Anika Wells MP on ABC Afternoon Brifing




SUBJECTS: Pinkenba quarantine plan, Wellcamp quarantine plan, vaccine rollout, vaccine hesitancy

MATT WORDSWORTH, HOST: Now let’s get into politics now. Because standing by we’ve got Labor MP Anika Wells and Nationals Senator Matt Canavan for our panel of all things that were important today. Welcome to you both.



WORDSWORTH: Anika Wells, let’s start with you. Your electorate takes in the proposed site of Queensland’s quarantine facility out at Pinkenba. And you’ve been out talking to your constituents about it. What have they been telling you?

WELLS: Mighty Pinkenba Village. I think, first and foremost, they were disappointed to be finding it out from me doorknocking them and not through some kind of proper consultation process with the community. It’s a big decision. It’s going to have consequences on their neighbourhood for years to come. We deserve better than reading about it in the local paper. I note that the Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt was asked why not Toowoomba? Why Pinkenba? And he said ‘well, there’s two reasons. Firstly Toowoomba doesn’t meet our criteria. And secondly I’ve spoken to the federal member for Toowoomba Guy Hamilton. He says his community doesn’t want it.’. So why doesn’t our community deserve that same kind of consultation and respect? That’s my question.

WORDSWORTH: Matt Canavan, David Littleproud just said only a few minutes ago that it’s a sub-standard proposal, the Wellcamp proposal. Where do you sit on the merits and the needs of these sorts of facilities?

CANAVAN: Look clearly Matt we need to make sure such a facility is close to adequate hospital services. And Toowoomba doesn’t have a tertiary hospital. That’s why it was principally not appropriate for a location for such a facility. It unfortunately seems to be wrapped up completely in politics. Because if the Palaszczuk government thought that a regionally based quarantine facility was ok, that is a facility away from tertiary hospital services was fine, why not use the Calliope mining camp? Which already exists, it doesn’t need to be built. It’s sitting there, it’s 1400 beds just down the road from where I am now. Last time I checked there were four people staying at that 1400-bed camp. They’re not using that facility Matt because that’s in a Labor seat (laughs). And they don’t want to put a quarantine facility in a Labor seat. So they’ve chosen this Toowoomba one. Driven it to a ridiculous conclusion. It was never going to happen. It’s much better of course to have these facilities close to airports, close to adequate hospital services so that these issues can be managed properly.

WELLS: Matt, can I just respond there?

WORDSWORTH: Anika Wells, can I just get you to respond to that?

WELLS: Absolutely. Firstly, if that’s the argument you’re making criticising the Premier then isn’t that the exact same argument you should be making to criticise Prime Minister Morrison for doing the same thing in a federal Labor seat?

CANAVAN: We’re being consistent. We’re being consistent.

WELLS: Secondly, Premier Palaszczuk consistently advocated for two facilities. One in Toowoomba..

CANAVAN: No BUT we’re being consistent. Well…

WELLS: I’m sorry? Go on? That’s it.

CANAVAN: Yeah. We’re being consistent. The Premier is saying it’s ok in Toowoomba but not ok in Gladstone. What’s the difference?

WELLS: You’ve picked up my second rebuttal. The Premier is advocating…

CANAVAN: The only difference is that one’ s a Labor seat and one’s a conservative seat.

WELLS: My second point is that the Premier is advocating for both Toowoomba and Pinkenba. She wants to see a two-fold strategy. That’s not what we’ve seen from the Prime Minister. And my third point is…

WORDSWORTH: Well the Premier’s argument. Just to expand on that Ms Wells. The Premier’s argument was that if you combined Wellcamp with Pinkenba then you wouldn’t need hotel quarantine at all. So Matt Canavan is it worth having another proposal apart from Pinkenba? Or are we just throwing a lot of money at something where Tony Cunningham was just telling us we could get everyone vaccinated by the end of the year.

CANAVAN: Yea well that’s possibly the case.  I just fundamentally think obviously these types of facilities need to be located closer to hospital services. And it’s not ok and not right to push them into regional areas where there aren’t tertiary hospital services. That’s a simple rule. Doesn’t matter if it’s a blue seat, red seat. It’s the same rule and that should be applied. And so we should forget about the Wellcamp proposal. It does not meet that standard. Now hopefully we get Pinkenba up and running. I still think we’re going to need to use hotel quarantine for some time yet. Hotel quarantine has worked relatively well. Ninety nine percent of people have not been, not spread any outbreaks. And as you say, as we get more and more people vaccinated it won’t be as big an issue.

WORDSWORTH: Can I just move on to the Olympic Games. Do either of you think Annastacia Palaszczuk shouldn’t go to Tokyo?

CANAVAN: Well I’m happy to start.


CANAVAN: Given I suppose I’m the one on the other side of politics. I think she should go to Tokyo. And I don’t think it would be appropriate somehow to prevent her from doing so because I want to see us put the best foot forward for Queensland and Australia. In saying that the Premier kind of deserves all the criticism she’s getting here. It’s the bed she’s made through her absolute hypocrisy last week around the complaints about the complaints about overseas arrivals.
And herself contributing to that as well. The interventions last week of the Queensland government have done more damage to our vaccination rollout than anything else. Than any of the problems with Astrazeneca, than any of the issues with export bans. The fact that we had senior health officials in Queensland calling into question the proper health advice on vaccinations was absolutely inappropriate and it was embarrassing for our state. Now hopefully the Premier can recover from this and actually put a good case forward for the Olympics to come to Queensland. She hasn’t been doing that on the vaccine.

WORDSWORTH: Anika could I get you to respond to that about the Premier and her statements with the chief health officer last week about not wanting anyone under 40 to get AstraZeneca. And I note she’s still got an inaccurate tweet up on her own Twitter feed there.

WELLS: The Premier is supported by the majority of Queenslanders that I’ve spoken to this week. I have a mobile office every week, this week was in Stafford Heights. It was teaming with people who wanted to talk about the vaccine rollout seeing we’ve just emerged from a lockdown. And there was a lot of vaccine hesitancy there. She’s sensed what people feel on the ground and she’s voicing their frustrations. I think there’s a lot of problems with the vaccine rollout that aren’t resolved, that we should be focussing on. Simple stuff, or stuff that seems simple I guess like aged care workers now need to be vaccinated by September. That’s something that has arisen out of the federal rollout problems. But I had aged care workers come to my mobile office to say we can’t be, to get Pfizer before September. And they’re worried about getting AstraZeneca. To even make the AstraZeneca deadlines we’d need to get it today. We’ve got questions that aren’t resolved. So it is a big mess at this point. I would be looking for more leadership from the Prime Minister who has been saying nothing. We’re talking about what the Premier said or hasn’t said. But we’re talking about it because there has been a complete vacuum of leadership from the Prime Minister.

WORDSWORTH: Matt Canavan can I just move on a little bit. Sorry, yeah, if I can just move on to the levels of vaccinations before Australia can get back to some sort of normalcy. A couple of your colleagues have offered figures. Jason Fallinski saying 50 per cent of adults. Tim Wilson saying 60 per cent. Is there a figure that you’ve got in your mind?

CANAVAN: I’ve got no idea Matt. I’m not a virologist. I know that we’re going to ask the Docherty Institute to do some modelling, to provide some figures that will hopefully be informative for these decisions. Although what I would prefer us to think about Matt is surely the key issue is that the vaccine’s available. It’s obviously not available yet in a wide fashion. There is still a queue and different age groups, what have you. But as General Frewin said this morning if things go to plan the next few months we should, come around October November, have enough vaccines. Pretty much if you want to get one, you just call up and do it. I think that’s the proper test. Once it’s available people can make their own choices, and then it’s over to you. Because we’ve got to get back to a realistic perspective of this disease. The reason we locked down was not for all of us. The reason we locked down and put massive costs on businesses and workers was to protect older Australians. Now 70 per cent of older Australians are vaccinated. And so once we get to those sort of levels I think for younger people, look, it’s up to them. I’ll be getting it. I plan to get it. I encourage others to do it. But we’re a free country. And I don’t know if we should anchor or hold up other businesses and communities based on some arbitrary figure that’s always going to be a bit rubbery. That being the modelling assumptions.

WORDSWORTH: Anika Wells, can I just end on Julia Banks because, she’s a former Liberal MP, said that when she stepped into parliament it was like stepping back in time to the 1980s.You’re a newer member, you’ve been there for a couple of years.

WELLS: I was born in the 80s.

WORDSWORTH: Have you noticed a change in the culture there?

WELLS: No. I think what people are talking about at the moment is that there continues to be no permanent consequences for any of the actions that have been judged to be unacceptable in our national parliament. This week, with what Julia Banks herself has been saying, with the resurrection of Barnaby Joyce, with the Federal LNP preselection in Bowman it feels like there are no permanent consequences.

WORDSWORTH: I’m sorry, we’re going to have to leave it there because we’re running out of time. But I just want to thank both of you for making the time for us today. Thankyou.