By Tanya Plibersek

30 September 2021



SUBJECTS: Recognising the achievements of women; Leppington Triangle; Vaccination requirements.
ALAN JONES, HOST: Well let’s go to our two ladies - Concetta and Tanya. Firstly Concetta, I want to congratulate you on your outstanding piece of writing in this anthology of essays that we've been talking about: 'Australia Tomorrow', where Concetta asks a simple question, which I'm sure her political opponents are asking of the Liberal Party, 'where to now?' You can get your copy of this magnificent anthology - 38 essays, including a brilliant piece by the man you've just heard, Matt Canavan, 'Is it time we talked about nuclear power?' Just go to the website, it's all there. New South Wales Woman of the Year, Concetta, should a man be the New South Wales Woman of the Year?
CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS, SENATOR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES: Alan, before I answer your question, welcome back and thank you for your kind words about my essay. I don't agree with the decision. People do care, because they see it as an insidious push by the noisy, woke left undermining the very fabric of our society. I think the pendulum has swing too far to the left under this pretence of inclusion.
JONES: Well, Tanya, what do you think? I mean, my view is the New South Wales Government should get into the ring, change and stop this nonsense. What's your view?
TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN: Well, I guess that's a matter for the New South Wales Government, Alan, but I honestly don't stay awake at night thinking about this stuff. My days are taken up worrying about the health of my constituents, worrying about whether they've got a job, worrying about whether their businesses are going to fold -
JONES: But I want you to have a view on this, Tanya. I want you to have a view on this. What do you reckon?
PLIBERSEK: I don't want anyone to be discriminated against, but I also would say that historically, the achievements of women have been undervalued and underrated.
JONES: Correct, correct.
PLIBERSEK: In fact my biggest effort in recent years has been to make sure that our Australian Honours system actually achieves something closer to gender equality in the awards of Australian Honours. It used to be about 30 per cent, now it's about 40 per cent, that's good, that's progress.
JONES: I agree with you entirely - trying to get more recognition for women and here's an award which wants to erase them. Concetta, do you agree with the Prime Minister when he was asked whether Australia was to woke - breastfeeding is chest-feeding, a mother doesn't exist she's the birthing parent, poor old dad's only a co-parent or the second biological parent. The Prime Minister was asked whether we're too woke, he says: 'who cares. I just want people in jobs and I want them healthy'. Do you think, Concetta, people care?
FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: They do care, Alan. As I said, they a care because they see this as an insidious push undermining the very fabric of our society, and I know that a lot of people do care about this.
JONES: Absolutely, I think a lot of people out there do. Tanya, just a quick one, there was all this debate last year and we talked on this program about it, about the purchase of this lump of landed Badgery's Creek, it’s called the Leppington Triangle, from the private sector for $30 million and the Auditor-General valued the sale of land at $3 million. Now, the federal police inquiry that started in July 2020 announced yesterday there was no suggestion of improper conduct, no Commonwealth officials broke the law and it also found there was no suggestion that 'Ministers or MPs were involved in the purchase'. Tanya, do bureaucrats go around willy-nilly spending $30 million on something that's worth $3 million and there's nothing odd about this?
PLIBERSEK: Well, first of all, I don't think you have to break the law to do the wrong thing. This is plainly a government that's paid 10 times over the value of the land. And Paul Fletcher, the Minister, did annotate the brief. I mean, the Minister did sign off on it, he wrote something like 'seems sensible to me'. I think if this looks sensible to the Minister Paul Fletcher, he's dreaming. And it's not just this, Alan, it's the $13 billion we've paid in JobKeeper to companies that actually saw their profits go up during COVID. It's the sports rorts, the carpark rorts, it's waste - it's so much waste when we know where that money should be going. I mean Pfizer offered to vaccinate every Australian for $1 billion and the Government said, 'no, that's too much', but they could find $13 billion dollars to give to profitable companies in job subsidies.
JONES: I agree with you. I want to take this vaccination issue to both of you. Just let me show you this clip of the Prime Minister last month in a clear and unambiguous statement.
SCOTT MORRISON, PRIME MINISTER: The vaccination program in Australia is free and it is not mandatory. That is a very important principle. We are not going to seek to impose a mandatory vaccination program by the government by stealth. That is not what we're going to do. It is important that Australians know that we are not going to seek to impose a mandatory vaccination program in this country by some other means.
JONES: Well, there we are, a month later Victoria's Chief Health Officer last week, Brett Sutton, shut the lunch rooms on Victoria's building sites, ordered at least one jab before being allowed to work and you saw what followed. Concetta – first, vaccination is it compulsory or not? People are terribly confused. I said this in March, this may be the biggest industrial relations issue in the country. It shouldn't be left to employers to determine the appropriate course of action, Concetta?
FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Well, they should not be compulsory. This is a legal quagmire, Alan. Navigating the constitutional competencies of both the Commonwealth and the states and territories is a really difficult issue. Now, it would appear that the states have the power to both mandate vaccination and introduce vaccination passports. And in effect, it would be an extension of the requirements we've seen for the QR coding, but at the Commonwealth level, the situation is perhaps not very clear.
JONES: Hmm. But Tanya, nationally, 54 per cent - I'm talking double vax, nationally. I'll just run through them: nationally 54, New South Wales 64, Victoria 49, this is today, Queensland 46, Tasmania 58, WA 46, South Australia 49 in the Northern Territory 52. Now, the Prime Minister says it's not mandatory, that it should be free, and it should be free and it shouldn't be compulsory. But outfits like SPC, Qantas, Telstra, Crown, Racing Victoria they're saying staff must be vaccinated, and it's being said that the Berejiklian Government is sacking thousands of teachers, police officers and other public servants, who want to make their own health, vaccination choices. Simple question, Tanya. These are your people that normally vote Labor. Do you support these sorts of sackings?
PLIBERSEK: Well, I think it's fair enough for employers to say if you work with vulnerable people, you need to be vaccinated. Now, that's not making vaccinations mandatory. It's just saying that for some jobs this is the requirement. I've got a mother-in-law who's in a nursing home. I don't want her being looked after by people who might bring COVID into that nursing home, when all of us are working so hard to keep her safe.
JONES: But there are only two kinds of people in the workforce, won't there be? There will be the vaccinated and unvaccinated. So, how are the vaccinated at risk from the unvaccinated because they've been vaccinated?
PLIBERSEK: Well, because with any vaccine Alan, there is always a chance that you will still get the Illness. You'll get less symptoms, you won't end up in ICU, you will end up much less likely to die. But having only vaccinated people around people whose health is vulnerable is really important. And Alan, you talk about making your own choices, right? I've got a right to go outside and smoke if I want to, I can kill myself smoking if I want, but I can't work in a bar and smoke near my colleagues and smoke near the patrons and make them sick from my sidestream smoke. So yes, you have choices, but choices have consequences.
JONES: So I just want to - I understand everything people are saying, I think this is very, very complicated and it's very confusing and my correspondence suggests that. And Concetta can I just say to you, for example, are we turning restaurateurs into the police force? So, come Freedom day whenever it is, the double vaccinated can go to the restaurant, the unvaccinated can't. So is someone standing at the entrance to the restaurant to manhandle people to demand that they show proof? I have no idea. And people are writing to me and I can't answer the question. How do you implement this?
FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Well, you’re correct that we don't know yet how that's going to be done. We know that these issues are being canvassed by the courts, but ultimately it goes back to the point that I said before, it will be those political constraints that will likely be more relevant than the Constitutional ones. And I have to say, it didn't surprise me at all to see Boris Johnson backing away from vaccine passports, because I really don't think that they're going to be tolerated by the Australian public.
JONES: I agree. See Tanya the three of us have said now for months, you know, get vaccinated, get vaccinated - but the reality is a hundred percent won't be. I'm just concerned that for whatever reason, whether people are frightened of needles or mum said you shouldn't or whatever, they are not. And I'm just wondering when they go to go into Bunnings, is someone going to get their hands behind their back and shove them out. I don't understand how this works Tanya?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think it is putting a lot of responsibility onto individual businesses, and individual employers. And I think it would be much better if the Prime Minister showed some real leadership here and said, ‘yeah this is what we expect of people, we want people to get vaccinated, these are the consequences if you're not prepared to protect your own health and the health of people around you by getting vaccinated’. You're right Alan, there's a tiny minority of people who for a medical reason might not be able to be vaccinated. But for everybody else is just saying I can't be bothered, I don't want to do, I think for those people it's fair enough that there are consequences. They can't shut down other peoples’ business. 
JONES: No, you can't you can't buy a car. You can't buy a car and say, well, I'm not going to get a license. I understand all that, I think we all do. I'm just wondering what awful mess we're creating for an employer who's left with the decision as to how these people should handle things. And I think it should be a national -
PLIBERSEK: I was going to say, in Bunnings, you gave as an example, Bunnings has kind of got the staff that, I know it's terrible having to have one person full time checking as people are coming in the door. But think about the small business that's got one person on the cash register with a customer walking through the door or three customers walking in the door, so hard for them to know what to do.
JONES: We've got to go. It's good to talk to you both, thank you for your insights. Keep at it, we'll try and just take one step at a time, and we'll see you next week. Now, Tanya I know you're away next week, but we'll see her the week after that.