SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
SKY NEWS KIERAN GILBERT
TUESDAY, 3 AUGUST 2021
SUBJECTS: Labor's $300 vaccine incentive proposal; National Anti-Corruption Commission.
KIERAN GILBERT: Let's bring in the Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus who is with me in the studio. Thanks for your time. The Prime Minister says Labor is showing no confidence in the Australian people with its idea to have cash payments for vaccines. How do you respond to that?
MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Good to be with you here, Kieran. We think that a $300 payment to Australians who've been fully vaccinated will help. We find it extraordinary that this constructive suggestion that we've made, which is something that's been used in other countries around the world, has just been rejected out of hand by Scott Morrison. But it's consistent with his rejection of earlier Labor suggestions. We suggested there should be a wage subsidy scheme which way back in March last year the Prime Minister initially rejected it, then adopted it. But it's not such a novel idea. Let's remember that when the Prime Minister was the Social Security Minister he brought in "No Jab, No Pay" for parents who are denied the childcare rebate unless their children are vaccinated.
GILBERT: Are you vulnerable to the argument that this is fiscal irresponsibility? Because we know that the Coalition has made great mileage out of that with Labor in years gone by. Is that a risk for you?
DREYFUS: I don't think we have to be lectured by this government which has got Australia a trillion dollars in debt, which has wasted, by most accountings, about $12 billion on the JobKeeper payments being paid to companies that were turning a profit. So, I don't think that this Prime Minister gets to say that. This is a modest incentive which will have, as well as providing that economic incentive to Australians to all get vaccinated, dealing with the hesitancy that we know is out there, it will provide stimulus in the economy which is going to be helpful at a time when many businesses are doing it tough.
GILBERT: Is there any research to say that this will actually work, or is it just Labor's instinct that you're going on here?
DREYFUS: This is not the first time that a government has been asked to introduce an economic incentive. I'd say again, this Prime Minister, when he was Social Services Minister, introduced "No Jab, No Pay", dealing directly with vaccination of children in childcare. That's an economic incentive. It's not a novel idea. We think this is a good idea and we're very sorry to see that it's been rejected out of hand by Mr Morrison. We've been very constructive Kieran, right through this pandemic, and it's been pretty sad to see Mr Morrison scrambling around all too quick to reject something just because the Labor Party has put it forward.
GILBERT: Shouldn't the freedom incentive, as the Prime Minister alluded to, be enough? Particularly when people have lived through lockdowns. I know you in Melbourne, and many of your colleagues have obviously lived the bitter experience of long lockdowns, shouldn't that be enough, the idea that a vaccine will be our ticket to freedom?
DREYFUS: Unfortunately, it's apparently not enough. And we see that from polling which tells us that there is hesitancy on the part of perhaps 15 or worse 20% of the population, people who are saying, not because they're anti-vaxxers, but for a whole range of other reasons, they're not going to get vaccinated. So, we need to do everything we can. I've been vaccinated, fully vaccinated with AstraZeneca. I've been encouraging everybody I know to get vaccinated. That's what we have to do. But we should be much, much further advanced. This has been a massive failure on the part of this government to get the vaccinations rolled out and if what we need is a bit of extra incentive, let's try that too.
GILBERT: Katy Gallagher, your colleague in the upper house, is introducing a bill on anti-rorting this week. I know it's been a focus of yours as well. Obviously, you might be a chance of getting it through the upper house, but that's where it'll go. It won't secure passage through the lower house, given the Government's got the numbers. What's the aim of that bill?
DREYFUS: To restore accountability and transparency in government. We've had program after program, Kieran. Think of the Car Park Rort, think of the Sports Rorts, think of the extraordinary waste of money by this government rolling out money for electoral advantage, for party advantage against - and this is the point of Katy Gallagher's bill - against the advice of the public servants. So we have grant programs. Those grant programs envisage that there are going to be applications - there weren't any such thing for the car park program - then there should be criteria. And when those criteria are applied by public servants, then they should be implemented by ministers.
GILBERT: But wouldn't this be the focus of a corruption commission? One that I know that you've committed to in government, but wouldn't this be the sort of remit that that would look at?
DREYFUS: If the failure to comply with process, if the failure to comply with guidelines or criteria is so gross, and it's apparent, as possibly - we don't know enough about it - the Prime Minister himself got to with the Sports Rorts program, where we had colour-coded spreadsheets being used in the Prime Minister's Office to decide where money was going to go, it might be that the level of abuse of office is so gross that it should be investigated by an anti-corruption commission. But Katy Gallagher's bill is simply designed to restore proper process, proper accountability, proper transparency in government, and it's a very good measure. I'm calling on the Government to support it because the people of Australia are entitled to know if a government minister ignores the recommendations of his or her public servants. We're entitled to have the Parliament told, and through the Parliament, the people of Australia if there is that level of misconduct.
GILBERT: And will you provide the detail of what you want to see in a federal corruption commission before the election?
DREYFUS: Of course. We've already rolled out design principles.
GILBERT: Will we see the whole thing?
DREYFUS: We've rolled out very detailed design principles. I'm happy to answer your questions or anyone else's questions about what Labor's anti-corruption commission will look like. The difference between us and the Government, Kieran, is that we are committed to introducing an anti-corruption commission. This government said before the last election that they were going to do it and what have we had? Nothing.
GILBERT: Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, we are out of time. Thanks, appreciate it.
DREYFUS: Thanks, Kieran.