By Tanya Plibersek

21 July 2021




SUBJECTS: 12 million Australians locked down; Brisbane Olympics bid; Scott Morrison’s Covid-19 Failures; School reports.

SCOTT EMERSON, HOST: This time of the week we're always joined by the Shadow Minister for Education and Shadow Minister for Women, Tanya Plibersek. How are you, Tanya? 


EMERSON: Oh I know, at least try to be a bit up for the moment. How are you finding it down there in New South Wales? The numbers today, they didn't look good especially those in terms of those who are moving around in the community.

PLIBERSEK: That's the real worry isn't it? That people before they know they're infectious are out there and potentially passing on this very infectious Delta strain of Covid-19. So we're obviously urging people to stay home, if they possibly can get tested when they need to. If they've got the slightest symptoms, or if they're in one of those high-risk areas, local government areas and really to be able to do that, we need to get the income support right. Because of course, what's driving people to keep walking out their front door, is having to put food on the table and keep a roof over the heads of their families. Making sure that income support is available is so critical to getting the health response right.

EMERSON: Well we've got at the moment, I think I saw 12 million Australians are currently in lockdown. 

PLIBERSEK: Yeah, it's incredible isn't it? It's almost half the country. 

EMERSON: Yeah look, I do feel for people that especially up here obviously we look down south in the moment and we think a lot of focus here, obviously on tonight's announcement were expecting Brisbane to be named as the host city for the 2032 games. 

PLIBERSEK: Fingers crossed!

EMERSON: I hope so, maybe a little bit of brightness for Australia with that announcement. I know it probably doesn't cheer too many people up in lockdown in Sydney, or in Victoria, or in South Australia.

PLIBERSEK: We'll be super happy for you if it happens, we've got to have something to look forward to as a nation, right? We need hope beyond the pandemic, hope for new jobs and hope for a swift economic recovery, and hope for things like this to look forward to. 

EMERSON: I saw the Prime Minister's press conference happened this afternoon. He is obviously under fire from a lot of journos about what's been happening in terms of vaccination roll out. He said, look, no one's done this job perfect, but he did refuse to apologise for any delays in the vaccination roll out. Should he have apologised? 

PLIBERSEK: Yeah, he should have. Because half the country is in lockdown. You look at countries like us - as wealthy as Australia, as advanced as Australia - and they are half vaccinated or more in some cases. We are at the bottom of the table when it comes to the vaccine roll out and we said all along, the Opposition, Labor said all along, we need to be doing more deals with more companies so we can get more jabs in people's arms. We know that the vaccination program is missing its target by millions of jabs. And we've also got this problem with the hotel quarantine, I think we've had now 26 outbreaks of Covid-19 from hotel quarantine. We haven't got quarantine right. We haven't got vaccines right. And that is 100 per cent Scott Morrison's job. 

EMERSON: But if you look at it compared to the rest of the world what we have got right, clearly is the fact that in terms of the number of people who have been infected by coronavirus, sadly, the number of people who have died, we have had less than a thousand here in Australia and that number is so much less than what other countries have experienced. 

PLIBERSEK: That is absolutely right. And the fact that we've held on to these outbreaks in the way that we have is really something for Australians to be proud of. But it also comes with a lot of criticism of the Premiers who've had to make those decisions. Labor, Liberal - they've all copped it for making the decisions to lockdown, but that's what saved lives. We look at the UK now they're talking about removing all of their restrictions, record numbers of infections, still very high death rates. The US is the same and they've got more people vaccinated, but because the Delta strain of this virus is so very infectious, they're still seeing very high rates of transmission and illness and death. So yes, there are good things about the response. I've got to say mostly because the decisions taken by the Premiers. But those two things, the vaccination roll out and quarantine - we have stuffed it. 

EMERSON: You're the Shadow Minister for Education, Tanya Plibersek, in Queensland the teachers’ union is pushing for teachers no longer to write comments in report cards. Do you support having comments in report cards or not?

PLIBERSEK: I love the comments. I look forward to the comments more than anything. I want to know that the teacher really gets my kid and understands and hopefully likes, that's not always the case, but hopefully likes my child, and most importantly understands where they need to try harder, do better, where they need a bit of extra help. But I do have sympathy for teachers because what they're trying to do is spend more time face to face with kids and less time writing reports, crunching data, doing the paperwork. So I understand that we need to have a balance here. I think making sure that parents and teachers are working together and communicating well for the best interests of the child. Hopefully, that's what we all want. And with a bit of give-and-take, we can get to a sensible spot. 

EMERSON: What was the typical comment on your report cards when you were at school? 

PLIBERSEK: Talks too much.

EMERSON: How did I pick that?

PLIBERSEK: Would do better if she listened more!

EMERSON: All right, Tanya Plibersek we'll take a note of that and make a note back to your parents about that. Great to talk to you. Catch you again next week. 

PLIBERSEK: Lovely to talk to you.