Main Image

16 July 2021

FRIDAY, 16 JULY 2021

SUBJECTS: Victoria lockdown; economic support; disability sector economic support and vaccination; National Cabinet.

STEVE PRICE, HOST: 6,500 Victorian residents are now in lockdown, including everyone who resides at the Ariele apartments in Maribyrnong. The federal member for that part of Melbourne is Bill Shorten. He's on the line. Thanks for your time again.


PRICE: Did the Premier Daniel Andrews go hard enough soon enough, do you think?

SHORTEN: Yes, I think he has. Yeah, everyone's an expert after the event, but I guess I wonder if Gladys wishes maybe she'd gone a day or two earlier. Such an infectious variant. But I think Melburnians, Victorians are frustrated, but and by and large, accept it, if you know what I mean. Short, sharp-

PRICE: You've been in senior leadership positions. It's tough, isn't it? I mean, hindsight and criticism from a few weeks down the track is easy to do. I mean, I'm sure that Gladys Berejiklian wanted to protect the people in Sydney, but I think everyone feels that perhaps the Sydney lockdown as opposed to Melbourne, Bill is not tough enough. I mean, they still haven't defined what essential retail is and, of course, essential work. And that means those three, I’ll be polite here, clowns in those furniture removal trucks were allowed to move around freely.

SHORTEN: Well, I mean, one thing's for sure, what we've learnt in the last 16 months, and I think most people, regardless of their politics, would agree with this next sentence, is make it one message, keep it simple. People don't always have time to sort of work out, ring their lawyer, ring their accountant, what this means, what this doesn't mean. Sometimes, I mean, life is many shades of grey, as they say, but sometimes it should just be black and white and public health emergency, black and white. What's right, what's wrong. You know, then we can argue the toss afterwards,

PRICE: 78 apartments in that apartment block. It's right smack bang in the middle of your electorate. They would be doing it tough. They're locked up for 14 days.

SHORTEN: Yeah, I think they're very frustrated. We’ve reached out to them. Plenty of people have, to the voters that we've got on the roll from those apartments. It is tough. And I mean, it must be so frustrating. And they've done nothing other than live where they've lived and other people haven't paid attention to the rules and regulations if you’re to believe the press reporting. And now all of these people are just sort of caught up in the middle of it. And these apartments, while they're nice apartments, if you’ve got kids or you've got to do some exercise. It's not good for your mental health.

PRICE: No, it isn't, I imagine you and me being locked up for 14 days, we would absolutely hate it and it would be very hard thing to do. I guess these people have just got to do it as best they can.

SHORTEN: Yeah, I mean, the trick is, I mean, I've done, going to Parliament, I had to spend 26 days in a row in Canberra and the first 15 were locked up. But I had time to prepare. You know, I knew I was going into that. Get some food, you know, you sort of think about things. You get your head ready, don't you? But as we saw in the lockdowns last year and then again this year, if you're locked up in a relatively small space in an apartment, no matter how big it is, it's still smaller than going outside. And you haven't had preparation. It is stressful. I mean, the other people I just want to give a shout out to Steve are the health staff. And I just don't mean the people doing the vaccination hubs and all of that, and that's great what they're doing. But a lot of hospital staff are exhausted now in Victoria. And so I've got no doubt that'll be happening in Sydney, too. And people want to be on, but they've got to take immense precautions. And there are people on ventilators in ICU. So the staff are pretty motivated. That's what they're there for. But it's tiring.

PRICE: Yeah, I was talking to Gerard Hayes, Secretary of the Health Services Union in New South Wales, the last half hour. And incredibly, they've got to go to the Industrial Commission in New South Wales today because Westmead Hospital won't provide their cleaners with PPE gear. They're expecting them to go into COVID wards with just wearing a mask. I mean, it's incredibly stupid of the management of that hospital.

SHORTEN: It is stupid on those facts, but also it shouldn't be a surprise. I think, I I don't know what the thinking has been in Sydney. I mean, of course, you know, that old joke you can always tell a Victorian, but not very much, you know, but somehow I feel we have learned the hard way some lessons. And all of this is, if you know, I mean, I've got one rule of leadership, is if you know where you've got to get to, just get there as quick as you can. If, you know, you're going have to issue PPE eventually, just do it now. Doesn't it make sense?

PRICE: Absolutely does make a hell of a lot of sense. I want to get onto the disability sector, which is your shadow portfolio. I was on Q&A on the ABC last night. We had a couple of guys who are disability carers who have not been able to access any of the salary packages that the Morrison Government have put in place. That's just unacceptable, isn't it?

SHORTEN: Oh, that's outrageous. Listen, I know that the Morrison Government doesn't really understand workplace relations, in my opinion, except through a very simplistic lens. But these days in an economy where you've got people who are direct employees and you've got contractors, you've got casuals, you’ve got ABN numbers, what have you, at the end of the day, they're all doing a job. And at the end of the day, whilst the government's using Social Security tax laws which describe the workforce in the 1980s, in 2021, I mean, in this in these gig economies and these casualised economies, you've got to keep up your Social Security laws and look after people. My view is that, I'm not talking about the big end of town or the billionaires who got JobKeeper, they didn't seem to have any trouble getting JobKeeper. But ordinary people coming through the door at Centrelink, that's if you can get through the door, is it should be pay a little bit now and ask some of the questions later on and follow up. I mean, we're not talking about a king's ransom here.

PRICE: No, we're not. And the vaccination rollout among the disability sector. What are you hearing from your contacts around the country in that area? Is it getting to a point where we're actually getting everyone jabbed or are we still painfully low?

SHORTEN: I think we are. It's too slow. We're getting there, but not quick enough. Not fast enough. And this is something which I've been banging on about for months, because for people with disabilities living in homes of one or two or three other people with disability where your carer, and many times it's your daily contact with the rest of the world. COVID has never ended for these people with disabilities. And if their carer can't turn up, it's a disaster. And if you've got COVID swirling around the community, people with disability like to get out and about and, you know, go and do trips and go and see, you know, do activities. They can't because until COVID, people are on top of COVID, then they don't have that freedom of movement. So I know disability workers and aged care workers, and quite often the workforce overlap aged care, NDIS care. They've had to go to the doctor under their own steam. They had to pay for their vaccinations in some cases. This is, you know it shouldn't be left to the low paid workforce to be the last line of defence for our most vulnerable.

PRICE: As a former leader you had an oversight of the country. You've got a national perspective on things. Have you been disappointed in the, what appears to be a crack in the federation where states are throwing rocks at each other and the states are throwing rocks at Canberra? When it would appear to me that the public are now sick and tired of all that, we don't we don't want parochialism. We actually want a combined effort, which is what federal, which is what this National Cabinet is supposed to do. Do you think that it's time to put all that political stuff aside and get on with the one job of doing it all together? 

SHORTEN: Yes, I do. And I'm sure 100 per cent of listeners would agree. But of course, then probably 95 per cent of listeners say, oh, they say they should do that, but then it never happens. 

PRICE: No, it doesn’t. 

SHORTEN: I have been surprised at the re-emergence of state politics with such a rocket in, you know, 2020 and 2021 back up the charts. But in some cases, the premiers have had to act because they need to get on with it. I feel that our system in 2020 wasn't prepared for an epidemic. I mean, I think they'd spoken about it, but we didn't have one national research centre like they have in America or we haven't had clear processes for quarantine. The states run it, the private sector, you know, the feds. I've been surprised that different states have had different rules and they haven't been able to iron that out. Different approaches to lockdown. And periodically, you know, the West Australians have practically become their own country. Queensland's, you know, always, you know, sort of bleeds maroon. But even Victoria and New South Wales have been doing different things and going through checkpoints outside of Melbourne, but also on the Murray, reminded me of as a young student backpacking in Eastern Europe, I never thought we'd have papers and identity cards in our own country to the extent that we're seeing just to travel.

PRICE: It feels like we're going through Checkpoint Charlie every time we move around.

SHORTEN: It is amazing. But the real things is, and I know I was a bit long winded in that, but where’s the Prime Minister?

PRICE: Yeah I know. I was going to ask you this question. Is it too late? Why wouldn't Scott I mean, I know he's not going to do this, but in a perfect world and we don't live in a perfect world, why wouldn't the Prime Minister today pick the phone up to Anthony Albanese, your leader, and say, I want you and one other senior member of your Shadow Cabinet to join the National Cabinet, because we're really now back in a ten million people lockdown, come in and just be part of the process?

SHORTEN: It would have made sense. I don't understand why he didn't do that. At a time-

PRICE: Is it too late?

SHORTEN: No, I don't think it's too late, but I'm not sure he is of the character of the person to do it. I'm talking about Mr Morrison. You know, I know he, they mock me coming with a workplace relations being a union rep background. And one thing I always learnt is that in a workplace, the employers needed the employer as much as the employer needed the employees. So as much as you can have disagreements the next day, you've got to get up and work alongside each other. So you've always got to try and find the common points. You try and unite the joint before you divide the joint. Now, sometimes you just can't agree, and that's fair enough. But I think we have an obligation to the people to try and find the points of agreement don’t we?

PRICE: Yeah, we do. Just before you go, on a personal level, you're back in lockdown. How does does that restrict what you can do and what you can't do? I mean, you've got to do what we all can and can't do. I guess.

SHORTEN: That's right. I mean, I live in my electorate, so that's always smart in the lockdown. That means even at five k you can get to see your voters. Listen, I'll probably go to, I will go to Parliament if it's on. I think that should go on. I get around the electorate still, and, you know, there's people who need you, so I suppose I'm an essential worker (laughs), perhaps not as essential as the doctors and nurses, but we still have a role. We have feelings. I feel for my kids. You know, I've got two kids at uni. They can't go out now. One of them's in retail so no work for her. My youngest is in grade six.

PRICE: How are you with home schooling?

SHORTEN: I'm atrocious, but thank God I married a smart woman (laughs). Although arguably if she married me, some people might say she's not that smart (laughs), but giving that I could just-

PRICE: I was thinking it, but I wasn't going to say it (laughs). 

SHORTEN: I could feel the withdrawing of breath as you were about to say it (laughs). 

PRICE: Thanks for joining us. Have a great day. Good on you. 

SHORTEN: Cheers bye.

PRICE: Bill Shorten, Shadow Minister for the NDIS and Government Services and the Federal Member for Maribyrnong.