By Tanya Plibersek

27 January 2022


SUBJECTS: Labor’s plan to help kids bounce back from COVID; Return to School; Vaccination rollout.
SCOTT EMERSON, HOST: And for the first time in 2022, we are joined by the Federal Shadow Minister for Education and Shadow Minister for Women, Tanya Plibersek. How are you, Tanya?
TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW EDUCATION MINISTER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN: I'm great Scott, how are you? How was your Christmas and New Year? 
EMERSON: It was sensational, great to be back here on air with all our 4BC Drive listeners. Now you're back doing the work as well. I did see that Anthony Albanese. and of course you're part of this announcement, that you're saying that a Labor government, obviously, if elected at the election this year, will invest $440 million into schools as part of a plan to help Australian kids bounce back after COVID. $440 million. What would that be spent on?
PLIBERSEK: This is absolutely about helping our kids recover from what's been a pretty disrupted two years of learning. So part of the money will go to building upgrades, better ventilation, making sure that the windows and doors can open and shut and let the air flow through. Outdoor learning areas where that's appropriate, better air conditioning and air filters. So, it's working with states and territories to make sure that the physical environment of our schools is safe for kids and school staff to return to. Working with the states and territories to do that. And then there's another part of this $440 million which is really focused on kids wellbeing - their social and emotional wellbeing. Because of course they've missed out on learning, they've missed out on maths, reading, writing, science, and all the rest of it. But for a lot of kids, they've missed out on so much more. They've missed out on making friends, school sport, the extracurricular stuff - and a lot of parents are reporting to us, particularly in the states where there was very long periods of remote learning, that their kids’ wellbeing has really suffered. So about half goes to physically upgrading our schools and about half goes to those wellbeing programs. So we can use that for things like psychologists or counsellors in schools, or simpler things like taking the kids on a camp or doing more sport just so they can reconnect. 
EMERSON: Now we are seeing in Victoria and New South Wales, kids are going back to school on time. Here in Queensland, school has been delayed by two weeks for those from prep to Year 10. You talk then about how important is to get kids education in there. Well, that doesn't help their education by having another two weeks of holidays here in Queensland, surely?
PLIBERSEK: No, I mean we are keen to see kids back in the classrooms as soon as it's safe for them to be there. And that's the key here - we've got to keep taking the advice from our health experts and our scientists about when it's safe for the kids and school staff to return. I think, obviously, it would be easier for kids to return safely if we had more access to rapid antigen tests. I don't know if you've gone out and tried to buy one recently either -
EMERSON: They are hard to get, I have no doubt about that Tanya. But at the point I was making there was Tanya was that -
PLIBERSEK: Sorry, this is important too. The vaccine rollout. A lot of doctors were actually booking an appointment for kids and then having to ring and cancel with parents because the paediatric vaccines hadn't arrived. So it is important to get these things in place so that kids can return as safely as possible. 
EMERSON: Well, if you say it’s important to get the kids’ education and get them back, why is it okay for kids to go back to school in New South Wales and in Victoria on time, but here in Queensland the option was we'll just delay getting back to school for two weeks? It's either safe or it isn't. Which one do you back? New South Wales and Victoria, or Queensland? 
PLIBERSEK: Well, I'm sending my kids to school next week, cause that's the advice that we're following in New South Wales, but I'm not going to get in between state governments and their medical advisors. We really have been served best when we've followed the medical advice. We’ve gone out and gotten vaccinated - when we follow the medical advice we do better than when you have politicians and radio commentators making it up as we go along. 
EMERSON: Now National Cabinet did meet today, in a virtual meeting of course, we're seeing a little bit come out of that. Obviously one of the topics was supply chain shortages, but I did see also that there was talk about whether there should be a change to the definition of what is fully vaccinated - whether that should be now defined as having not just your first two jabs but also a booster as well. Would you like to see a change to that definition? 
PLIBERSEK: Look I think all Australians should go out and get their booster as soon as they're able to. I got mine as soon as I was able to, I couldn't wait because we know that the people who are getting the sickest, the ones who are ending up in hospital or even dying, are more likely to be either unvaccinated or under vaccinated. I think the sooner people follow the advice to get their booster shot, the sooner things get back to normal. And that's what we all desperately want. It is possible that we'll have more variants down the track. It's possible that we'll have further boosters down the track. We have to be open to that as a country because, you know, it's so tragic that we're losing people every day to this terrible virus and the best way to protect ourselves is to get vaccinated. 
EMERSON: Alright Tanya Plibersek. Great to have you back on the show. We'll catch you again next week. 
PLIBERSEK: It's a pleasure to talk to you, and Happy New Year to you Scott.