By Tanya Plibersek

14 July 2021




SUBJECTS: Sydney lockdown; Remote learning; Scott Morrison’s vaccination failures; Southwest Sydney; Financial support during lockdown.

STEVE PRICE, HOST: Tanya Plibersek is the Shadow Education Minister. She joins us on the line. Also, of course, Member for Sydney right in the middle of the lockdown and the Covid pandemic. Tanya, good to catch up with you again.


PRICE: I'm okay. Now I need a bit of advice just before we get into the meaty subjects of the day all right?

PRICE: You're a regular on Q&A on the ABC. I've agreed to go on Thursday night. Can you give me some advice and some help on how I should handle myself?
PLIBERSEK: Steve, you and I have been on together and you did really well.
PRICE: Wasn't that the infamous night where I made a blue and said something I shouldn't have, and got bashed up for the next three weeks?
PLIBERSEK: Well, you did get in trouble but you certainly made your mark. 
PRICE: Thank you, Tanya. Okay, I'll try and be a little bit of behaved. As Education Minister very seriously, we've now got Sydney schools in the Greater Sydney area, Wollongong, Blue Mountains, again forced into at home learning. You've got children of your own who are having to do that. In particular for year 12 students this must be extremely hard. Have you got a handle on the impact it's having on families and students? 
PLIBERSEK: Yeah, it's really hard. Obviously, as Shadow Education Minister, I've been following this very closely, but also as a mum and talking to other parents, it's very hard on kids. It's very hard on families. Most parents are trying to work from home at the same time. You've got lost passwords, internet dropping out. Yesterday morning was bit of a nightmare getting back after school holidays, but hopefully day two will run a bit more smoothly. And Steve I have to tell you, when I was helping my youngest log on yesterday, I noticed that the last item that the teachers had posted was at 1:28am. So, thank you so much to all the teachers and the school staff who have been flogging themselves to get ready for the kids to go back to online learning. They are really, really heroes in this time.
PRICE: They do extraordinary work, they're great. And we also should pat on the back the parents of Sydney school students, who are keeping them at home. Because I mean, there is there is an out if you're an essential worker, obviously you can send your child to school. But most parents seem to be doing the right thing, as I can work out, Tanya and fitting in and trying to be part of part of the community to keep the children at home. Keep the pressure off the spread.
PLIBERSEK: Yeah and what we know about this Delta variant of Covid-19 is it's very, very transmissible and it seems to be affecting younger people as well as older people. So if you can keep your kids at home, obviously, it's better to do that. It's better for the kids and for the parents not having to get onto public transport, not having to turn up at the school gate. The more time we spend at home at a time like this, the better really. It's not possible for everyone. We've got to be understanding about that, it's not possible for everyone. But if you can please do.
PRICE: I was talking to Angelo Gavrielatos, the teachers' union boss yesterday and he's still pushing to get teachers vaccinated. I mean, I'm just amazed that - like the rest of the vaccination roll out that has not been well-handled by anybody - teachers who are on the front line. Most of them have not been given priority to vaccinations. Can you believe that?
PLIBERSEK: No, I can't. I can't believe teachers are unvaccinated but have a look at aged care workers and disability support workers. I mean it is a disaster. The very low rates of vaccination for frontline workers. Even I mean, look, let's face it, the driver who took that international air crew, picked up the Delta variant, started the spread in the Eastern suburbs. I mean, how can it be that people who are picking up international travellers are not vaccinated? I guess it just blows me away. Australia now, what are we? eight per cent of our population fully vaccinated, eight people out of every 100 fully vaccinated. 

Around the world, countries like us are well over half, you know, 60 per cent of their population fully vaccinated. That's what we need if we want to get life anything like back to normal. We're not going to get back to normal until we get vaccinated. We should have had more deals, with more companies to get more jabs into more people's arms. We should be making these more sophisticated styles of vaccine, the mRNA vaccine, like Pfizer, here in Australia. We've got the scientists, we've got the doctors, we're great at manufacturing medicines and medical devices. For goodness sake, after all this time, why aren't we making our own vaccines here? And we've got to get out of this dumb idea that hotels built for tourists are going to be safe to hold people who've got this this very transmissible virus. We've seen 26 outbreaks coming from hotel quarantine into the community now.
PRICE: You know south-west Sydney pretty much as well as anybody even though your seat is inner Sydney, now Fairfield, I spoke to their Mayor Frank Carbone earlier in the program. No communication whatsoever yesterday from Brad Hazzard, the Health Minister or the New South Wales Government before they announced that anyone who works in Fairfield had to go and get a Covid test within 72 hours, prove the result before they could leave that LGA to go to work, where they could work 10, 15, 20 kilometres away. Chaos overnight, queues, people sleeping in their cars, people in queues for six hours. I mean, how can the communication between a State Government and the local government area be so non-existent in a decision as important as that?
PLIBERSEK: It's really disappointing. I had my sixth or seventh Covid test a few days ago, and there was one car in front of me in the queue in Mascot. It is just not good enough to have people waiting - I think six hours you reported earlier today. Six hours waiting, people getting up at 3:00 in the morning I heard in your interview, it's just terrible.
PRICE: Well at the Fairfield showgrounds, they only have got four nurses operating for all of the people sitting in the car waiting to get tested. Four.
PLIBERSEK: I think we had four at Mascot and there was one car in front of me, surely we can do better for the people of Fairfield have been thrown this really difficult challenge.
PRICE: That financial package announced yesterday, Canberra now looks like it committed to aiding any state that goes into a lockdown longer than three weeks. Of what you've seen of the cash attached to that, is that going to be enough to prop up small businesses in particular, and keep people in jobs?
PLIBERSEK: The first thing to say is, we wouldn't be having this conversation if we got the vaccination rates up, and we got the roll-out of the vaccine done properly, and we had proper federally run, purpose-built, quarantine facilities. But setting that aside, this money is absolutely desperately needed by many people. If you can't go to work, you still need a roof over your head and food on the table. So yes, of course, we welcome any financial support for workers and for businesses. We've got to make sure that if businesses are getting support that they keep people on. The good thing about the original design of JobKeeper is that it was very closely related to keeping people on the books. So please businesses, if you're going to take this financial support, make sure you're passing it on to your workforce and keeping people on the books. 

We know if you lose a job at a time like this, it's much harder to get a job again. One other thing I'd say Steve, we have seen in the past, some businesses that have had record profits, that have nevertheless taken support from the Government because they've kind of qualified on a technicality. Really have a think about whether you need need to take this support because our grandkids will be paying for it one day.
PRICE: Just an update, one new acquired local case in Victoria overnight. Just before you go, you must be quite bemused at the budding friendship between your old boss, Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull.
PLIBERSEK: Well I think of them both as good friends of mine, I'm not surprised they like each other Steve. 
PRICE: Yeah. Okay, we'll leave it at that, I think. Thank you Tanya, I'll try and behave myself on Q&A tomorrow night. Thanks a lot.
PLIBERSEK: Best of luck, see you.