2SM WITH MARCUS PAUL IN THE MORNING
TUESDAY, 16 NOVEMBER 2021
SUBJECTS: Climate change; Vaccine hesitancy; Populism; Grease: The Musical.
MARCUS PAUL, HOST: Every Tuesday on the program, we catch up with the federal Member for Fenner and talk a little politics. Andrew Leigh. Good morning, Andrew.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good morning, Marcus. Great to be with you.
PAUL: You too. One thing - yesterday, Scott Morrison said he was the underdog. He said he's used to being the underdog, and that's how he believes he will operate leading into the next federal election probably inside the next four to five months. What say you?
LEIGH: Scott Morrison will say anything in order to spin his way out of the situation. And frankly, right now, he just wants to change the subject. He’s come out of a shocking experience in Glasgow, in which the government signed up to an agreement which said that they would improve their 2030 targets next year, and then came home to Australia and said ‘no, I’m doing anything of the sort’. Meanwhile, he's got his deputy prime minister saying that the Nationals didn't sign up to the COP26 agreement. Last time I checked the Nationals were part of the government. So this is a government in utter disarray, led by an ad man who is great with a slogan, but not much with the follow through.
PAUL: Should he be censoring Craig Kelly? He relies on Craig Kelly's vote. Craig Kelly has been down there in Melbourne, I think inciting some of the behaviour we’ve been seeing with these protests. I mean, does he need to pull Craig Kelly up finally?
LEIGH: I think it’s pretty clear that if this was Adam Bandt leading the protests, then Scott Morrison would be out there vociferously criticising him. But when it’s someone from his own camp, then he’s pretty reluctant. Craig Kelly’s only in Parliament because Scott Morrison stepped in to save his preselection at the last election. If not for that, Craig Kelly would not be a member of parliament. So he’s very much a creation of Scott Morrison’s and he continues to vote very strongly with the government.
PAUL: Well, somebody needs to do something. What's your take on what's going on down there in Melbourne at the moment? I mean, there are varying degrees of discussion we've had on the program this morning. One bloke I had an argument with, he tried to tell me he was not an anti vaxxer and he was for the vaccines, but he was against losing his freedoms, which kind of was contradictory. And then, at the end after we had a blue on the air, he told me to stick my vaccine up my behind. Don't understand. What's your take on all of this happening down in Melbourne?
LEIGH: This is a vaccine that's been thoroughly safety tested, and we know a lot about its efficacy now just by looking at the rates of hospitalisation and death for people who haven't been vaccinated. And the requirements are around vaccinations for people who are going to come into contact with many others, so it's about keeping people safe. We already have a range of vaccination requirements for kids going to school, for much of the same reason that a small fraction of the population can't get vaccinated and so requiring everyone who can to get vaccinated is important to protect the health of the population-
PAUL: Are you suggesting then that these protests in Melbourne are anti vaxxers? Is that, is that - can we break it down as simply as that? Because they're talking about their freedoms. They’re worried about, you know, the overreaching as they put it - that's a kind way of putting it - powers of the Andrews government in Victoria and they're, you know, that's what they're fighting against apparently and the vaccine mandates for workers, including those in construction, those in the health - but it's not really any different anywhere else. I mean, you try and not have a vaccine in New South Wales and you won’t get a job in the health system. Likewise in Queensland. Why all this focus in Victoria?
LEIGH: Marcus, I'm speaking to you from the ACT, which now has the highest vaccination rate in the world - first dose coverage of around 99 per cent, two dose coverage 96 per cent. But certainly I think what we're seeing with vaccination hesitancy is that it's the latest tool of populists to try and marshal people against the government. We saw that with climate change, we’ve seen it with a range of fringe economic theories. We’ve also seen up with the attempt to exploit racism. Now, there's populist entrepreneurs out there who are trying to marshal a core of support, and they've settled on this anti-vaccination issue to try and fear monger with people. And the way to counter it is with calm, sound science and just being very clear with people about the risks of not being vaccinated right now. People that haven't been vaccinated are now accounting for the substantial majority of deaths. The chance of death from COVID if you're vaccinated is tiny. The chance of death from COVID if you're not vaccinated, particularly in places like the US, is quite substantial. One in 30 deaths among the unvaccinated are due to COVID in America right now.
PAUL: Alright. Let’s have a look here - petrol prices, interest rates. Apparently, if we re-elect a Liberal-National government, the petrol automatically will come down, interest rates will be lower, and the world will be apples, Andrew.
LEIGH: Elections should be about the future, Marcus, but this is Scott Morrison delving back into the past, back into John Howard's old scare campaigns. Do you remember John Howard in those elections in the early 2000s was always making these ridiculous claims, suggesting somehow that he had control of interest rates and petrol prices? If the prime minister thinks governments have control over petrol prices, then he ought to be taking the blame right now for the $2 a litre fuel that people are paying in some parts of Australia. Alternatively he might accept, as most economists do, that world oil prices are the large determinant of the petrol prices. And last time I checked, we had central bank independence, which meant that the Reserve Bank set interest rates. But somehow the prime minister magically thinks that he has control over that. It’s desperate stuff from a bloke who knows that he has no ideas about the future. He's just he's begun fear mongering already, months out on the poll.
PAUL: Alright. Well, speaking of the poll, when do you think - do you reckon that Mr Morrison and Mr Frydenberg, the federal government might go to an early perhaps budget and then we'll vote? Will the budget be handed down before the election, in other words, Andrew?
LEIGH: I’ve got to say, I was disappointed he didn't go in December. I think this is a bad government, and the sooner we get it out of the way the better. Right now it seems to be a coin toss between March and May. Anytime they want to go, we’re ready to face them.
PAUL: Alright, mate. Good to have you on, as always. We will talk a little later. Oh, by the way - Grease. Let's just talk about Grease. Grease is not the word to western suburbs schools in Perth. They’ve cancelled their coproduction of the musical Grease after students raised concerns about its themes and content. PLC students raised their concerns and their apprehension of going ahead with the production. In a joint statement with Scotch College, they claim that unfortunately it's offensive, sexist, and anti-feminist. I mean, is this going just a little too far?
LEIGH: When I heard this, Marcus, I thought in terms of sexism and racism, Grease has got nothing on Shakespeare. And so we could be going down a dangerous road. I reckon the best way of dealing with this is not to cancel the production, but to have a sensible conversation around it. Maybe have a student stand up at the start and say ‘our modern interpretation of this musical is pretty different, here's how we think about it differently from our parents’. I imagine a bunch of Boomer and Gen X parents would say, ‘that's really interesting, that's a really useful contribution’. So let's have a conversation about these things rather than ruling them out. That's a better approach for a liberal democracy.
PAUL: Yeah, well said. Alright, Andrew. Great to have you on, mate. We'll talk next week. Appreciate it.
LEIGH: Thanks, Marcus. Take care.
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.