Anika Wells MP on 4BC with Scott Emerson
DRIVE WITH SCOTT EMERSON
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 10, 2021
SUBJECTS: Queensland reopening, Australia’s diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics, Defence helicopter contract, Australia’s falling birth rate
SCOTT EMERSON, HOST: And now it is a regular here on Friday on Drive. Our version of Question Time. We’re always joined by Labor's Member for Lilley Anika Wells and the LNP member for Ryan Julian Simmons. Anika, how are you today?
ANIKA WELLS, MEMBER FOR LILLEY:I'm much better thanks.
EMERSON: Good. We missed you last week. And Graham Perrett is a great fill in for you, but not like the real thing Anika. So I'm glad you're back.
JULIAN SIMMONDS, MEMBER FOR RYAN: A poor imitation I say.
EMERSON: Take the praise where you can. How are you Julian?
SIMMONDS: Very, very well thanks Scott. I’ve just got the cricket on in the background. I’m trying to will Lyon on to his 400th wicket, but he's not hearing me through the TV.
EMERSON: So we've had a lot of discussions about Lyon here. Into his performance or not so far, get those Poms out. Now Queensland, Julian, Queensland is reopening on Monday morning. What do you think about…which one do you think is going to be the first one up here? Anthony Albanese or Scott Morrison once the once the border is open from 1am on Monday?
SIMMONDS: Well, I think probably the first one out and about will be me. Because I'll be getting out of home quarantine which is exciting after two weeks in federal parliament. But look, I expect Scott to be up here pretty shortly after that. I have to say, you know, he's the kind of guy who thrives on talking to people and taking the people's pulse. And I think he's missed that a lot during COVID you know. Our national security and COVID response has kept him in Canberra and he's been travelling and quarantined. So I think he's going to be very keen to get up to Queensland to talk to Queenslanders. He loves Queensland and taking people's pulse and finding out, talking to them about the issues that they care about.
EMERSON: Anika Wells. I think Albo will probably be up pretty quickly as well because there are obviously seats to be won and lost in Queensland.
WELLS: Well that’s right, I don't want to spoil the surprise for you Scott. But Albo’s spent several weeks in Queensland this year including in my electorate. And my electorate has the Brisbane airport so I have…my people are always very quick to tell me when notable guests get in. Like the Prime Minister. Though I must say he's only been through really for about half an hour, this entire parliamentary term. And he was only through really for about half an hour the term before that. So I'm not expecting to see him coming and going to the airport.
EMERSON: Anika Wells, are there particular seats that Labor is targeting? Now I know you’re probably targeting all 23 seats that Labor, that the LNP holds in Queensland. But are there any particular seats that Labor is targeting in Queensland?
WELLS: I'm targeting my seat Scott.
SIMMONDS: Good answer.
WELLS: I'm really, really focused on that plucky seat of Lilley on the northside of Brisbane. But to your actual question. Yes, we are particularly hopeful in the seats of Longman, Leichardt and Flynn. And I'm sure Julian feels this way too. I remember what it all felt like six months out from the election, compared to how it felt two weeks out from the election, and it how it felt on election day. And I just don't take much stock by any kind of polls or commentaries that go on at the moment. Because until you're actually out listening to people as they walk into vote, you just don't know how it's going to go.
EMERSON: Well, Julian Simmons, Anika just mentioned three seats there, Flynn, Longman and Leichardt. You've got Flynn with Ken O’Dowd retiring. So you've got a long-sitting member who's leaving. Longman now, first seat, with Terry Young there and a narrow margin there. And Leichardt well, Warren Entsch, it’s Warren Entsch up there, isn't it? Up in Leichardt.
SIMMONDS: Yeah that's right. And Warren will be going around again. And he's a strong local member. But certainly where there are MPs retiring, I mean, I'm sure the Prime Minister will be keen to introduce those people who we’ve pre-selected to be part of the team, following in those big footsteps. But you know, look for Anika I wouldn't, wouldn't write Lilley off just yet. PM might yet surprise you and spend a little bit of time in your seat I have to say.
WELLS: Well, what a novel surprise that would be.
EMERSON: Anika’s seat is a marginal seat, Julian I appreciate that. She's a hard-working local member there. But is that one of the seats that the LNP is going to be targeting?
SIMMONDS: I think we'll be targeting as many Queenslanders as possible. But certainly, certainly Lilley and Blair are seats that we came close to last time. I think we'll want to make sure that we're talking to people in Longman and also seats like Brisbane and my seat of Ryan. But, you know, when we make decisions of the government, we make decisions based on what's best for Australia's interests and what's best for all Queenslanders? We don't we don't break it down into seats. But I know that the Prime Minister is very keen to get right across the width and breadth of Queensland and talk to as many of us as possible.
EMERSON: Now Anika Wells, it seems to be a bit of a unity ticket on this diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics by Australia. I did see that not only is Australia and the US doing it now, I think the UK and Canada have also joined that boycott. Obviously Labor has come on board with the decision by Scott Morrison. Why do you think the boycott is important?
WELLS: Well, just the ongoing human rights abuses that we're seeing in China. The Uyghurs have been well communicated here in Australia, but other ethnic and religious minorities as well. But I think also, you know, Australians we love our sport, we love our athletes. There are questions around athlete safety. You would have seen the treatment of the tennis player Peng Shuai. So the decision to do this, alongside other countries, I think sends a strong signal. And that this isn't the behaviour of a responsible global power, if that is what China wants the world to see it as. You know our athletes have trained very hard for years. And they didn't choose where the Olympics were being held. So I do think it's appropriate that they're not the ones asked to make the sacrifice. And we will cheer them all on from home.
EMERSON: Julian, do you think we will see substantial and further retaliations from China after we've, after we announced this boycott this week?
SIMMONDS: Oh potentially. There'll be more bluff and bluster as is their way. But, I mean, I think this is a good, good balance, you know. You know, the athletes can go over there, the games can go ahead in the spirit of sportsmanship and mateship that we have all come to expect. But, you know, let's, let's look at it from the other direction. You know, if we as a nation, having said all that we have about defending the democratic rights of Taiwan, of calling out human rights abuses by China, about calling out some of their behaviour in our strategic region. If we were just to turn around and say, ‘Oh well, look, don't worry about it. Sport’s more important. Off we all go and forget about it’. I mean, I think the Chinese will think we're mugs. So it's far more important that we send this strong message, but it’s the right balance because the games, the sport can still go ahead.
EMERSON: Today we saw the announcement of the scrapping of the Taipan helicopters. And we'll be getting now the Blackhawk and the Seahawk helicopters as well. Is that going to further antagonise China? Do you think?
SIMMONDS: Well, these decisions aren't made based on what China's reaction will be. That won’t surprise you. These decisions are made on how do we have the best strategic fighting force that Australians need, to defend Australian interests? And the reality is, the answer to that, is to align closely with the US. As we have through the AUKUS agreement. And particularly to align our military with US technical know-how. And the helicopters that we're buying are the pick of the bunch from that perspective. So it makes a lot of sense to further align our military capabilities with the US.
EMERSON: Anika, Peter Dutton, Defence Minister for about five, six months now. A lot of big decisions and a lot of rhetoric also targeting China. How do you think Peter Dutton has been going in terms of…and the government generally in terms of dealing with China?
WELLS: I'll quote one of my constituents who brought it up at one of my mobile offices a few weeks back. And his observation was, traditionally you say the wisdom is talk low and carry a big stick. But his observation was that this government seemed to talk very loudly and carry a tiny stick. This was in response to the nuclear subs stuff falling over. So that's the impression that people are giving me on the ground. Though, I would say Scott, in all honesty, not a big topic at the mobile offices. People aren't coming up to me to talk about defence policy and whether or not that changes as we get closer to election, I guess we’ll see.
EMERSON: Well, we’ll see. Now I'm talking to Labor's Member for Lilley, Anika Wells. And the LNP member for Ryan Julian Simmonds. I could hear you're about to jump in there. Julian, what's your thoughts about that?
SIMMONDS: Well I was just going to say I think calling our military force a small stick is pretty ordinary stuff. And, you know, the point is, we’ve got to have the courage to call this stuff out don’t we. We’ve got to call out human rights abuses. We’ve got to call out when they try and bully democracies like Taiwan. I think that's what Australians expect. Not for us to talk softly on these important issues.
EMERSON: Now, as I said, I'm talking to Anika Wells from Labor and Julian Simmons from the LNP. Now you’ve both got young children, both of you there. I saw the new data out from the ABS that's revealed Australia's birth rate has plummeted to 1.58. Now alright then, I’ll start with you. Julian. How do you fix that? You're doing your bit for Australia.
SIMMONDS: I feel like this is a setup Scott. I've got a little boy and a girl, as you know, and I’ve got my work cut out for me. But I feel like you've been talking to my wife if you're encouraging us to add to the population further? Well, I think the best way that we can help with this is just to give Australian families choice. That's what we always endeavour to do with our policies. Whether it's removing the cap for childcare, or whether it's providing more financial support for IVF for people who have struggled to have families, is provide choice. So that families can make the best choices that are right for their family. Whether that's going back to work or staying at home having more kids. We as a government should just get out of the way and provide them with as many choices as possible.
EMERSON: Alright, get out of the way says Julian Simmons. Anika Wells?
SIMMONDS: Get out of the bedroom, perhaps that’s a better way of saying it.
EMERSON: Or out of the bedroom, alright then. Well, Anika, you've got young kids as well. That, that birthrate is at 1.58? Do you reckon we need another baby bonus scheme in Australia?
WELLS: I don't. I don't think that baby bonus is the right policy lever to pull. Because ultimately this is this is really about cost of living. Because people choose to have the number of children that they can afford to have. So with the rising cost of living under the Coalition they are choosing to have fewer children, that's what the data says today. And if you look at the generation who are having children at the moment. That's my and Julian’s generation, the millennials. You know, some astonishing statistic like nearly 60 per cent of millennials have never had a full-time permanent job. Because casualisation has been systemically increasing since our time in the workforce. We entered the workforce approximately at the time of the GFC. So people are in casual jobs, people are in part-time jobs looking for more work. People, used to be the case that when you bought a house, it was about seven times your average annual wage. Now it’s between 20 to 30 times the average annual wage. So people don't feel like they have this ability to have children and that’s not a good thing. And I don't say get out of the way so much as improve policy. And that's why childcare policy is so important. Because for some people, for us definitely, it's more than the cost of our mortgage. And unless we have childcare policy that eases those cost-of-living pressures, we're not going to see this statistic improve. And we need, we need more babies in order to look after all of our older Australians as they enter their well-deserved retirement.
EMERSON: Well both of you seem to be doing your part for Australia.
WELLS: Yes, I’m doing my bit.
EMERSON: We’re very happy with both of you then. Anika Wells and Julian Simmons, thanks for joining us for Question Time. We'll catch you for the last Question Time on Drive next week for 2021. But you enjoy your weekends.
WELLS: You too. See you then.
SIMMONDS: Bye bye.