By Tanya Plibersek

27 May 2021



THURSDAY, 27 MAY 2021 

SUBJECTS: Victorian lockdown; Government’s mismanagement of Covid; Aged care; Vaccine hesitancy.

ALAN JONES, HOST: Let's go do our female panel. They need no introduction, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells and Tanya Plibersek. Can I just represent to you both though, the anger that people are feeling tonight as we are back on the lockdown roundabout. I should say to you, I'm tired of quoting world authorities on lockdowns, but perhaps Michael Levitt will do, Nobel Prize winner, Professor of Biophysics at Stanford University. Who said, quote 'the level of stupidity going on here is amazing. Lockdowns are a huge mistake' - a Nobel Prize winner. A stack of similar academics are saying the same. Yet we now have all of Victoria in lockdown, WA - a hard border, Tasmania's banned anyone coming from Victoria from 2:00pm today. Some bloke down there has called Victoria a high-risk area. 26 cases in a population of 6.5 million, one is in intensive care. Northern Territory, Queensland, New South Wales - the same. No weddings, university study from home, hotels, clubs, casinos closed. The cost of this is astonishing. Small business, I can't believe it, and the decisions made by people, I say to you both, who continue to collect their pay. Tanya Plibersek, you're a former Deputy Leader. Your current Deputy asked the Prime Minister yesterday in Question Time whether Australia would be safe if the government had built a better quarantine system. In the answer, the Prime Minister said, quote 'I'm not going to attack the states, I'm going to thank the states'. Who would we be thanking tonight for these failures?
TANYA PLIBERSEK MP, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN: Well, Alan, I don't blame people for being angry. I think we've had 15 months now to sort out our national quarantine system, to sort out safer quarantine, it looks like this was brought from South Australia by someone who caught Covid-19 in hotel quarantine, that's what it looks like. If we'd sorted out hotel quarantine, that wouldn't have happened, and if we'd sort it out our vaccination program. We've got half of Americans fully vaccinated, in Australia that that's about 2 per cent, only two in every hundred people. So if we'd got quarantine right and we got vaccination right - if the federal government had done its job properly, I don't think we would be looking at this new lockdown. I'm not surprised that people are upset and angry.
JONES: Well Concetta, let me take up that point, let me take that point up that Tanya Plibersek has made. We've had 15 months to work out how to manage all of this. Now, the Prime Minister said today he's been in touch with the Victorian Acting Premier and he's offered the support of the federal government and he backs Victoria. Do you understand the anger that's out there, Concetta?
CONCETTA FIERRVANTI-WELLS, LIBERAL SENATOR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES: I do, I do Alan. I do understand the anger that is out there. National Cabinet was set up to facilitate cooperation between the states and the Commonwealth. But what I think is increasingly happening is that the Commonwealth has forfeited control, and this is the perception, that the Commonwealth has forfeited control to the states. The states and territories are embarking on their own programs and increasingly the Commonwealth is being blamed. Certainly, there are problems at a federal level, but increasingly I think the Commonwealth is being blamed for the problems that are happening, including those problems that are happening at the state level. 
PLIBERSEK: Connie, that is pretty unfair. Quarantine is a federal government responsibility.

JONES: It is a federal government responsibility.

PLIBERSEK: Our national borders are a federal government responsibility.

JONES: It is. 

PLIBERSEK: And the vaccine program - Scott Morrison was very keen to take credit when he thought it was going to run smoothly and the minute there's a problem, he runs a mile, 'I don't hold a hose mate'. No wonder people are furious about this. We've got 29 aged care homes in Victoria that haven't had their vaccinations yet. These vulnerable people. Why not? Why not?
JONES: Well Concetta it's true, I mean, in Question Time today, a Member of Parliament asked about a Jewish aged care facility in his electorate and they had had no vaccinations. And the Prime Minister's response was: 'Oh they'll get both doses tomorrow'. To be fair to the Prime Minister, I suppose that was the advice he received, Josh Burns came back and said: 'I'm sorry, the aged care facility says it won't be tomorrow'. Concetta, this is just staggering.
FIERRAVANTI WELLS: Well Alan, we've had this discussion before and I agree that the vaccine roll-out has had some major problems. Having said that, Greg Hunt this evening was saying that he believed that about 99 per cent of aged care facilities had been vaccinated but I do agree, they were the most vulnerable and should have been done sooner. Now bearing in mind though that in Victoria, some of the aged care facilities are under the state jurisdiction, but having said that, in the end Australians just want to get vaccinated and they want to see the vaccine rolled out as quickly as possible. 
JONES: But where is there an advertising campaign, Concetta, or both of you? Like I mentioned earlier how in Ohio, the state's offering the chance to win a full scholarship to a young person at the university, if you're vaccinated, your name goes in the hat and you'll win a full scholarship. Where is the federal government going hammer and tongs to encourage vaccination, Tanya?
PLIBERSEK: Well I think it's a big gap. I was actually at Club Redfern in my electorate on the way here tonight Alan, and a young man stopped me. He'd obviously been getting all of his information from the internet. He was full of all sorts of conspiracy theories about the vaccine. I'm going to be going and having my first job tomorrow because I'm in the age group now that's eligible. But we do need just a proper advertising campaign and the amazing thing is - this government has spent a billion dollars on advertising since being elected and they haven't managed to do a decent job on the one advertising campaign that really matters that will help keep people safe, that will help open up our economy. 
JONES: Absolutely. Yep. Well, Concetta, I mean, shouldn't the government be telling us how many Australians will need to be vaccinated before our borders will reopen? How many Australians are already vaccinated? And we're not told any of this stuff. Everything seems to be a secret, Concetta.
FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Well, Alan, I think that certainly there has been confusion, there's been hesitancy and whilst it's important for people to consult with their GPs and that's been the advice, the reality is and I think Ross Greenwood said this on Sky recently: in the face of this hesitancy, I think that unless Australians are given the option to choose the vaccine, choose the jab that they want, I don't think we're going to deal with this hesitancy and I think that's really where it's coming down to. 
JONES: Well I hope-
FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: You may have as much vaccine out there as you possibly can, but if Australians are going to hesitate, you've got to give them that choice. 
JONES: Well look, I hope I hope, something is said before we meet next week. We've run out of time Tanya, I'm sorry. But look, thank you both for your input. 
PLIBERSEK: All right. No worries.
JONES: I mean, this is a critical stuff, critical stuff, but we'll talk again next week. Thank you both for your time tonight. It's much appreciated, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells and Tanya Plibersek.