Sky News Afternoon Agenda - 10/12/2021

10 December 2021


SUBJECTS: Kids’ Pfizer vaccination rollout; diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics; State borders; the Ashes.

DANICA DE GIORGIO, HOST: Time now to discuss the day's top stories. Joining me live are Liberal Senator Eric Abetz. and Labor MP Alicia Payne MP. Great to see you both. Thank you so much for joining me this afternoon. Let's get straight into it. I want to begin with the Pfizer vaccine being approved for five to 11-year-olds. Eric Abetz, do you expect that there will be a significant uptake?
ERIC ABETZ, LIBERAL SENATOR FOR TASMANIA: That will be a decision for individual mums and dads to determine. The good news is that in that age cohort, we have not had any COVID deaths and it seems that children of that age are very resilient. That see individual mums and dads will make up their own minds and I suspect there'll be a fair take up.
DE GIORGIO: Yes, obviously, an individual decision. Alicia, do you expect that there will be a higher level of hesitancy when it comes to vaccinating children?
ALICIA PAYNE, MEMBER FOR CANBERRA: No, look, I think parents will really welcome this approval for children. I know many parents have been really hanging out and waiting for their children to be able to be vaccinated. We know that the virus seeks out the unvaccinated populations. And we're seeing that in the number of outbreaks that have centred around schools or daycares at the moment. And most parents I speak to are really keen to get their children vaccinated and it'll be great if they can do that before the school year returns next year. My children have under five so they're too young, but I really look forward to when I can get them vaccinated and protected against this virus.
DE GIORGIO: Yeah, absolutely. Well, that of course begins mid-January so one to watch for sure. Let's move on now to Australia's diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics. Eric Abetz, it has been criticised this week by some, like the West Australian premier Mark McGowan. Did Australia do the right thing?
ABETZ: Absolutely. We did the right thing and it was good to see the ALP come on board in that regard. I've been on this issue now for about 12 months seeking a diplomatic boycott by the freedom loving countries of the world. Joe Biden, Jacinda Ardern,  Lithuania, UK, Australia, there are now going to be more and more countries coming on board. Especially with the release today of the report by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC in the United Kingdom, who investigated the Uyghur situation in China, and has found beyond reasonable doubt that genocide is in fact being practised by the dictatorship. With those sorts of effects in our faces now, uncontradicted, there really is a need for the freedom loving countries of the world to take a stand. And with respect to the Western Australian Premier, just because you've got iron ore exports going there,  does not mean that you turn a blind eye to some of the most egregious human rights abuses in the world today.
DE GIORGIO: Senator, what do you think, though of China's response to this, they've essentially said that they don't care.
ABETZ: And look that is the sort of response you would expect from a belligerent dictatorship. But the only reason they seek to host the Olympics, is not because they love sport, it's for the propaganda value, especially internally where they can say to the people, look, we are the centre of world attention. All the leaders are coming to us because we can showcase the Olympics. And if the world leaders stay away, I think that people in Beijing and China will start asking, 'I wonder why that is'. The world is awake to what is going on behind the scenes in China under this dictatorship. And it will have an impact, but also importantly, it will provide very real saccharin comfort to the persecuted people. And it's not just the way the Uyghurs, it's the house Christian, the Falun Gong practitioners, the Tibetans, the Mongolians, the Hong Kong democracy movement, the Buddhists, the list goes on. And they will find great comfort in the fact that they have not been forgotten by all these countries around the world, including Australia.
DE GIORGIO: Alicia, do you think that there will be retaliation from the Chinese government because of this diplomatic boycotts?
PAYNE: Well, Labor is supportive of this decision by the government not to send officials or dignitaries to the Olympics, because we also are concerned about the ongoing human rights abuses in China. It's good to see standing with the international community with some of our allies like Canada, Britain, and the US in sending that message. I guess how China responds to that is a matter for them of course, but it is a shame to see relations as they are at the moment. between China and Australia, but I think this was an important message to be sent.
DE GIORGIO: Should Australia be doing more Alicia to try and mend relations?
PAYNE: Well, I think it's unfortunate that we've had some members of the government using language that has not been conducive to good relations. But it is important to take a stand on these ongoing human rights issues. And in not sending the dignitaries and officials that's making that statement. It is important that the athletes have been able to still compete, I think it would be unfair for them to pay the price after years of training for this event. So they'll still be going. But yes, Labor stands with the government on this decision.
DE GIORGIO: I want to move on to borders now a big week for Australia next week. Queensland set to reopen. Tasmania, of course, your home state Eric Abetz also to reopen to the rest of the country. Are we hopeful Eric Abetz for a normal Christmas?
ABETZ: I would like to think so I think that people are over it. They understood the flattening of the curve at the beginning and then they accepted that we wanted high vaccination rates. But I think people are now ready to get back to normal and if people can come together, families come together over the Christmas period, that will be a real boost to our social life, to family life, to personal confidence, and of course, their economic confidence. So a lot of benefits from opening up. Will there be some risks associated? Yes. But quite frankly, you can't stop living because you're scared of dying. You've got accept that we have to get on with life. And those countries that are doing it seem to be progressing well and having said that, Australia has hit such a fantastic record in this space that I think now is the right time to start reopening.
DE GIORGIO: How difficult do you think it will be, Alicia, for some of these states that have been largely COVID free like Queensland and Tasmania to welcome COVID back?
PAYNE: I do really feel for families that will be kept apart this Christmas by the WA border remaining closed. And it has been a really long two years for people and people are tired and now looking forward to getting back to normal. So I do really, really feel for people with loved ones in WA or people in WA who won't be able to get out to see their loved ones. But I would say it is consistent with, the Premier's decision is consistent with what he said all along about getting to 80% before opening up. And of course, if the vaccine rollout had been managed more effectively, people could have been vaccinated earlier on. But one silver lining could be that we could get to host the Ashes right here in Canberra and showcase our world class Manuka Oval which I think would be excellent. I'm sure Eric agrees.
ABETZ: Be very careful, I want it in Tasmania.
DE GIORGIO: Well, you both want it. Who do you think it's gonna get Eric Abetz? The Prime Minister was certainly talking up Tasmania as his pick.
ABETZ: Look, it's just such a pity that Alicia and I were on a bi-partisan ticket in relation to China. I just wish that she could have been in relation to Tasmania as well. But parochialism, pf course, kicks in for both of us. But I would like to think that the Bellerive Oval would be a very picturesque setting for an Ashes.
DE GIORGIO: Well, we might find out exactly who will be getting that test this weekend. We have to leave it there. Eric Abetz, Alicia Payne, good to see what a unity ticket on some things. Thank you for joining me.