2SM MARCUS PAUL IN THE MORNING
TUESDAY, 14 DECEMBER 2021
SUBJECTS: The ACT’s world leading vaccination rate; Scott Morrison’s failures on vaccines and quarantine; Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg’s failures on the economy; MYEFO; What’s the Worst That Could Happen; Migration.
MARCUS PAUL, HOST: Andrew Leigh for the last time this year, until next year 2022. Let's chat to Andrew Leigh about a little federal politics. Morning, mate.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Morning, mate. How are you?
PAUL: All right. You've been on your run this morning?
LEIGH: Absolutely. Beautiful day out in Canberra today.
PAUL: What is it there? Is it 98 or 99 per cent fully vaxxed?
LEIGH: So our big risk was we go over 100 per cent, Marcus-
LEIGH: We're working off 2016 Census numbers, so we weren’t sure precisely how many adults we have. But yes, it’s almost universal among over 12s, which is really, really good to see. I think this reflects the kind of community mindedness of many Canberrans - the willingness to get vaccinated not just for yourself, but for your community too.
PAUL: Well, there's no doubt and I think Andrew Barr’s done a pretty good job down there as he usually does. But I mean, the ACT or Canberra, if you like, has to be one of the most vaccinated jurisdictions anywhere on the planet surely.
LEIGH: The most vaccinated place in the world, and it's a real credit to those old fashioned values – family, community, service before self. That's what people have done, rolled their arms up. Of course, you're seeing that across the vast majority of other parts of Australia too.
PAUL: You heard that short little editorial just before. Stronger, safer, together – that’s Scott Morrison's new go to catchphrase, his pledge for return of freedoms. He's promised to give Australians their, quote, freedom back.
LEIGH: Let’s look at why so many of us lost our freedoms. It was because Scott Morrison failed on vaccines and quarantines, fundamental federal responsibilities. If he’d managed to have purpose built quarantine facilities, if he'd got vaccine procurement in line with other advanced countries, then we wouldn't have had to had the severity of lockdown that we had. I don’t think it’s coincidence that at the start of the year we had the slowest vaccine rollout in the advanced world and just in this September quarter we had the worst growth in the advanced world. The economy suffered and people have suffered as a result of Prime Minister's failure to get vaccines. And today you've got him announcing an mRNA production facility-
PAUL: In Melbourne.
LEIGH: It won't be built for another two years. The bloke is all announcement, no delivery.
PAUL: Alright. I mean interestingly, if Scott Morrison had accepted the Pfizer offer of 40 million vaccines in July 2020 for delivery from December of that year, then Australia could have been fully vaccinated by the middle of this year. And we could have avoided all 2021 hotel quarantine leaks and all subsequent lockdowns. Instead, our vaccines went to Israel. And I remember the Prime Minister saying at the time that we're at the front of the vaccination queue. Well, what queue? The ‘far queue’? For goodness sake.
LEIGH: We couldn't even see the front of the queue from where we were, Marcus. Now eventually, of course, Australians did the right thing. When vaccines arrived, we rolled our sleeves up and got the jab. But we would have been in a far better position for the government that procured those vaccines and the economy would have been in a much stronger position too. So invariably after this big downturn, the economy is going to rebound. But Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg are a bit like a couple of guys that have dug a really deep hole and now want credit from the Australian people for climbing out of it.
PAUL: Alright. Well, we'll have a budget update in just a couple of days. Josh Frydenberg has been out spruiking the rebound to our economy. Can he be believed?
LEIGH: One real test for Josh Frydenberg is how is he going to increase real wages. Earlier this year, the budget said that real wages would go backwards at the same times the profit share hit record highs. He's got to make clear how he's going to increase productivity. Labor's announced that we would invest in hundreds of thousands of free TAFE places, tens of thousands of additional university places, as well as putting more critical and crucial infrastructure where it's needed. That's the key to productivity. But my guess is Josh Frydenberg’s idea of productivity is just cutting wages and penalty rates. The big question is how we build back fairness, whether we can actually get an economy which is fairer than the one that we had in 2019. Now, the whole idea that the best Australia can do is the low productivity, low wage growth, stagnant economy of 2019, that really sets low expectations, low ambition on what Australia can achieve.
PAUL: Alright. You’ve written a new book, tell me about it.
LEIGH: The new book’s called What's the Worst That Could Happen? Existential Risk and Extreme Politics. It's about things that could end the world: climate change, nuclear war pandemics, all the stuff of your favourite disaster movies. And it makes the case but when we have populists in power, then they tend to destroy the very things we need to tackle these existential challenges. They turn the temperature up, they trash institutions, they undermine global cooperation, and therefore they make it more likely that these disaster scenarios will come to fruit.
PAUL: Well, you've just depressed me.
LEIGH: Well, here's the optimistic take, Marcus-
PAUL: Tell me.
LEIGH: Humans have only been around on the planet for a couple of hundred thousand years. If we get this right, the sun will get will take about a billion years before it engulfs the planet, and our descendants could do extraordinary things. They could live far longer than us, they could live healthier and more meaningful and fulfilling lives. And so really, we owe it to our kids and their kids and all the generations to come to make sure that humanity's continuation on the planet is assured. That's about tackling things like pandemics and nuclear disaster, making sure that we get those risks down to zero, so our descendants can thrive.
PAUL: Alright. Albo apparently told Sky News that border closures during the pandemic highlighted the heavy reliance on skilled migrants. Labor admits that while migration is necessary, Albo will campaign for better training and education for Australians rather than have a massive increase of migrants.
LEIGH: I don't think there's anything exceptional in what Anthony said there. It's important that we have a strong education program, and that's why we announced the TAFE and university places as we did. We've got to make sure that we're investing in people and that there are good jobs available in the economy. One of the reasons I think populists have gotten a toehold in so many advanced countries is that they've taken their eye off the ball when it comes to creating secure jobs for residents. And of course, we'll have a skilled migration program that fills the gaps. But the reason that Australia's migration program has historically enjoyed such strong support is that people have seen migrants coming in to do roles that weren't filled otherwise, rather than crowding locals out of jobs.
PAUL: Andrew, it's been wonderful having you on this year. Well done on trying to claw back as much money as you can under the flawed JobKeeper scheme. That's why we dubbed you our ‘JobKeeper Warrior’. There's still some work to do in that area. But I've appreciated our chats each and every Tuesday. To you and your wonderful family and staff and everyone in Team Leigh, thank you for your contribution on the program this year mate.
LEIGH: It’s been a real pleasure and all the best to you and the 1269 team, and of course to your fabulous listeners.
PAUL: Good on you, mate, We’ll talk in 2022.
LEIGH: I look forward to it, and goodbye to my mum and dad, who I know always listen to your show too.
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra