4BC Drive with Scott Emerson - 18 January 2022


SUBJECTSOmnicron wave; RAT shortage; Resolve Polling.   

MILTON DICK, MEMBER FOR OXLEY: Hey Scott, and Happy New Year to you and your listeners. 2022 back with a vengeance! 

SCOTT EMERSON, HOST: Well back with a vengeance, Federal political year, election year this year. You're primed already? Already on the hustings there?

DICK: Yeah, this has been really my first week back, unfortunately, my office has had to close just in the interests of the pandemic, but we're all working from home. I've been out and about talking to a lot of voters this weekend. Gee, I just thought this might have been a bit of a quiet start to the year but it's really bounced back and people are really, really engaged and of course, a lot of people are asking me when the election will be and I don't have the answer to that of course Scott, but I'm ready to go whenever the election is, and I think it's going to be a fascinating one.

EMERSON: I think most people assume now, Milton Dick - and you were ALP strategist - given the budget is down for March 29, you'd assume probably in May. I know there was speculation last year that it could be a little bit earlier in the year, but I think with the Omicron wave and other issues out there, including - we'll touch on this in a moment - the absence of RAT tests, I can't see Morrison going, the Government going, earlier than after they bring down their March 29 budget.

DICK: Yeah, I think this is a  - you're spot on Scott. I think if I was a betting person, I'd say mid to late May. Look, this is turning into a bit of another summer of disaster for Scott Morrison. I don't think the Government probably thought it would be starting this way. I get so many residents I've been speaking to over the last week or two just really feeling let down and quite fearful of the wave sweeping through, lack of testing, not able to get those RAT tests, as you mentioned, but also the stuff up with the boosters as well. A number of GPs have contacted me in the western suburbs of Brisbane, saying their supplies haven't arrived. Obviously that's having a major impact with kids going back to school, with parents very anxious, So, not a bright start to the year certainly for local residents. But I'm confident once we get through this and once we get through the peak, it'll be gloves on and going on for the election.

EMERSON: We say it hasn't been a good start to the Morrison Government, maybe that's when you're walking around your Electorate, that's what people are going to say to you anyhow, they know you're the local Labor member there. I did see this new poll in nine newspapers today. Now, I can see that that poll did say that Labor had increased its lead over the coalition. It didn't have a two party preferred vote but what it showed was that the coalition's primary vote had gone down and Labor's had gone up. But again, it showed that Scott Morrison was more popular than Anthony Albanese, and that's a consistent message across all the polls, not just this one. There was a Nine newspapers today but also in the News Limited News poll as well. So, despite all these things that have been going on, you say it's been a terrible start to the year for the Government and the terrible job they've done on vaccines. Why does Scott Morrison continue to be more popular than Anthony Albanese?

DICK: Well, you mentioned that Poll Scott, and when you look at the preferred Prime Minister, there's been a dramatic gap reduction between the leaders and if I were Scott Morrison, I'd be very worried and what you're seeing with the Australian people, and when I talk to local residents and even today, rusted on LNP supporters in the western suburbs of Brisbane, people living in Jindalee contacted me today having a long conversation with them, completely fed up with Scott Morrison. 

You know, they may not, they may change their vote again. But right where we sit now, whether it comes to the rollout of the vaccine, the rollout of the boosters, the lack of preparedness when it comes to the supermarket shelves being basically empty at this moment, and the fact that you can't get a RAT test and workers being off work and then businesses suffering and closing. And alternatively, then you've seen Anthony Albanese spending the last 10 days up here in Queensland driving from Cairns right down the coast. That's the leader who's really hungry to listen, but also hungry to lead and I think that's what you're seeing when you're seeing the reduction in Scott Morrison's popularity. The election still a fair way to go, we've still got a lot of water under the bridge. But you can really feel it out in the communities, that lack of support and a big - I'd use this word starting off this year Scott - a big disappointment in Scott Morrison and the Government. They really feel let down, that this is not a Government prepared, but also able to look after its citizens and I think that's what you're seeing in all of this polling as well.

EMERSON: Alright, let's talk about the rat kits there, now. I've been talking a little bit earlier about Sally McManus the head of the ACTU basically saying that employers out there should be providing kits to their employees across the board now, Anthony Albanese, just clarify for me here Labor's policy on RAT kits - is the policy free RAT kits across the board?

DICK: We believe they should be available and Andrew McKellar the head of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry also has backed in the call that they'd be made available.

EMERSON: Yes he was just on the program. And yes, he did say that he thinks that's the case. But then Labor says it should be free. Has Labor calculated how much that would cost?

DICK: Well Scott, what we're dealing with at the moment is the fact that the Government hasn't prepared or planned for this. So we know they were warned. We know that the evidence was provided to the Government and yet again, Scott Morrison, in the fact that he never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity, to really fail the Australian Public.

EMERSON: Yeah, well, Milton Dick I asked you a very clear question there - has Labor, when it says they should be free, the RAT kits - has it worked out how much that would cost?

DICK: Well, those costings will be obviously undertaken, and we're not in Government.

EMERSON: Sorry, you're not in yet. But you can't put a policy out saying they should all be free, and then say, but we don't know how much that would cost. That's not how it works. If you put up a policy you say we think this should happen. Now. You gotta have an idea of how much it's gonna cost, surely?

DICK: Well, Scott, the fact is, we need these kits available. This isn't about whether it's worthy to do with all the economics of it. The fact is, if we don't have a healthy workforce, our businesses are going to suffer. Businesses are already shutting down. So the fact that we're having a debate now about whether the cost should be borne by the taxpayer-

EMERSON: The question is whether Labor can put up a policy and say, look, we think they should be free now, but then say, but we don't know how much that's kind cost.

DICK: Well what Labor can do is make sure that we're putting as much pressure on the Government at the moment, Scott, instead of us having a debate over the cost of this. We should be pressuring the Government into delivering. Why don't we have these kits available? I have businesses making rapid antigen tests from where I live, a couple of kilometers down the road in Richlands. Not one of those are being used in Australia. They're 50,000 a day and up to more per week to the United States. It is an absolute disgrace that this country has not prepared when we were all warned. The Government was completely warned about this, and now we're paying the consequences. So of course we support businesses having access to the kits or more importantly, we support workers, and responsible businesses all know that they need these kits to make sure that their workforce is safe. That people are going to work and they're not spreading the disease. It is completely negligent for the Government not to be able to plan for this. So we'll continue to call for the Government to deliver on these kits. You get talk to any families around the suburbs that I live, they're are scarce as hen's teeth. They're going up to $280 for a five pack, now that is disgraceful Scott, when we know the cost per unit is down to about 99 cents, that the Government hasn't planned or improved productivity to make sure these are available. They've got nothing but excuses. And that's why the Australian public are completely fed up to with this Government.

EMERSON: Milton, good to have you back on the show. We'll catch you again next week. 

DICK: You betcha.