Interview with Stephen Cenatiempo, 2CC Canberra

Stephen Cenatiempo
Sydney lockdown, COVID-19 vaccine rollout

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO: All right, let's talk to two politicians that I actually do like. One is the Labor member for Bean, David Smith. G’day Dave.

DAVID SMITH: Morning Stephen.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO: And, representing the government is the Liberal Member for Hume, Minister for Energy and Emissions Reductions, Angus Taylor. G’day Angus.

ANGUS TAYLOR: G’day Stephen.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO: These lockdowns in Sydney are obviously having massive impacts on the entire national economy. I'll start with you, Angus. When the biggest state in the country shuts down, obviously it's going to have an impact federally, but what does it mean for surrounding areas here in this region, particularly in Canberra and your electorate of Goulburn, and, you know, I guess the greater Monaro region?

ANGUS TAYLOR: I've been in the Monaro in recent weeks, and seeing the impacts there. Look, there's no doubt it's having an impact. My electorate is, I think, the only one that includes parts that are within the lockdown area and parts that are outside the lockdown area, and I live outside the lockdown area, but it's having an impact everywhere. You know, if you just look at the service stations and businesses along the Hume Highway as you go through Goulburn and Marulan, obviously, they're being impacted by the lack of traffic flow. Anyone involved in tourism, obviously, has been hit very hard at a time when they didn't need it. Tourism around this region has had a really rocky couple of years with the bush fires and now the pandemic. So, we're very conscious of this. Discussions going on as speak, to sort out a package to make sure that businesses that are being impacted can get through this. It's a tough time and I'm personally very conscious of this. I've been talking to local businesses, particularly in the tourism area, just in the last 24 hours to understand best how we can help them.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO: Dave, at a local level, I guess we're between a rock and a hard place here. We are an island within New South Wales but given that there's no active coronavirus cases in the ACT and hasn't been for slightly over a year now, how do we convince these other state and territory leaders that we need to get on with business as usual?

DAVID SMITH: Yeah, look, it's a good question, Stephen. As I said, it's been- it's been more than 12 months. And the impact in terms of hotel occupancy are- in terms of all the cancelled flights, after all the good work that the carried out at Canberra airport, the- you know, obviously losing the footy, losing the school trips to Parliament House and, well, I think- the real challenge is that, obviously we had a couple of people who did the wrong thing last year who came from lockdown areas to use Canberra, if you like, as a transit lounge for elsewhere. But it's- we're talking about a couple of cases. And well, I guess this is why we have National Cabinet, is this is where these conversations should be happening. And look, that said, the numbers coming out of New South Wales are still pretty frightening and I think there's an element where we still need to play this a fair bit by ear.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO: Angus, I'm no particular fan of the Prime Minister, and anyone that listens to this programme knows that. But a lot of the criticism sheeted home to the Federal Government has been, I think, misplaced. But Dave's right about National Cabinet. It should be operating a lot more cohesively and doing a better job than it is. Is it time to just ditch that and for the PM to show some leadership here?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, we live in a federation. I mean, that's the reality. We live in a federation and we've made that federation work for us over the last hundred years, more than a hundred years since the Federation was formed. It has upsides and downsides and we see some of the downsides and some of the upsides every day, particularly during the pandemic. The key is to make it work. Now, we know the way out of this right now is very straightforward. It comes down to getting the jab, it really does. That's how we're going to find our way out of this thing as quickly as we can. There's no doubt this variant is very different from the last one. It's way more contagious and that's why the tracing systems and testing systems in New South Wales are struggling, because the virus itself has changed. But we're only going to get out of this by people getting out and getting the jab. I strongly encourage everyone to do it. I've had my two AstraZeneca vaccines, I’m fully vaccinated, and just strongly encourage people listening in to get out, get the jab.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO: Dave, the Opposition's been critical of the Government's rollout of this vaccine. And look, in the early stages, I think that was fair. But we're now seeing it ramped up. But I'm seeing bottlenecks at a state level. Does the Federal Government need to take full responsibility and full ownership of the vaccine roll out somehow? And I don't know how they do that, given that healthcare is the purview of the states, but how do we improve this?

DAVID SMITH: So, this is a consequence of the major problem, which is around supply. And I think the really frustrating thing here is we do have state governments that are quite actually good at dealing with vaccine rollouts. We see it with the flu jab every year. We see the way we normally use community pharmacy in these processes. So, look, the- we're running into bottlenecks now because of all the problems that have led up to this. And look, we've just got to- we've got to keep encouraging our colleagues, our friends, our family members to persevere and get in to- book those vaccinations and keep going. Because it is, it's the key to getting out of this situation, is to ensure that Australians all have two jabs. And understand that, you know, one of the challenges we are going to have is, it's not just going to be over 18s, it's going to be under 18s at some point as well too.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO: Angus, Dave makes a good point there. But the concern I have is there is still a hesitancy from a lot of people to get the vaccination. But I don't think there's enough- the message from the Federal Government is not right in suggesting that once we get- we are vaccinated, that we are going to get back to life as normal. I know we all sort of in the back of our minds think that might be the case, but the language doesn't necessarily spell that out.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I can't be clearer. I mean, I can't be clearer. Whilst I agree with most of Dave's comments a moment ago, I do take issue with this point that's been made that it's all about supply. Look, we are at a point now where there's no shortage of AZ vaccines. Get out and get it if you're eligible, and in particular, if your doctor says it's okay. It's so important, you know. I went along with the rules of every other person my age, and I've had two vaccines. There's nothing special about my circumstances but there is a hesitancy. The answer to that is unified messaging from everybody in public life that you've got to get the jab. It can't be any clearer. The consequence of getting the jab is that's our passport. That's our way out, that's our way back to as normal as we can be under the circumstances. We've seen the AZ vaccine changing life in the UK. The AZ vaccine is a good vaccine and for most people, it's going to be quite appropriate. So, please get the jab.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO: Dave, I'll finish off with you on a positive note for a bunch of people that do need to get vaccines, and that is our local athletes are heading off to Tokyo to compete and a group of Tuggeranong Vikings who are going to be lining up for the Wallabies tonight.

DAVID SMITH: Bean is basically doing a lot of heavy lifting in national sport at the moment, Stephen. And fantastic work by those Vikings that were on [indistinct] last week. And you know, one of the great stories, I think, is Patty Mills went to Marist in Pearce and is one of our flag bearers. And during the week, in the lead-up tournament in Las Vegas, iced the game against Argentina with a three-pointer on the buzzer.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO: Outstanding. Angus, have you got any local athletes that you want to give a shout out to?

ANGUS TAYLOR: I do, I'm very excited about this. We've got Shane Rose again. He's an equestrian from my electorate. Then Emily Chalker from Crookwell. Crookwell has an incredible history of Hockeyroos. She's going off to play hockey for Australia. Great to see that tradition of great hockey players in Crookwell playing for Australia happening again with Emily Chalker. Really exciting.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO: Fantastic. Thanks gentlemen. Dave Smith, the Labor Member for Bean; Angus Taylor, the Liberal member for Hume. Good to talk to you guys.

DAVID SMITH: Thanks, Stephen.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks, Stephen. Thanks, Dave.