Anika Wells MP on Sky News




Thursday 6th August 2020


SUBJECTS: Queensland border closure,  Victorian pandemic shutdown, COVID IR reform, Parliament sitting in Canberra

ANNELISE NIELSEN, HOST: Joining us live now is our pollie panel. Today we have Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg and Labor MP Anika Wells.  Thank you both for your time.


NIELSEN:  I’ve been looking forward to this chat because Anika, you’re up in Queensland, Andrew, you’re down in New South Wales. This is where the border battle’s heating up these days. We’ll start with you Anika Wells. Do you accept the PMs argument that if Queensland’s going to shut the border to New South Wales and ACT, it needs to explain why.

WELLS: The explanation’s pretty clear up here. The Premier is serving her people. Queensland wants the borders shut. We’ve seen up to now a dozen instances of people trying to sneak across the border. The Queensland Police are having to work very hard to keep those cases in line. I think just this morning there’s reports that people have been trying to fly in through New South Wales from Victoria to get into Queensland. Ultimately, this is a question of stopping community transmission. And this is a tough decision that Queenslanders are very supportive of.

NIELSEN: Andrew Bragg do you think that’s enough of a reason to shut the border or should we start to see the medical advice from those Queensland Health authorities?

ANDREW BRAGG, SENATOR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES: Well Annelise I am sure that there is medical advice underpinning this judgment from the Queensland Premier.

WELLS: There is.

BRAGG: I certainly hope that there is.

WELLS: There is.

BRAGG: Because you’d have to say that the very low level of community transmission in New South Wales has enabled our state to continue operating almost as business as usual. So it seems to be rather a draconian step but as I say it is a judgment that the Queensland Premier needs to defend.

NIELSEN: Anika Wells when you say there is, we’ve seen W.A. come out with their modelling and say look if we have the border open we’re going to have X-amount more community transmission. Why aren’t we seeing the same from Queensland authorities?

WELLS: Well our Deputy Premier and Health Minister Steven Miles just confirmed this morning that our CMO Dr Jeanette Young provided this advice. This is the advice she gave the Queensland Government. And they announced it as quickly as possible after they took the decision yesterday. So it is absolutely following medical advice. And something that needs to be considered is that these things are very hard on our border communities and having the Queensland police take hours to get through car by car in the process before the borders are shut impacts those communities. They want the borders shut so they have a bit more certainty as well. So it’s a decision that’s looking after those people along the border as well as what the absolute majority of Queenslanders want.

NIELSEN: Andrew Bragg, do you think that’s enough to say that the Chief Medical Officer says it’s a bad idea so we shouldn’t do it?

BRAGG: As I say,  I think it’s a draconian step but it is a judgment for the Queensland Premier to defend. In New South Wales we have very low levels of community transmission. In the last week, you’ve seen 10-12, 10-11 cases on each day. That is very low level of community transmission for a state with 8 million people. So I think New South Wales Health has done a great job in containing the virus here in this jurisdiction and of course, that’s why New South Wales is performing quite strongly during this pandemic.

WELLS: Yeah, I think that’s all pretty fair to be honest. Happy to agree with Andrew where I can but unfortunately a few bad eggs have spoiled it for the rest of the population because with a dozen instances of Queensland police catching people trying to sneak over the border, we have to act to prevent community transmission getting any worse up here.

NIELSEN: And this morning Steven Miles said on ABC Radio that they were shutting out the ACT just because one person had been caught coming from New South Wales into the ACT to try and evade those border restrictions. Is that a bit gratuitous Anika to be shutting out an entire territory because of one person?

WELLS: I think it’s cautious and I suspect, based on my discussions with people in the ACT ahead of parliament, you now, reconvening in Canberra, is that they are much more keen to make sure that we all stay out of the ACT than vice versa.

NIELSEN: Andrew do you agree?

BRAGG: Well look there’s obviously a low level of community transmission in the ACT. There’s more cases in Queensland so again it seems to be quite trivial. As I say it seems to be a draconian judgment by the Queensland Premier but no doubt it’s something she wants to live with and live by.

WELLS: A strong Premier making strong decisions I think, we’re very supportive up here.

NIELSEN: It’s almost like there’s an election coming. But just finally we want to address what’s happening in Victoria today. It’s a really hard day, 250,000 Victorians expected to lose their jobs with these shutdowns. Many businesses won’t reopen. Andrew Bragg do you think this is the right call by the Andrews Government and what do you make of the implementation of these Stage 4 shutdowns.

BRAGG: Well I mean obviously the national government would do all it can to support Victoria get through this pandemic. I mean our role includes deploying the military, paying JobKeeper and paying the increased JobSeeker rate. Really the State of Victoria has gotten itself into this mess. Really it is now the role of the Federal and the State Government to help try and help get it out. I mean I’m interested as a member of the Morrison Government on what we can do to improve the level of private investment in Australia after the pandemic. And so I’m very keen to see material changes fall out of the Christian-Porter-led industrial relations reform plans. Equally in terms of the budget that Josh Frydenberg will hand down in October I’m hopeful that we’ll see more on the tax front. So I’m really interested in what the national government can do to spur private investment over the medium to long term.

NIELSEN: Anika Wells what do you make of that idea that the Federal Government should be taking over in Victoria?

WELLS: Well I think the Federal Government has a fair bit on its plate with respect to executing policy on COVID as is. Something I’ve been noticing Melbourne businesses talking about this morning with response to the closures is that they feel that they lack certainty. That is something that workers are feeling across the board, not just businesses in Melbourne. You’ve had the childcare policy announced yesterday. The number one piece of feedback coming out of that was that there is still a lack of certainty for parents and for educators out of that policy. What everybody wants is certainty. What Governments and the Parliament, as soon as we can get back there, should be focused on is providing that certainty with good specific policy response. Andrew is right that the Morrison Government has now fired the starting gun on IR and have proposed that deregulating IR is the best way to assist the response. I think that what COVID has shown us is what an absolutely crisis state insecure work is now in this country. And I don’t think the answer to insecure work is deregulating IR further. I think the answer is providing better pay, conditions and certainty to workers. So we should start, Andrew and I can agree, we can start on improving certainty for absolutely everybody is getting good COVID response policy right now. And that requires getting parliament back to work.

NIELSEN: Andrew Bragg do you support parliament coming back? Including some of those Victorian MPs would have to quarantine for two weeks under the current regulations.

BRAGG: Well, Parliament is going back.

NIELSEN: But do you support that if those Victorian MPs come up that they would have to isolate for two weeks?

BRAGG: Well there will be arrangements that will be made to ensure that the people of the Capital Territory are not affected and I’m sure that those arrangements will be worked through in a bipartisan way.

NIELSEN: I hope they are because it’s a big impact on our business model as well. So I have a bit of a vested interest in that one. But we will have to leave it there. Anika Wells and Andrew Bragg thank you both for your time.

BRAGG: Nice disclosure.

NIELSEN: (laughing) I think it’s blatantly obvious when you’re watching but thankyou.

WELLS: Always a pleasure. Have a good day.

BRAGG: See ya.