Topic(s): Victoria international visitor vaccine requirement; Labor’s pandemic spending; Statement of Acknowledgement – Jenkins Report

Karl Stefanovic: Welcome back, Daniel Andrews is being accused of holding the country to ransom after demanding international travellers must be triple vax to move freely around Victoria.


Allison Langdon: Finance Minister Simon Birmingham joins us now. Birmo, nice to see you this morning. You must be filthy.


Simon Birmingham: Look, it’s a really bright breakthrough for Australia’s tourism industry to be able to say, we’re going to let everybody in who’s had a double dose, that’s still the standard that is advised by our health officials. But to now have this sort of uncertainty cast across it, is going to be a crippling blow to businesses that have been on their knees for two years now finally saw light at the end of the tunnel. And now, of course, they’ve got this sort of uncertainty, and I just urge Dan Andrews to reconsider in that regard to back in the Commonwealth health advice that says we can go with a double dose and of course he can offer, we offer anybody else who comes to Australia and anybody in Australia the chance for a booster when they get here.


Karl Stefanovic: The reality is, though, Dan Andrews can run his own race. I mean, the Prime Minister has no power to pull him into line.


Simon Birmingham: Well, we’re making that decision to going to open up the borders on the 21st of Feb, that’s going to happen and we’ll see that opportunity for internationals to come to Australia. Now, if Victoria starts missing out on those international visitors, I can see plenty of pressure coming from the sports, the events, the conventions and the tourism industry across Victoria, urging for that to change-.


Karl Stefanovic: Okay, so what you’re saying is, what you’re saying is that Dan Andrews will start to lose events.


Simon Birmingham: Well, we don’t have a fight over this. We want them to adhere to the same type of approach that we’re trusting the rest of the country will stick to, which is the health advice, says double dose. Of course, boosters are available. We encourage people to get boosters. We urge Australians to get boosters, and we’re grateful that millions of Australians are getting those boosters. But we also want to make sure that Australian jobs continue to be secure, that Australian businesses who’ve done it tough and particularly in sectors like tourism, have a real future and viable future ahead of them.


Allison Langdon: All right. Look, you’ve done the numbers on Labor’s pandemic promises an extra $81 billion, you reckon. Couldn’t you argue that extending JobKeeper and vaccine incentives would have sped up the recovery?


Simon Birmingham: We’ve got unemployment at 4.2 per cent, it’s the lowest it’s been in 13 years, so we’ve been able to manage the economy in a remarkable way through this pandemic, we’ve created more than 1.1 million jobs from the depths of the pandemic. So this is really, you know, a waste that we would have seen from the Labor Party, who when you think about that call for $300 payments to be made for Australians to get vaccinated. Ninety four per cent of Australians went and got vaccinated without that type of bribe, without that type of cash splash from the Labor Party. And it’s just a reminder as we get closer to an election that had Labor been in office, a further $81 billion at least would have been blown and splashed around the economy. We’ve had the capacity to do extraordinary things, but also to say no and make difficult decisions when it’s been necessary.


Allison Langdon: Look, a powerful moment in parliament yesterday with the Prime Minister’s apology to victims of bullying and abuse. Why has he chosen not to attend the speech today by Brittany Higgins, who we thought handled herself extraordinarily well yesterday, and Grace Tame?


Simon Birmingham: Well, the Prime Minister said he’ll definitely be paying attention to what is said at the National Press Club today. It would be highly unusual for him to leave parliament and attend a speech like that. There will be government ministers, government MPs there. The PM will be paying attention, as I know he has, and yesterday was indeed not just an acknowledgement as had been recommended, but it was a sincere apology. The PM delivered on behalf of the Parliament and even more importantly, a call to action. And we’ll see that today that our government will be introducing the first piece of legislation in response to the Sex Discrimination Commissioner’s report.


Karl Stefanovic: Simon Birmingham, thanks for your time today. Appreciate it.