By Tanya Plibersek

19 August 2021




SUBJECTS: Afghanistan; Vaccine rollout; Labor’s plan to tackle COVID-19.

RITA PANAHI, HOST: And now to our Political Panel. We are joined by Liberal New South Wales Senator, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, and the Shadow Minister for Women, Tanya Plibersek. Ladies, thank you for your time tonight. Let's start with Afghanistan. Tanya, I'll start with you. Should we recognise the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN: Look, I think many Afghan Australians, our Defence personnel as well, are going to find it very difficult to do that. This is a brutal terrorist regime. Last time they were in power, we spent 20 years fighting them and, as your previous guest was talking about, the early signs are that the repression will be back with the Taliban. So I think it will be, I think it'll be very difficult to do that. The international community will have to work very hard to try and support some human rights in Afghanistan. But if I were a betting person, I wouldn't be betting money that this will be a government that the West will feel comfortable dealing with.

PANAHI: Now, let's move on to local issues. Today we saw another record number, 681 cases in New South Wales. If New South Wales continues to vaccinate, will they get out of lockdown anytime soon, Concetta? Could they possibly remain in lockdown until they reach their 70 or 80 per cent target? 

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS, SENATOR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES: I suspect not Rita. I think that there is a legitimate concern that the Commonwealth's responsibilities have now been abrogated to Premiers and Chief Ministers, and clearly the language that's being used by the Premiers is about suppression and zero cases, but eradication of the virus is not possible. It will continue to mutate like the flu does every year and sadly, whilst we hear the peddling of the line that we have to learn to live with the virus, regrettably what we are seeing is that lockdown is the default position.

PANAHI: Well, it has been the default position and Tanya, it doesn't seem to be working, certainly not in New South Wales if their case numbers are any indication. What would Labor do differently and what do Federal Labor, what would be your roadmap out of this crisis for the country? 

PLIBERSEK: Well, we've been very clear that what we would have done differently is have more deals for more vaccines to get more jabs in more people's arms sooner, which would mean we wouldn't be facing this second wave of lockdowns with the Delta variant in the way that we are at the moment. We would have had purpose-built quarantine facilities instead of relying on hotels, which are built for tourists, not sick people with a very, very transmissible virus. We need to be looking at how we manufacture the Pfizer-style mRNA vaccines here in Australia, and we have to get the information out there to get more people vaccinated. And, of course, we've said we're happy to put $300 on the table for every person who actually gets vaccinated. We know that vaccination is a hugely important part of protecting Australia from the worst effects of the virus. Now, you're talking about mutations and new strains - of course, that's a risk, that's very, very likely to happen in the future. What we know is that vaccinated people are less susceptible to the worst effects, including dying, from COVID-19.

PANAHI: We do know that Concetta and we know that hospitalisations drop when your vaccination rate is higher. Do you think that's where the country has fundamentally gone wrong, that our rollout started too late and too slowly? 

FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Look, I know that there has been issues with the vaccine rollout. I know that there have been issues with supply. Having said that, the Commonwealth has to take responsibility for those. But we now have supply, we now have a diversity of vaccines available to the general public. And I'm hopeful that people, now that they do have choice, will go out and vaccinate. I know that in the end -

PANAHI: Absolutely, and they are. I mean, the good news today was we had more than 300,000 jabs in the last 24 hours. So we're getting there but too slowly for our liking. Tanya and Concetta, thank you so much for your time this evening. 

FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Thanks very much.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you Rita. Good night.