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12 July 2021

MONDAY, 12 JULY 2021

SUBJECTS: Slow vaccine rollout; economic and mental health support in NSW; Vaccination advertisements; Vaccines for disability care workers; NDIS Independent Assessments.
PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST:  Bill Shorten is the Shadow Minister for the NDIS. He joins me now. Bill Shorten, welcome.
KARVELAS: Do you think Mr Rudd's call helped?
SHORTEN: I'm sure it did. I mean, we hear too many reports of the Government being complacent about securing vaccination contracts. My colleague Chris Bowen, who is locked down in Fairfield, he was telling the Government last year, we need five or six different vaccine contracts available. We only got three. Everyone's been saying that we need more Pfizer. So I'm pleased that Kevin, he's just doing what a million of us would like to do, which is just get a hurry on to get some more vaccines to Australia. So good on him.
KARVELAS: OK, so how do you read the Pfizer statement then? Because Pfizer's put out a statement saying he wasn't involved in boosting the, you know, the contractual negotiations. Do you see that as a dismissal of this story?
SHORTEN: I think that Pfizer must be thinking who the hell is running Australia? If we believe the media reports from several sources, Pfizer were nonplussed by the Australian Government's attitude last year to negotiating more Pfizer vaccines. I reckon Pfizer might be just tempted to give us our vaccines just to shut us up and forget about us.
KARVELAS: Now, we can’t establish if the Prime Minister spoke, I mean, he hasn't denied-
SHORTEN: Oh look you've got to admit, Scott Morrison has a reputation for being one of the most hands off Prime Ministers since Federation.
KARVELAS: Ok well reputation is one thing, but the facts do matter, the Government says-
SHORTEN: Well that’s true he had a reputation for being a marketer and his public health marketing is atrocious. I mean, let's- people are sick of the political class. So let me just say for the record, as a politician, the vaccine rollout in Australia is a shitshow, Patricia. It is just a mess. And Scotty from marketing has got to take some of the responsibility for it.
KARVELAS: You've just sworn on national television.
SHORTEN: I just think I've said what about twenty-five million people, Australian adults think.
KARVELAS: Well, I'm not going to school you on how to speak. You can choose your words as you choose.
SHORTEN: Well at the end of the day, we've got people in Sydney who are locked down. People are making sacrifices. They're not able to go to work. They do expect, though, the promise to be kept by their politicians, in this case, the state and federal governments. And the reality is there's two promises for the sacrifices that our hardworking Sydneysiders and Melburnians have made previously. It is this. That the Government will get people vaccinated and that they will provide financial support for people. Now neither of those have been forthcoming adequately in this latest outbreak.
KARVELAS: The Government is close to finalising an economic and mental health support package in New South Wales. What form should it take, given National Cabinet agreed that the states would cover business support?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all, there's got to be proper income replacement so that people don't go to work. You were talking with Sydney correspondents before about similarities to Melbourne. What happened is that in Sydney, as is in Melbourne, you've got people who can't afford not to go to work, and yet they're caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, aren't they? On one hand, they go to work, they infect people. On the other hand, they stay at home and starve. It's a terrible choice. So I think that the Government had JobSeeker which did do the job. I mean, don't give it to the billionaires again. But beyond that, why not do something like JobKeeper? There's an answer. In terms of business support, I mean, I know people don't want to hear from Victorians, but there was some good measures there. Landlord relief for rent, commercial rent. We've had the lockdowns before. We're not we're not reinventing the wheel.
KARVELAS: In fact, I think we're experts. I think we know what we've done before. But on the idea of a JobKeeper 2.0 or another version of it, should perhaps something be built that's there until we are perhaps vaccinated at eighty per cent? Should the lever be based on vaccination?
SHORTEN: I think we've got to head towards a system, and Dan Andrews said it quite well recently, but basically we are going to have lockdowns until everyone who wants to be vaccinated is vaccinated. Then if you've got some people who don't want to be vaccinated for whatever their world view is, and I'm not talking about people with medical conditions, but the anti-vaxxers, well they can take their own chances. I think we must have the sort of lockdown procedures until people who want to be vaccinated are vaccinated. And that's why the Federal Government's conduct is so reprehensible. Perhaps that's a nicer term. I mean, it's been a total cluster stuff up, but that's what's holding Sydney back Melbourne back in the whole of Australia back. There are people who want to be vaccinated who can't get vaccinated. Once all the people who want to be vaccinated have been vaccinated, then let's just try and find a new normal.
KARVELAS: I want to go back to the vaccination ad, and you were pretty critical of the way that Scott Morrison and the Government has managed that.
KARVELAS: What did you want it to look like? What was wrong with it?
SHORTEN: Well, I've had a look at the ads in other countries. First of all, I think the English used, and condolences for their soccer loss, but they used Elton John and Michael Caine. I think America used Dolly Parton, and I think her hit song, Jolene, is reprised to the word vaccine. Very clever. I think the Germans used the Hoff, David Hasselhoff. So we should probably use someone of the age group who we want to get vaccinated first. So someone older than the actress. I also think that in terms of social marketing, we've got a whole library of real life experience. It's called Victoria. Why not get some of the- surely there's enough inspiration and wisdom in Australian marketing to get some quick, real life stories about what happens rather than relying on an actor.
KARVELAS: The woman in that ad is in an age group where vaccines are not widely available. Does that make it insensitive, as some people have suggested?
SHORTEN: Well, it makes it useless. The reality is we do want to encourage young people to get vaccinated. But you can spend all the money you like advertising getting vaccinated. But if people are reading on Facebook, if they’re hearing on Twitter, if they're seeing on social media, if they're reading in the newspaper or watching this show and we know there's not enough vaccines, then you’re just pouring good money after bad.
KARVELAS: The advertising has also been criticised for failing to incorporate multicultural messaging.
KARVELAS: Do you think that's an issue?
SHORTEN: Yeah, we learnt that the hard way in Melbourne. I know in the high rise flats where public housing- it’s not enough to leave a few leaflets in other languages at the bottom of the building, what we've got to do is engage with community leaders. I'll bet London to a brick that when these lockdowns and the higher police presence started in South-Western Sydney, there was insufficient consultation with the communities. And some of these people come from countries where a sudden influx of armed police isn't necessarily viewed as a portent for public health, but rather something worse.
KARVELAS: The outbreak in New South Wales has jumped the border to Victoria. One removalist from New South Wales who spent time in the state has tested positive. Now a second is likely infected. There's also a family they, were isolating, but a couple of people there who've tested positive. Are you confident Victoria can handle this?
SHORTEN: Well, I'm confident that we're alert. I mean, again, it's a good reminder for Victorians and for everyone else, those QR codes that you have in shops. You know, I've got an art collection, photos, I've ineffectually taken when I've used my iPhone incorrectly. But the point about it is, even in Melbourne, we shouldn't be complacent. We mask up in shops, do the QR codes, I mean, until we're vaccinated, COVID is a part of our lives. And so I think some of the basic precautions are going to be with us, whether or not we like it. And we might as well just adapt to it because putting on a mask now or taking the, you know, the iPhone and logging on to the QR code, it may seem a nuisance, but being locked down is a far bigger nuisance.
KARVELAS: Do you think New South Wales took too long to go to a lockdown and they didn't learn the lessons from Victoria?
SHORTEN: Oh, probably. Yeah, I do. I thought it was very bold. I mean, we kept hearing that Gladys Berejiklian and the crew ran the gold class, the world's best contact tracing. But I think with this new Delta variant, perhaps they were complacent. But now's not the time to get into all of that. Frankly, I just you know, I think there's another lesson coming. The health staff at these hospitals will be wearing out. So I just think that we've got to look after our health staff in the New South Wales hospital system. I think other states should do what they can to help. This is not a time for one state to think they're better or worse than another state, we've been there. Patricia, you’re a Victorian. I dread to think about the mental health pressures, loss of income. There'll be businesses with no customers. This is diabolical. So it just requires all hands, all hands on deck to get us through this. And I think the voters are sick of the politicians bitching and complaining about each other. So I probably got to try and not do that and instead just say, you know, get those vaccines, people should go and get vaccinated. If you think you've got symptoms, don't be brave and soldier on. Go and get tested and look after the health workforce because they will be doing it really hard. And now there's people in ICUs and on ventilators. That's pretty traumatic, obviously, for the patient, but for those around the clock medical staff, my thoughts are with them.
KARVELAS: Yeah, absolutely. Look, national cabinet has agreed to strongly recommend vaccines for disability care workers, but stopped short of actually mandating it. Do you think there should be mandated?
SHORTEN: I think eventually we'll get there. But in the meantime, I don't want the federal government sometimes talks about these issues to be a distraction, as if disability workers, if they were vaccinated, then there'd be no problems. The problem is there's no vaccinations. I know a lot of disability care workers who in their own time had to go and get vaccinated. You know, Scott Morrison got vaccinated on television and I commend that, but I bet he didn't take a day off pay to go and do it. A lot of disability workers, they've done it in their own time, which is admirable. But I think if we're going to encourage key workers to get vaccinated, they should get some paid leave while they go and have the jab as well. Make it as easy as possible for people to get the vaccine. And I think the vaccination rates will go up.
KARVELAS: Just on another issue, which was huge and I wanted to just dig into with you. Independent Assessments are now off the table-
SHORTEN: I hope so.
KARVELAS: In a move welcomed by a large parts of the sector. So just to explain what they are, this is for the NDIS. That there would be independent assessments-
SHORTEN: There’s thirty thousand profoundly disabled people on the NDIS. I think the government thinks it's costing too much. They were going to mandatorily interview every person with a profound disability. Again, it was going to be a stranger, interview them, because the government seems to think that the treating physios and health professionals couldn't be trusted. It was just a bad idea from woe to go and now it's over for the time being.
KARVELAS: Ok, so let's go to that, over for the time being. Obviously, the states and territories are a key part of this, meeting on Friday where this emerged late in the day, very late in the day.
SHORTEN: Friday afternoon take out the trash tactics by the Feds.
KARVELAS: Do you think that this is still something that's in the back pocket?
SHORTEN: Well, the government and some of their cheerleaders, and the agency leadership is saying it's now some $60 billion runaway train by the end of this decade. They said there was a financial binfire and it had to be put out before it became a bushfire. But on Friday afternoon, when they realised the extent of opposition and scepticism about their claims, they dropped it. Now, the government were either lying when they said it was a $60 billion problem. And I tend to think they were lying. But if they're not lying, they are cowards because they don't have the courage of their own convictions. I think the agency needs a shake out at the top because the people who tried to roll out this unpopular and ineffective independent assessment scheme are still there. I mean, if you were the board of a major publicly listed company in Australia, and remember the NDIA is a $22 billion operation, and they advocated going one way and the shareholders and the stakeholders have rejected it, well, the board would walk the plank. But not in Morrison land. In Morrison land. When you stuff up, you get a promotion or you keep getting paid. So I don't trust them not to try again. I think there are improvements you can make to the NDIS. But this crew, this mob running it, they just think it's a welfare program to be cut.
KARVELAS: Thank you so much for joining us this afternoon.
SHORTEN: Lovely to talk.