By Joel Fitzgibbon
24 April 2020
DEBORAH KNIGHT, HOST: They may not be sitting in Canberra but they’re here with us now on Friday Question Time – Angus Taylor and Joel Fitzgibbon, on the line with us now. Fellas, hello.
ANGUS TAYLOR, MINISTER FOR ENERGY AND EMISSIONS REDUCTION: G’day Deb.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: Great to be with you, Deb.
KNIGHT: Now I want to talk, first up, about aged care, because that’s the issue that’s been dominating the headlines this week. Big problems, that we’ve bearing from our listeners, at Newmarch House in Western Sydney. Four deaths from COVID-19 and reports of just horrific living conditions for the residents. Now Health Minister Greg Hunt told me, on the show, earlier this week that the Government would intervene and the help would be immediate. But yesterday we had Aged Care Minister saying that he wouldn’t want his own parents to be at this aged care home. Angus, there’s something seriously wrong if we can’t look after our most vulnerable?
TAYLOR: Well, look, there is something wrong, that’s why we’re having a Royal Commission of course, Deb, but it is unacceptable [inaudible] that some of these things are going on. I would add to that Deb that there’s been banned from many facilities carers and families visiting people and this another part of the discussion which is very, very important. We think that there’s been over-reach on some of this. It’s incredibly important that people be able to visit their loved ones and provide support to their parents or grandparents, as the case may be. It’s incredibly important for their wellbeing, for their health and we need to see.. people who are very vulnerable at the moment in the face of COVID-19 being appropriately looked after.
KNIGHT: Yeah it’s interesting, too, that we’re hearing from the Prime Minister down, saying to the aged care homes, that they do need to ensure that they’re not locked up in their rooms – they have to consider their mental health as well as their physical health. But Joel it’s a tricky balance to get right because some of these aged care homes are saying ‘look, no, sorry, we’re not going to do that, we’re not going to allow visitors because we’ve seen what’s happened in aged care homes and all around the world the people who are dying are predominantly older people and many of them in aged care homes.
FITZGIBBON: That’s true, Deb, these older Australians should be one of our great priorities and they are particularly vulnerable. And the people best-placed to make decisions about visitation and other matters are the providers in conversation with the families. Now my wife’s mother is in a local nursing home here in Cessnock – they’ve been locked down pretty much since Day One. No one is complaining because the residents themselves don’t want to run the risk of being infected so they’re sort of putting up with the struggle. My wife walks out there, waves to her Mum through the closed window, which is very nice. They don’t get to have a conversation but her mother is in her eighties but she enjoys good health and she is of absolutely sound mind and she understand the threat to her and she’s quite comfortable with the decision of the local managers of the centre.
KNIGHT: And that’s fair enough, isn’t it Angus? I mean if the aged care providers are ensuring that they’re not cut off from the outside world, they can have phone calls, they can have sometimes over the internet Zoom calls if they’re able to set that up, and see people through windows. I mean, that’s okay, isn’t it?
TAYLOR: Well they should be encouraging those kinds of connections, absolutely right that’s a good thing. But what we are seeing is the aged care facilities going well beyond what was recommended by the National Cabinet on the residents in those facilities, and that’s the concern. You know we’ve got to listen to the experts on this and there is a certain… amount of connection of contact that is possible, if done the right way. And over-reach versus what the experts are saying is not helping and that’s a very, very important point to keep in mind, particularly for a very vulnerable cohort, a very vulnerable group.
KNIGHT: Now I wanted to …
FITZGIBBON: Sorry, Deb, can I just say on that, that’s all fine, Angus, for governments to issue those edicts based on expert advice, but on the ground these nursing homes and other centres are under-resourced, they’re not getting the PPE they need, so you’ve got to think about the people who work in these institutions as well and of course these are typically people receiving 28 dollars an hour, so they difficult to secure – so there’s a workforce issue. So it’s easy for governments in Canberra to say ‘this is what you should do,’ but the practicalities of that are not always there for the operators of the centres.
KNIGHT: hmm, your response?
TAYLOR: Oh, sure, but let’s listen to the experts. I mean that’s approach we’ve taken all the way along, it’s what National Cabinet has been all about – making sure that we have expert principals. Of course the application of those does need to be done at a local level, I do agree with you on that. But it should be within the guidelines provided by experts.
KNIGHT: Now the figures that we’re getting on the Coronavirus numbers are really encouraging in terms of crushing that curve and stopping the spread, and we are looking at that road out and looking at what should be lifted in terms of restrictions. We know that elective surgery will be back on gradually from Monday and economically we’ll get things back on track eventually but are we going to see business usual or, Angus, are we actually going to see you lot, in Canberra, working together, or are pigs going to fly, here?
TAYLOR: Well we have been working together pretty well [laughs]. Joel and I have actually agreed on a lot in these calls over the last little while and I certainly hope we can continue to and we do have to unwind some of the restrictions. It’s got to be done carefully. It’s got to be done within a context of testing and making sure we’re in a position to identify people who have been in contact with someone who might have actually been infected.
KNIGHT: And are we going to see the big picture reforms back on the table? Stuff that’s been in the too-hard basket – company tax cuts? IR reform? Maybe even lifting the GST? Is that going to be in the consideration or is that simply going to be swept to one side again?
TAYLOR: Well, we already are. I mean we already are. I announced this week, we’re buying oil for a fuel reserve. Taking control of our destiny in a supply chain that really matters when there’s disruptions. We’ve talked about the lower energy prices and opportunity we now see to build our manufacturing sector and industries that are energy intensive – Joel has lots in his electorate, as I do. This is real opportunity, we’ve got to make the most of it. We would like it to be as bipartisan as possible, capturing those opportunities, I’m sure Joel agrees with me on some of the industry opportunities that we can go after in the next little while. But that is something we do need to focus on. When it comes to tax, you mentioned tax, I mean we are the party of lower taxes so we’re not going to be using this as some kind of opportunity to throw taxes at people. But we do want a business-lead, investment-lead recovery – that’s very important.
KNIGHT: You on the same page, Joel?
FITZGIBBON: I think there has been a strong level of cooperation, Deb, not only on our Question Time here on 2GB but within Parliament and across parliaments. You see in the National Cabinet, the Labor premiers working with other Liberal premiers and of course a Liberal Prime Minister. So I think that’s been a good thing and I hope that continues. We’ll certainly be trying very, very hard but I think we need to tone-down the debate a bit in Canberra. Treat question time more as a proper process of holding the government to account, asking appropriate questions rather than worrying about what’s on the six o’clock news that night.
KNIGHT: Getting things done rather than points-scoring…
FITZGIBBON: I think there’s an opportunity for a reset. Just on lower taxes of course, Angus, if my memory serves me right, taxes as a percentage of the economy at the moment is somewhat historically high.
TAYLOR: We can debate that, Joel, but I tell you what – now we’re going to be a little bit less bipartisan. We went to the last election with a platform about lower taxes and we’re not going to move away from that because of this crisis. But what I think we can agree on is the importance of seeing investment happening, coming from the private sector coming out of this and there’s manufacturing, mining, agriculture – these are great sectors where there are real opportunities emerging and we need to go after them.
KNIGHT: Now Anzac Day, of course, tomorrow will be one like no other. Many people are looking at different ways to commemorate. Joel you’ve sent me a picture of what you’ve got – you’ve put together – it’s a beauty.
FITZGIBBON: Because I was very proud, Deb. I’ve been solemnly and appropriately excited, like a child, this morning, running around, making my own wreath and organising my candles and my mini flags – you know, those small flags that I can stick on to my front fence. And I think tomorrow, I just get the sense that the events in our street will be solemnly, respectfully and appropriately amazing. I think people are going to be out there in strong number – I even downloaded the Last Post on my Spotify. I’ve got my little Boom speaker charged up ready to go, so I think it’s going to be really amazing. I think we’re going to turn a sad thing – that is our inability to gather together – into something possibly more special.
KNIGHT: I agree and we’ll put a picture – we’ll put that picture of your wreath actually on the Facebook page because it does look very good. You’re very good on the glue-gun, well done. What about you Angus? What are you going to be doing?
TAYLOR: Look I’ll be standing in my driveway with many Australians, recognising those extraordinary sacrifices that have been made by our servicemen and women. I live on a farm so I’ll be there with my family and sheep. Look, it’s going to be a different Anzac Day but I agree with Joel – this is an opportunity for us to really celebrate the extraordinary work and commemorate the xtraordinary7 sacrifices that have been made by incredible men and women over a long period of time. Let’s use it as an opportunity to unite and commemorate extraordinary deeds.
KNIGHT: And we will remember them, that is for sure. Angus Taylor – Joel Fitzgibbon. Thanks as always.
TAYLOR: Thanks Deb.
FITZGIBBON: Lest we forget. Thanks Deb.