If Libs hadn't failed on vaccine, Victoria wouldn't be locking down - Transcript, 2SM Mornings



SUBJECTS: Indigenous Marathon Project and the Cairns Ironman; Liberal Government’s failures on vaccines; renewable energy project at Liddell power station; Liberals’ Medicare cuts; multinational tax avoidance.

MARCUS PAUL, HOST: Let's go to Canberra now. Andrew Leigh joins us each and every Tuesday. Morning, mate.


PAUL: Congratulations, by the way. You competed your Ironman race, and you raised - how much money did you raise?

LEIGH: We're at $17,000 so far. We were aiming for $22,000, so if any of your listeners would like to chip in it's not too late to support Rob De Castella's Indigenous Marathon Foundation.

PAUL: So, this triathlon over the weekend, just refresh my memory, mate: where did you run?

LEIGH: It's a 3.8km swim up in Palm Cove, a 180km cycle where they shut down the Captain Cook Highway, so it was fantastic riding, and a 42km marathon along the boardwalk in Cairns. I just feel very, very lucky to have so much support. There were even some people out there with Indigenous Marathon Foundation signs on the day, so just fantastic.

PAUL: Good on you, and you've raised $17,000 so far.

LEIGH: Yeah, it's a great cause. Rob gets a dozen young Indigenous men and women together every year and trains them up in both leadership skills and sports science, and they then go into their communities and encourage people to take on a more active lifestyle. For so many of us running is just part of a healthy life and Rob's keen to spread that message to many more Indigenous communities.                

PAUL: Awesome stuff. OK, let's get down to business. I spoke with the boss yesterday, Anthony Albanese: Victorian lockdown, vaccination dedicated quarantine, all of these issues. I mean, when are we going to get it right? Victorians at the moment are facing down perhaps another extra couple of days, at least until the end of the June long weekend, Andrew.

LEIGH: That's right, Marcus. Imagine if an outbreak like this had happened in London or New York. Would they have locked down the city? The answer is no, because they're more than half of all adults are fully vaccinated. In Australia we've only got a few percent of the adult population that's fully vaccinated, so every time one of these variants gets out we end up having to lock down a city. That's a direct result of the fact that we are not at the front of the queue. We're at the back of the queue. It is a race, and we're losing. The fact is that if Scott Morrison had acted earlier and gotten this vaccine rollout on track, Victorians wouldn't need to be suffering through what they are at the moment, which of course is impacting on people in cities like Sydney and Canberra as well. There's loved ones that can't get back together, there's business meetings that can't go ahead. The Victorian lockdown has spill-over effects to the entire economy, and those economic costs fall squarely at the feet of Scott Morrison.

PAUL: Just before I get onto the G7 and tax, story today, Australia's biggest power supplier, AGL, is proposing to build a solar and hydro energy facility at the site of its Liddell coal-fired power station in New South Wales once the plant closes down in 2023. What do you make of this?

LEIGH: It reflects the fact that one of the best places to put the new renewable facilities is where the previous coal-fired power stations were located. You've got all of those cables going in there, you've got a talented workforce which are mechanically capable, and so  using those sites is not just good for the local community, but also it's just a great use of the existing infrastructure. You see this around the world. Countries like Germany have focused the renewables sites where previously they had coal fired power stations, and it's worked really well.

PAUL: Alright, your colleague was on the program just under an hour ago, Julian Hill, having a good old crack at Medicare and the changes - a very sly and cunning move to destroy Medicare during a global health pandemic. Some are questioning this morning what on earth is the Morrison Government thinking? How can they possibly table these changes so close to an election? It's almost arrogant, Andrew.

LEIGH: Yeah, there's 600 changes to orthopaedic surgery items, 200 changes to cardiac surgery items, 150 changes to general surgery items. The real concern is that patients won't be able to go ahead with surgery that they'd been expecting. That's why the Australian Medical Association has been so critical. The fact is the Morrison Government needs to sit down with doctors, sit down with patients, and work these things through. They just can't spring massive changes like this on the country.

PAUL: Yeah. All right, well, look, I don't know whether or not you'll get, are you going to get a chance to question them at all before July 1? No?

LEIGH: Parliament's back next week. I imagine that Medicare is going to be a core focus for Labor in that week.

PAUL: I want to hear the shouting here in Sydney from Canberra, so you make sure you let them know, OK?

LEIGH: I think we might do a little bit too much shouting in Canberra, Marcus! I don't know if we need to do more, but certainly there will be some forceful holding the Government to account.

PAUL: Good, there should be, because, I mean, changes to Medicare, for goodness sake. I don't get where they're coming from with this. They ran a whole attack on your Party leading into the last federal election saying that you and your mob were running a scare campaign, the whole ‘Mediscare’ campaign. This was noted by Bill Shorten and others, that the Liberals would go after Medicare, and that's exactly what they've done.

LEIGH: It's just extraordinary, isn't it? They just keep on going back to cutting Medicare and demonstrating to the Australian people that they can't be trusted with it.

PAUL: What about those people that have booked in earlier this year and they're supposed to, in July and August and September, have hip replacements and all sorts of procedures done. Are they now not going to be covered? I want to see more of the detail of this and I'm hoping that next week will be the time we learn about it, because it's all snuck up and caught everybody by surprise, I think, and it's something that I think will be a real vote winner for you and your colleagues, the more you get it out and the more you explain that this is an attack on our health system here in Australia, I think.

LEIGH: You think about people who've been expecting a surgery for months or years now suddenly realizing that that's not going to be covered, that they're going to be not only going through the extraordinary stress of a surgical procedure but also having to foot the bill personally. This has got real impacts on so many Australians and it's on behalf of those Australians that we'll be taking it up to the Government next week in Parliament.

PAUL: Alright, the G7 announcement on multinational tax fairness, what does it mean for my listeners in New South Wales, Andrew?

LEIGH: I imagine your listeners are a bit perplexed by the fact that when they look at their Netflix bill it goes to a company in the Netherlands, or if you advertise on Facebook then the bill gets paid in Ireland. The fact is that too many of the tech giants have been moving their business around based not on where they're actually doing business but where the tax rates are lowest. This G7 announcement puts a floor under the race to the bottom on company tax. It says it doesn't make sense for the world to be taking company tax rates down to zero, because when multinationals don't pay tax that means that small businesses and individuals have to pay more to foot the bill. I think this is an important step forward. I want to see Australia doing more. We've got a huge interest in making sure there's not a race to the bottom in company tax. Scott Morrison was the guy who was campaigning to cut our company tax rate and join that race a few years ago, but that view now looks completely out of step with the rest of the world, with Britain and the United States moving now to raise their corporate rates, and recognizing that a decent company tax rate is how you fund services in a decent society.

PAUL: Alright, mate. Good to have you on. We'll chat again next week, Andrew.

LEIGH: Beaut. Thanks, Marcus.

PAUL: See you, mate. There he is, Andrew Leigh from Canberra.


Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.