout? Because AstraZeneca now has got this question mark on it. I’m happy to take it; I’m over 50 and doctors have recommended I take it. I just wonder whether, you know, over 70s are getting the jitters and should we roll it out to group 2a now rather than wait like someone who’s over 50 who wants it now? Can we expect the whole rollout to change shape in the next little bit of time?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, again, we’ll take that best possible advice from Professor Paul Kelly, who’s the Chief Medical Officer, if he says it’s right. I know we’ve got the Therapeutic Goods Administration – the TGA – that is the authority when it comes to medicines and how they should be distributed and how – and their effectiveness and efficacy. That’s the important thing. We’ve taken that best possible medical advice. I would urge and encourage, though, if people have doubts, just have a chat to their GP. That’s what the GPs are for. And, you know, work through this. Yes, obviously there has been some concerns from international experience and even, of course, there’s been some people here who’ve had reactions to the vaccine. But, again, we’ll take the best possible medical advice. We’ll work through it. It’s important that we get as many Australians vaccinated as possible so we can open those travels bubbles, so that we can get back to some sort of pre-COVID normality as a society.

But, you know, I would much sooner be in Australia than anywhere else in the world. Yeah, we’ve lost 910 Australians, and that’s very sad for their family and friends. But, you know, compare it to, say, France the other day racked up their 100,000th death. Compare it to any other country anywhere in the world and we’ve done exceedingly well and that’s because Australians have done the right thing. And we thank them for it. We thank Australians for being their best selves. It hasn’t been easy. It hasn’t been easy. It’s come at a great cost to livelihoods, of course, and to many businesses. But, again, we’ve also tried to keep them as best as we could afloat and viable. And that’s why the JobKeeper arrangements were also so important.

NEIL BREEN

Deputy Prime Minister, there’s just one more quickly I wanted to ask you before I let you go – there’s a story in The Australian today that has left me completely confused, because Anthony Albanese, the opposition leader, and Labor Party has a commitment of net zero emissions by 2050, yet the opposition resources spokeswoman, Madeleine King , has said that Labor would not stand in the way of new mines and believes Australia will export coal beyond 2050. And she goes on and on with all these reasons and saying that there’ll definitely be coal production in Australia well beyond 2050. How does that marry with zero emissions?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, look, they’ll say one thing in Moranbah and McKay; they’ll say something completely different when they’re in Marrickville. So when Anthony Albanese stands up today at one of his soy latte cafes in Balmain or Newtown and says exactly that thing to a group of Sydneysiders, well, I might feel a little bit different, but Labor says one thing and does one a completely other thing. I mean, they don’t support Queensland coal jobs, they don’t support Queensland resources industry. And we do. $66 billion of exports, 55,000 jobs and two-thirds of our power sources coming from coal. But we know it’s got a future. Yes, we’re obviously transitioning and, you know, we’re making sure that renewables have their place, but it’s a diverse mix. We need to have a diverse mix of energy sources. Labor, well, they’ll say one thing when they’re in their inner city cafes and they’ll say something completely different when they get a hard hat and a hi-vis vest on and there’s someone near a coal mine in Queensland. Don’t believe what they say; believe what they do. Labor’s got form on this. They’ve got form on a lot of things but this in particular. So we need to make sure that we see straight through their rhetoric, straight through their inauthentic language around coal and resources generally. And they don’t support those jobs, yet the Liberal and Nationals, we always will.

NEIL BREEN

Okay. Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, stay dry in Cairns. Enjoy your time in Queensland.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Will do. Thanks, Neil.

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