Television Interview with Farziah Ibraham and Joanne Nicholson – ABC Weekend Breakfast – Saturday 15 October 2021


SUBJECT/S: Borders re-opening; net zero by 2050; Glasgow Climate Change Summit; Nationals’ party room.
JOHANNA NICHOLSON, HOST: New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet yesterday announced that hotel quarantine for international travellers will be abolished from November the first. Unvaccinated returnees will still have to do a fortnight in hotel quarantine capped at 200 people per week.
FAUZIAH IBRAHIM, HOST: Prime Minister Scott Morrison was quick to clarify Australian citizens, residents and their immediate family members will be prioritised with the decision yet to be made about when the border will open to international tourists. Let’s now bring in our politician panel and we’re joined by Nationals MP Darren Chester and we’re also joined by Labor MP Jason Clare who is the Shadow Minister for Housing, Homelessness and Regional Services. Thank you so much to both of you coming in, well speaking to us here on Weekend Breakfast. Jason Clare, if I could start with you, the Premier’s announcement you know with 80 per cent double dose inside New South Wales, of course, wanting to implement the inevitable or is the Premier rushing to the final finishing line with his announcement?

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS: I think it’s a good thing for the 45,000 Aussies that are stuck overseas at the moment, people that have been trying to get home now for 18 months and were promised they’d be home last Christmas. Hopefully this means that a lot of them will be able to get home by this Christmas. Fauziah, I presume the Premier’s following medical advice, here. It make sense to me. We’ve got, as you say, 80 per cent of people double vaxxed, 90 per cent have had one jab and the people coming home on these flights will be double vaccinated as well. Also, remember, we’ve got COVID in the community here at the moment; three or four hundred people getting COVID every day. Think about that in the context of the Australians coming home on a plane. It makes less sense to have them all stuck in a hotel room if you’ve got a couple of them with COVID and there’s hundreds of COVID cases in the community. That’s a bit different in other parts of the country where vaccination rates are still a lot lower than 80 per cent and where you don’t have COVID moving around the community like you do in Sydney and Melbourne.


HOST: Jason, we’re having some issues with your audio that will persist with it and try and get it fixed up. But heading to you, Darren Chester, did New South Wales go a little bit rogue with this announcement yesterday? Dominic Perrottet saying that it included tourists and then the Prime Minister having to come in and say that no, he was just prioritising Australian residents and citizens and their immediate family. Did the New South Wales premier steal the limelight a bit from the Prime Minister?


DARREN CHESTER: Well good morning and good morning, Jason and congratulations, Jason too. I understand during the break, you’ve had an addition to your family. So, congratulations to your family. Just in relation to your question, it’s not about premiers going rogue, it’s about trying to work through these very difficult and challenging issues as they present themselves right across Australia in many different forms. The situation in New South Wales is different, obviously to Victoria or Queensland or WA so the Premiers, to the best of their ability, are trying to do the right thing by their communities, and the Prime Minister is also trying to find a national focus for what is a very difficult time in our nation’s history. And by and large, I think Australians can be really proud of what they’ve achieved over the last 18 months, 20 months in dealing with the pandemic. But there is a fair degree now out in the community of COVID fatigue, people are tired. Our frontline health workers are tired and frustrated. We do need to open up as soon as we possibly can for the sake of our small business community. The people in hospitality sector have had their income slashed during these recent times, despite the support that’s been provided in state and federal level. So, we do need to work our way towards living with COVID, with high vaccination rates and supporting the vulnerable people in the community. So, it’s not about people going rogue or, you know, taking sides in this. We’re all in this as a nation trying to find a way through this in the most appropriate way that looks after vulnerable people but also gets the economy ticking over again properly.


HOST: Jason Clare, you know, the reaction from many other states and territories was quite cautionary in terms of particularly when it came to the fact that quarantine will be dropped for anybody who is fully vaccinated. But surely if you’re fully vaccinated, there’s no need to be quarantined, you can travel.


CLARE: I’m not sure if you heard my answer before with the audio problems, but I think the situation is a bit different in Sydney than it is in other states at the moment because you’ve got Covid in the community at the moment. So, in that circumstance, having Aussies arrive on a plane and then sitting in a hotel room for two weeks if they’re fully vaccinated makes less sense than if they were flying into say, Brisbane or Perth, where there isn’t Covid in that community and one person getting off a plane and hitting the streets of Brisbane could cause a lockdown. So, the situation is different in other parts the country, I’ve got to say, they’ve been pretty lucky. Here in Western Sydney, we’ve been through hell and back. My community is where, I’ve had dozens of people die, thousands of people in hospital. We’ve been lucky enough to avoid that in other parts of the country. They’ll get to the point where they get to 80 per cent, where they’ll open up, where international flights will return, but hopefully they won’t have had to go through the misery that we’ve gone through here in Sydney and in Melbourne.


HOST: Darren Chester, what does this mean for the purpose-built facility, the quarantine facilities that have been purpose built, they’re still actually being built or not up and running? Will there be a need for them in the future, if we’re moving towards this time of not requiring quarantine?


CHESTER: I think certainly there will still be a need at different points going forward, I think there’s going to be outbreaks or there’s going to be situations where perhaps, we’re looking to bring in a large workforce to the agricultural sector, for example, and he may need to use a quarantine facility to achieve that outcome. It may be if you’re getting a large number of international students at the same time, so there could be reasons for this, outbreaks in other countries or different variants. So, I think it’s a prudent approach by the states and territories and the Commonwealth to have those facilities available for future use.


HOST: Onto another topic. Now, of course, we want to talk about climate change, and the Prime Minister has confirmed that he will be attending the climate summit in Glasgow in November. Darren Chester, the National Party has been quite hesitant when it comes to the government’s plans in reaching zero emissions target. The plans have been explained to them and we understand the National Party will be meeting tomorrow to discuss these plans and to come up with some sort of a consensus. Given that the Prime Minister has confirmed he will be going to Glasgow, that the deal is actually sealed?


CHESTER: Well, not exactly. I understand what you’re suggesting there. But the National Party will meet tomorrow and I believe the Minister Angus Taylor will be addressing the room and then running through the plan that was taken to cabinet last week. My view is we need to have a moderate and practical and responsible view of the issue and work through how we achieve net zero by 2050. And how we do that in a way that maintains the economic prosperity, the social fabric of regional Australia at the same time. So, my sense of this issue is one that we need to be working responsibly as a national party room in the best interests of all regional Australians achieving the economic and social outcomes and also the environmental outcomes that people looking for. And this is a much broader issue than just about emissions reductions. It’s about the environment more broadly. And in my community of Gippsland where we’ve been obviously impacted by bushfires in recent times, the broader environmental debate rapidly extends into questions about hazard reduction, indigenous fire burning techniques, plants and animals, biodiversity, the whole gamut of environmental issues, are what people are talking to me about. Obviously, they’re interested in the question of emissions reductions and climate change, but they’re also very much focused on practical environmental issues. And the thing they say to me most is, we need more boots and less suits more boots on the ground, getting the work done, and less suits making excuses.


HOST: Darren Chester, you said that a deal hasn’t necessarily been sealed, but the Prime Minister has committed to going to the Glasgow climate conference. And so, if a deal isn’t reached, does that mean that the Prime Minister will either go without a deal, or will form a deal within the Libs and not including the Nationals?


CHESTER: There’s a whole bunch of hypotheticals that I can’t possibly answer other than our target of net zero by 2050 is something that the Prime Minister has been talking about throughout the course of this year, the National Farmers Federation took a position to their members last year, which I agree with, with appropriate caveats and then moving towards a net zero. The world is moving that way anyway. Finance markets are moving there, major industry groups are moving there. And our challenge as National Party members representing regional Australia is to make sure that our communities don’t carry the entire burden, that our communities are well supported in what any transition is going to occur, and we still maintain that energy security reliability that Australians want and need. And we maintain our competitive advantage in a whole range of industries, the agricultural sector can flourish into the future as well. We’ve got time over these next 28, 29 years to achieve that target if we invest in our regional communities, and we need to plan for that. And so that’s what the Prime Minister will be outlining to the party this week. My view more broadly, is that we actually need a regional Australia 2050 white paper, we need to work across all aspects of regional communities and develop a white paper that provides a long-term plan for the future of regional Australia as we work towards that environmental target but recognise those social and economic issues as well.


HOST: Jason Clare, while reaching environmental targets is all well and good and you know, there’s always been this discussion that this is an inner-city discussion versus a regional city regional community discussion, but the fact is jobs are at stake here. There is real concern, particularly in fossil dependent towns that they may have to close down in that transition to green energies. How is Labor addressing this main concern?


CLARE: The way Labor needs to address it, but frankly, the way the government needs to address it, is with a bit of leadership here. If you lean into this, you can create jobs for the regions. Thousands and thousands of jobs for the regions. But if you just think that you can stick your head in the sand and just ignore this, then jobs will disappear and those new jobs that will be created by this big economic change, they’ll still be created, but they won’t be in Australia, they’ll be overseas. So, we need a bit of leadership here, you’ve got to act. The problem here is the hallmark of this Prime Minister, the hallmark of this government, has been being too slow to act. Whether it’s on the bushfires, whether it’s on the vaccine or whether it’s here on climate change, he has just been too slow.


I’m glad that he’s going to Glasgow, he should go to Glasgow. It’s a very important conference. But as you say, we still don’t know what he’s going to take. I reckon Schapelle Colby had more idea about what was in her luggage then Scott Morrison knows about what’s going to be in his luggage on the way to Glasgow. He’s still waiting for Barnaby to tell him what he’s allowed to pack.


CHESTER: How long did you practice that line, Jason?


CLARE: You’ve got other countries that have already committed to net zero by 2050. They’re going to Glasgow to work out how we get there, and we’re still fighting about it. And part of the problem, and I exclude Darren from this because he’s a mate of mine, he’s a smart bloke, he knows we’ve got to get to net zero by 2050, but the Liberal Party and the National Party are still infested by people who think climate change is what happens when you go to Hawaii for a holiday. We’ve got to get past that. The rest of the country has been calling on the government to do this for a long time. All of that rubbish over the last 10 years, and at the last election that if we do this, it would cost jobs in the cities or the regions, that it would destroy businesses, that your bills and would go through the roof. That was rubbish then, it’s rubbish now. This will create jobs. It’ll create new businesses, and it’ll cut your bills. Josh Frydenberg said the other week that if we don’t do this, your mortgage will go up, cost of capital goes up, interest rates will go up. And you had Matt Canavan in the National Party saying, ‘so be it, mortgages should go up’. In other words, a mortgage tax. Now, is that really going to be the Australian Government’s approach to this?


HOST: Well, Darren Chester, we did speak to Suzanne Hadden who’s a financial advisor in our market segment earlier this morning and she’s saying that what business really needs is clarity. They need a policy, and they need framework because this will impact investment in Australia. Is Australia at risk of being left behind taking this long, the Nationals still not coming up with an agreement on this?


CHESTER: Well, I think that analysis around clarity and uncertainty to that question, you need clarity and certainty and a longer-term strategic policy view of where we’re heading as a nation in this regard as what we’ve seen, I’ve been in Parliament for 13 years, what we’re seeing on this issue of climate has been really a killing field for Leaders of both sides. You’ve seen Labor and Liberal leaders, not being able to get a consensus across their rooms on a difficult area of public policy. Now, this is our opportunity, I think, from here going forward. I’m sorry, Jason, you calling me your mate is killing my credibility in my own party room for me.


CLARE: I thought you weren’t in that party room, Darren. Come over to the good guys.


CHESTER: But if we can get some that certainty and clarity that people looking for, and that long term planning, that is where the Parliament needs to get to and get as much agreement we possibly can across the political divide. There is a lot of agreement around the middle on this issue across Australian across regional Australia. And my point before about this being more than environmental issue is about social issues and economic issues and cultural issues in our regional communities. We need a broader plan. That’s why I think the white paper for 2050 is something that regional Australia should be working towards, backed up by investment from governments in the private sector. I see a huge opportunity for regional Australia going forward. You’ve seen it with COVID where more metropolitan people are saying to me, ‘Well, I can live in a regional community. If there’s good telecommunication connectivity, good public transport, I can link into my city job and not have to go in every day’. We’re going to see a change in Australia next 20 or 30 years, and some of that is going to be about regional Australia growing, not at the expense of the cities, but in partnership with the cities and we’ve just got in this divide, this city-country divide is so old school politics, we’ve got to start working together as a nation in the collective interests of all Australians.


HOST: Right Darren Chester and Jason Clare, thanks for your time this morning. Jason we also congratulate you on the new addition to your family.