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06 August 2021

SUBJECTS: Victorian Government calls for more Pfizer doses; Victorian lockdown; Australia’s vaccine rollout.
LAURA JAYES, HOST: Now, Victoria has entered its sixth lockdown, nine days after the last one. The Premier is calling on the Federal Government to provide his state with more Pfizer vaccines. Joining me live now is Bill Shorten. He is the Shadow Minister for Government Services. You're in Canberra at the moment, after a sitting week, your state is going into a sixth lockdown. I mean, what do you say at this point?
BILL SHORTEN, MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG: It's just heartbreaking. I've spoken to constituents, family, people in Melbourne, the people who work for me, they know what they've got to do. They look across the border into Sydney and see the absolute danger of being half hearted and with an initial lockdown. But it's just so tough. The people I most have in mind today, though, along with the kids who are not at school again, is the small businesspeople with perishable foods. I've previously said, and I want to reiterate my call today, I think the Federal Government needs to provide some support for businesses who have to throw out food. This is a major cost. There's nothing you can do about it. There will be restaurants this weekend from country Victoria to inner city Melbourne, and they've all had to junk their food, or a lot of it. I think we need to do more to help the businesses who are losing their perishable food. This is just a disaster.
JAYES: But please don't do that, call OzHarvest if you can, because there's a lot of charities that will use that perishable food. I know it's cold comfort for some of these small businesses.
SHORTEN: No, that's a good point.
JAYES: Particularly in regional areas Mr Shorten, well, two mystery cases in Melbourne, it is a big concern, but did the whole state need to be locked down?
SHORTEN: Well, they found traces of COVID in in Wangaratta. I can get why, if you're in an Alpine area or in Gippsland, you know, you'd be frustrated by this. But I just - you know, there's no good news in this. But what I would just say is I looked at New South Wales and Premier Berejiklian’s sort of half hearted, maybe we're going to shut down, maybe we're not for the first two weeks, and people and it got away from them. And people are dying now, and people are locked down for longer and longer periods of time. Like, there's no good news in this. You either lock down quickly early or you lock down hard for longer later. But, you know, I'm not going to sit here and say to people, I think that any of these are optimal outcomes. They're not. That's why - no wonder people hate politics. I was watching Gladys say all about vaccine, and Mr Morrison say it’s all about, Scott Morrison say it's all about lockdown. Well, it's all of the above, isn't it? We don't need that finger pointing now. We're just - there are people locked down from our three biggest cities in the bush and the cities. We just need to get on with it.
JAYES: Yep. And people have been urged to go out and get a vaccine. Any available vaccine, particularly if you live in Sydney. But are you finding that there is frustration among your constituents? We're getting the feedback here that people are being urged to go out and get a vaccine. Some in, you know, over 60’s, cannot get a Pfizer booking. And then we have to celebrate these mediocre days where we have a new record, that's the dismal day before vaccines across the country. I know there's a lot going on in Canberra, but does the opposition have any ideas about how to fix this?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all, Labor has announced this week, Anthony Albanese announced, that we would provide an incentive for everyone to go and get the jab, and that’s -
JAYES: And I'll let you talk about that. Sorry to interrupt, but you're talking about incentives, right? It's not - people want to get this vaccine. They're trying to make bookings and the supply isn’t there.
SHORTEN: That's right.
JAYES: So, incentives aside, what can you do?
SHORTEN: Well, I have been appalled at how the AZ has been trashed. I don't think that was the right thing to do in public health messaging. We're producing a million doses of AZ a week. I've had my two AZ doses at the Melbourne Showgrounds. I'm frankly appalled that we've got people dying unvaccinated and yet we have literally millions of doses of AZ not being used. AZ will do the job and if people are concerned, they should talk to their doctor. But I don't see necessarily – I understand people, some people want to wait ‘til they get their Pfizer, and I suppose that's their call. But having said that, AZ’s used all around the world. There's been 750 million people have it around the world. I would just say that. Sure, Pfizer maybe your gold medal choice, but why don't we encourage people to get the AZ now, and it'll stop people dying in my opinion.
JAYES: And just on that, we're told there are oceans of AZ available here in New South Wales. Prime Minister says there’s a million on offer. CSL was actually meant to be producing a million doses a week from May of this year. You've been to CSL recently. Is that actually happening?
SHORTEN: Yes, it is.
JAYES: So, where are they? Do you know where they are because no one can tell us.
SHORTEN: Well, I think there's some vaccine - listen, I don't get paid to do Greg Hunt’s, so I can't tell you where every dose is. But what I do know is that it's world class. They're producing it. I've literally seen it being produced. It's Australian made. It gives us that opportunity to get out of lockdown. So, I would just say to people, by all means, talk to your doctor, but don't make the perfect the enemy of the good. You know, perhaps some people, you know, and people legitimately want their Pfizer, that's fine. But I'm saying that there's a very good proposition available. And the only way we get through this ultimately and avoid these horrendous lockdowns is vaccination. And AZ’s doing the job in so many countries and so many arms all around the world,
JAYES: Why can't your colleagues say that? You know, we've had many of your colleagues come on this program and refuse to say anything that would contradict Jeanette Young in Queensland. We've had some come on and, you know, back in the words of the candidate in Higgins, what's going on?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all, I think a lot of my colleagues are actually encouraging people to get vaccinated. They encourage them to follow their doctor's advice. I've seen more photos of my colleagues rolling up their sleeves and getting injected with AZ than perhaps I ever needed to see. So, I don't accept that Labor isn't supporting that. But at the end of the day, where's the Federal Government in all of this? I mean, these guys, Scott Morrison's the Scarlet Pimpernel of public health messaging, you know, we seek him here, we see him there. But he's very elusive, this Prime Minister of ours. We should just have a clear public health message, and it should be get vaccinated. I know from reading and studying the journals and what's happening around the world, that in the in the United States, ninety-seven per cent of people who are being hospitalized because of the Delta variant are unvaccinated. This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. And I just say to people, we should just get on and do it. Like, it's there. We've got the product.
JAYES: Just really quickly, we keep on hearing these messages we are all in it together. But, you know, politicians need to do their job. I get that. But there's a lot of politicians that are avoiding even one day of lockdown. Are we really all in it together?
SHORTEN: I can only speak for myself, I'm in Canberra this week, but I think I've clocked up over 150 days of being locked down and I've done my 14 days quarantine. Listen, I think I think we are in this together. And it's certainly for all my fellow Victorians, it's just really tough. But same with New South Wales. It's been going hard. And just I think we do need to, the Government needs to, help those small businesses. I just want to put it squarely back on the table. People with perishable food who have got to get rid of that food. That's a tremendous cost and it's hitting them hard. They're not the only group of businesses doing it hard, but I think that they are a bit invisible and it's heartbreaking six times in a row in Melbourne to have to take your food out and dispense with it.
JAYES: Now we're starting to feel what you went through in Melbourne last year. Bill Shorten will have to leave it there. Thanks so much for your time.
SHORTEN: Good luck.