By Tanya Plibersek

26 April 2021


MONDAY, 26 APRIL 2021 

SUBJECTS: Perth lockdown; border closures; hotel quarantine; vaccine rollout; Newspoll; public holidays
KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: Shadow Minister for Education and Training, Tanya Plibersek, and Scott Emerson from 4BC join us now, nice to see you. Some of us have a public holiday, others don't. We'll get to that debate in a little bit but first of all Tanya, I did think we're all in this together. I mean, could we be further apart this morning?
TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN: I think Mark McGowan's right to ask questions about how quarantine and our borders are being operated. It is a real shame to see this outbreak again, but the reality is, of course, that things aren't going to get back to normal until we've got a fully vaccinated population and we're running way behind. This is a federal government responsibility, along with aged care that was such a disaster, along with the COVID tracing app. We've got to get our borders right.
STEFANOVIC: We have to get our borders right. I can't quite fathom, and given the situation in India, two million cases in a week, how we haven't closed the borders to India when we close the borders - when Queensland can close the border to WA.
PLIBERSEK: It's very hard to understand some of these decisions, but the other point that Mark's making, that we've been making for ages, is that if we can have quarantine facilities outside our major cities and we know that the federal government's had advice that we can do this. We should be doing it.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, I'll get into that in just a second as well, but Scott, just on that India situation, I know a lot of people - including the Premier in Queensland - are supporting that notion, that we should perhaps at least be looking at closing the border to India this morning?
SCOTT EMERSON, JOURNALIST: Well look, it doesn't make sense to me that we can have someone go over for a wedding to India and come back. We had the situation, and you would have reported on this endlessly Karl, about people couldn't get to funerals, couldn't get to weddings, when we had lockdowns here and restrictions here in Australia. The idea that someone's able to go over to wedding in India where it's out of control and then come back, caused all these problems now in WA. I don't think it's acceptable and I think the public would say it just doesn't pass the pub test.
STEFANOVIC: It is an awful situation in India. We're not denying that, but in order to keep our borders safe, hotel quarantine is the next phase of that - 40 per cent of people testing positive from India at the moment coming into our country - so it's a situation that probably needs addressing. Overall Peter Dutton says hotel quarantine here is the best possible option, but you say that's not the case, Tanya?
PLIBERSEK: I think hotel quarantine for the most part has worked quite well, but a lot of the reasons that we've had lockdowns, the Victorian lockdowns, again now in Perth, has been because of hotel quarantine, because someone in the hotel has got the virus, it's escaped out into the community - often through people working in the hotel. It's obviously better if we can use those big facilities in remote locations that have been pointed out to the federal government. They've known about this as an option for ages, they've just have decided not to act on it.
STEFANOVIC: But you'd be spending the money on it?
PLIBERSEK: There's two things we need to do to get things back to normal. It's get the population fully vaccinated, we've dropped the ball on that, and it's to get our hotel quarantine right so that Australians who are stuck overseas can get home. We've still got about 40,000 Australians on the waiting list to get home. It's just not good enough.
STEFANOVIC: Scott, they also closed the Queensland border with WA obviously. These poor people on this Virgin flight, I can't fathom how angry I'd be, to get delayed because of technical issues first of all on the flight, they end up six hours late, five-hour flight on top of that, arrive in Brisbane to have missed the deadline by an hour and a half, and end up in quarantine for two weeks. Imagine that with the kids. Wow.
EMERSON: And the only salve to this is you won't have to pay for the quarantine. I mean it's just ridiculous Karl. Look it wasn't their fault. They've done everything right, they've got on the plane that should have been there. Surely there would have been some sort of sense come into it here and say: ‘look you've, missed the deadline by a couple of hours, not because of your own fault. You're supposed to be there’, it would have made no difference. In fact, those people now in the hotel potentially are at more risk of catching COVID now, than would have been out there at being at home.
STEFANOVIC: That's the problem isn't it? And there is a perception problem now with quarantine as well.
PLIBERSEK: Yeah that's right.
STEFANOVIC: As well as being realistic that that's where you're most likely to get it.
PLIBERSEK: Yeah, well particularly with these really virulent strains that we're seeing now like the South African strain, it seems that it can spread in hotel quarantine. I'd feel so sorry for these people. I'd be so dirty if I were them.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, looking at the latest Newspoll this morning too Tanya, looks like the PM's back, Albo's in trouble again, it's just a big cycle washing machine, isn't it?
PLIBERSEK: I learnt quite a while ago not to pay too much attention to polls.
STEFANOVIC: Come on, you all pay attention to the polls.
PLIBERSEK: Well they have been wrong before, let's just say that. I really do think that when people see the vision that we've got for a stronger economy, a fairer country, I think they'll get on board.
STEFANOVIC: I thought Scott Morrison had a disaster of a few weeks and then he's managed to come back.
PLIBERSEK: It hasn’t looked too crash hot to me either.
STEFANOVIC: There we are.
PLIBERSEK: There you go.
STEFANOVIC: No murmurings, no positioning?
PLIBERSEK: I think it does show that the polls - you just take it with a grain of salt.
STEFANOVIC: Okay. I'll remember that. I remember that. What about you Scott? What do you reckon?
EMERSON: Oh look, Labor doesn't pay any attention to the polls except when it's looking good for Albo and then they're very focused on them, at least internally, and of course I think the bottom line of the polls, he's come back a little bit, not where he was, but the importance of the last couple of polls is it's obviously ruled out an election this year. We're probably a year away from the election now and that's probably good for Albo because, you know, you go back to earlier in the year but, the dogs are running about Albo's leadership.
STEFANOVIC: Not sure. One final question and one that's going to be debated at the next election hotly. Why they have public holidays in some states vis-à-vis Queensland and not in New South Wales. Tanya, what do you think? Should we outlaw public holidays?
PLIBERSEK: I think there'd be a revolution if we started outlawing public holidays.
STEFANOVIC: I'm just bitter, I'm just bitter.
PLIBERSEK: I'm a bit jealous, too, I've got to say.
STEFANOVIC: Great to see you guys. Thank you.