NATALIE BARR, HOST: The Prime Minister has dumped Australia's COVID-19 vaccination timeline amid ongoing uncertainty about supplies. And the government isn't planning to set a new goal for administering first jabs. Scott Morrison saying in a statement, while we would like to see those doses completed before the end of the year, it is not possible to set such targets given the many uncertainties involved. For their take, we're joined by Nationals MP, Barnaby Joyce, and Labor MP, Joel Fitzgibbon. Morning to you Gents. Now, Trade Minister Dan Tehan said yesterday the government is aiming to get all Australians vaccinated by the end of the year but later in the day, the PM suggested otherwise. Barnaby, does there need to be more certainty here? Can there be?
BARNABY JOYCE, MEMBER FOR NEW ENGLAND: Well, I think we've got to deal with the circumstances that are before us. I'm more, probably, of the view of the latter by the Prime Minister. We didn't know to the extent that the AstraZeneca blood clotting issue was going to cause a major sort of change in direction. And now we having to emphasise on the Pfizer vaccine and get access to them. That's – that changed the circumstances on which initial predictions were made. And the big thing is, Australia is lucky because we've done such a very, very good job at not having the disease as prevalent as it is in the United States or Europe or South America. And that's what's protecting people, because even if I wanted to get COVID-19 at the moment, I think I'd be hard pressed to find it. I don't know where I’d go.
BARR: Yeah, but Joel is, is that good enough? I know, the Opposition is saying, you know, we are so well behind because we didn't aim for six vaccines – we tried to get only four, didn't we? And we're well behind the rest of the world in this.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: That's right Nat, we have been behind and now of course we're further behind. It doesn't matter? Yes, it does if you're in a nursing home, or you have a mother or father in an aged care facility, it certainly matters if you're keen to get the economy open again without fear of further border closures. So, widespread vaccination is really important to our economy, and the community. Now the program is off the rails, that's an uncontestable fact. It does seem strange now that the government didn't sign up to more options, like so many other countries did. But let's just hope despite the disagreements that seem to be going on between the minister and his own – the Prime Minister and his own ministers – that they get the thing back on track, and we avoid other problems in the future.
BARR: Yeah, Barnaby. You know, we've done what, just over a million people. When you look overseas, so many countries overseas are doing dozens of millions of people. The US is doing 3 million people a day, the UK has done 32 million people, and people are saying it's fine to say we're not in a rush, and I know that's the line the government's running with, and we've done an amazing job until now. But what about when the world starts opening up maybe by the end of the year, maybe early next year? We won't have done many people at all.
JOYCE: Well, let's also look at the US and look at – the US have lost more to COVID-19 than they lost to the First World War, Second World War and Vietnam and Iraq combined. Though, they've got a major problem, we haven't. We've been blessed, we've been lucky, but most, most importantly, we were disciplined and managed to control the virus and it's spread around Australia. Now, people are getting the vaccine. I went into town with the other day and people and the older Australians were all at the local clinic in Smith Street, which is one when I went to, and I saw them getting vaccinated. So, it's not as if we're not rolling it out. But I acknowledge it's not roll – that it's not rolled out at the speed we initially anticipated. Nor did people initially anticipate the problems we're going to have with the AstraZeneca vaccine. Now, I have to say – I'm behind the scenes – what Matthew Canavan said and he was derided for and belittled about talking not as a doctor but as a statistician the correlation between certain outcomes of AstraZeneca and what actually happened, he was right. I've never heard anybody go out and apologise to him yet, but it's such a – such a minor, minor, minor risk, that it's still definitely worth getting the vaccine in my view.
BARR: Yeah, absolutely. Okay, changing topics now. Former Prime Minister John Howard is urging tougher gun control ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Port Arthur massacre. Barnaby, do you think we need a National Firearms Registry like he is talking about?
JOYCE: Well, look, I'm of the view that we've got enough gun control as it is. I live out in the country, so my purview is completely different to someone living in cities. We've made a huge change since before the Port Arthur massacre, but we just – where we work, a rifle as a tool of trade, and we have very stringent controls, and you are in an awful lot of trouble if you don't follow those, and we just sometimes get the feeling of people don't want gun control, they want to actually ban them. And what do I do with a beast or something that's, that's down and needs to be unfortunately destroyed and put away if we don't have access to a rifle? What do we do with issues such as pest control, and dealing with issues such as you know, wild pigs, wild dogs, if you don't have a rifle? And out in the country, where you don't have other people, one of the forms of recreations is to actually go shooting. And people might not understand that if you live in a metropolitan area, but if you removed all the people and said, well, what are you going to do in your spare time because there's no one to play tennis with? Where are you going to go? So, a rifle is also a recreation item and always has been and I hope that remains the same.
BARR: Yeah, Joel what do you think of a registry and are our gun laws toughen up?
FITZGIBBON: I tend to agree with Barnaby. I don't see any evidence that our current regime is failing us, and we thank goodness – thank God for that. I was there 25 years ago in the parliament, when the Port Arthur massacre occurred, it's a terribly confronting period. And John Howard gets a lot of credit for the way he drove that reform. It was very difficult for him politically, so full credit to him. On that basis, he's a person worth looking for, but again, we've come a long way and there is no evidence that I can see that suggests that it's under done, but it's something that should be constantly under review, of course it should.
BARR: Yeah. Ok. Thank you both. Appreciate it. We'll see you next week.
FITZGIBBON: Thanks Nat.
JOYCE: Very civil today.
FITZGIBBON: Now, we don't want too much of that.
BARR: Must be that frost out there Barnaby that's keeping you calm. Thanks, Kochie.