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14 July 2021


SUBJECTS: New South Wales lockdown; Economic support for Victoria and NSW; Vaccination targets; Quarantine facilities and vaccine manufacturing.

ALAN JONES, HOST: Well, look, the former Labor leader, Bill Shorten, is the Shadow Minister for Government Services. In this, I suppose, government disservice. Currently in Tasmania, can he bring some common sense to all of this because it's out of control. Bill Shorten, thank you for your time. I mean, you've heard (inaudible) in Fairfield. What do you make of that?

BILL SHORTEN, MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG: Well, history repeats. What amazes me is that Premier Berejiklian, she held herself out to be the gold standard. But the New South Wales and federal officials are acting as if this is the first case of COVID in Australia. We went through 112 days of continuous lockdown in Victoria and there were mistakes made there. But the point is, why didn't anyone in New South Wales have a look? I mean, you have a surge workforce available. If you're going to tell people to get tested, have testers available. If you're going to tell people they can't leave an area, have very clear rules. This is not new. I had my own suburbs, public housing towers where there was a heavy police presence. People were annoyed and frustrated. They kept their cool in the end and we got through it and the police were just doing their job. But this is a public health emergency.

JONES: But can I ask you this? In Sydney, the serious cases overnight represented 0.0028% of the 65,000 tested. Does that justify the phenomenal personal, economic, psychological and educational costs we're currently bearing?

SHORTEN: Well, I want to give a shout out to the hospital staff, because one thing I know from Victoria is they'll be getting pretty fatigued. I do understand there are people in intensive care and I understand there are people on ventilators. So whilst you know for a lot of people, they haven't got it. When you do get it, it can be very serious. But what you're going to is I think, a complacent reaction by the New South Wales government. They weren't prepared for this, in my opinion. If you have to have a lockdown, it should be short and sharp. The sooner you do it, the sooner you can get out of it. But there's a bigger issue here, in my opinion. When’s the end of the hamster wheel? When do we get off the treadmill?

JONES: That’s it. That’s the point. And must Victorians be thinking when they went into lockdown in May, Josh Frydenberg unveiled his JobKeeper 2, $500 for full time workers, $325 for part timers. But now for New South Wales, it's $600 for full time and $375 for part time, with the Victorian people living on the wrong side of the Murray.

SHORTEN: Well you have to draw that conclusion, don't you? I mean, the reality is that Mr Morrison is the Premier of Australia. He knows where Sydney is, and we can debate what he's doing there. But Melburnians, Mr Morrison couldn't find us on a map, unfortunately. And what is the case for giving Victorian businesses and Victorian workers who've lost their jobs? Less than Sydney.

JONES: Well that’s a good point because the Victorian businesses got nothing. They got zip. Victorian businesses got nothing.

SHORTEN: I mean we pay the same tax rates as people in New South Wales. And I'm happy the people of New South Wales are getting slightly more generous compensation for this short term challenge, problem. So I'm not begrudging that. But, you know, Mr Morrison, to be honest, in 112 days Alan, when we were locked down and my suburbs have been locked down for about 130 days all up, he never visited. I think, a job of a leader, I mean, I'm not asking that he has to hold the syringe, but I think a leader should be where the people are doing it tough. And he didn't come to Victoria. And I think that's I think that was derelict.

JONES: Well, one other thing, if I could ask you. I mean, this JobKeeper 2.0 payments only kick in after three weeks of lockdown. I mean, people are on their knees. This stuff doesn't come in until week four. Do businesses and individuals know this do you reckon?

SHORTEN: No, they don't. And I think the funny thing about government, and this will be an interesting meeting of minds for you and me, Alan, but I think we can both agree that Mr Morrison and government is better at collecting the money than distributing it. And I think this is wrong. And we've got simple systems. I mean, we had the Robodebt crisis where the government sent the debt police and the process servers after people who owed the government money. Well, people need cash flow now. It’s getting it through the paperwork and the red tape. I think there’ll be people right now watching the show who will say, Alan, we're not going to bother asking for the legitimate support because we just, the red tape just put us off.

JONES: And that's absolutely right, Bill Shorten. That's absolutely right. And they're already saying that. See the federal treasurer says, oh, this is helping business when they need it most, what, at the beginning of the fourth week and then and then the businesses have to prove that their turnover was 30% lower than it was two weeks in 2019. Come on.

SHORTEN: I'll bet a lotto ticket with you that four weeks will be the speediest, that people will get the money. I bet there'll be a lot of red tape and, you know, there'll be a lot of businesses who won't be able to simply open up after four weeks and they'll have to prove it. Listen it’s very messy.

JONES: Are we going to be in lockdown until we get a vaccination rate of 80%?

SHORTEN: Well, I do think the government needs to provide some hope. And let me draw your attention to an unlikely, perhaps co-counsel with you to some of how we get out of this, Dan Andrews. Dan Andrews said upon his return, that perhaps we need to look at lifting the lockdowns after everyone who wants the vaccinations has had one

JONES: Correct.

SHORTEN: And, you know, I think that, I do support trying to get the vaccines out. I think the Morrison Government's been complacent about the quarantine. I mean, it's as if they made a first good innings in a Test match, but now they haven't tried, they're you know, but they've sort of rested on their laurels and now they're up for the second innings, I think they’re paying the price.

JONES: Just a quick one. Everyone thought you were going to be the Prime Minister. If you were the Prime Minister today, what would be the first thing you would do?

SHORTEN: Give people hope, build quarantine facilities, special quarantine facilities in every state, because that's where it's coming from, overseas. Don't ask the hotels to do the heavy lifting. I’d make sure we had five different vaccines available, not the three which the Morrison Government, I think they were pretty lazy and penny pinching. I think we’d have one common public health message, for goodness sakes, and we'd have some economic nationalism. I know that's a bit out of fashion in some parts of the system, but we should be making vaccines here. We're smart enough. We've got the people to do it. So that's it. There's a four point. There's a quaddie there, quarantine facilities, proper public health messaging and make sure that we've our economic nationalism. You know, we do all those things that I've mentioned. But fundamentally, we need to give people hope, Alan-

JONES: I agree. I agree.

SHORTEN: Alan you have been a sporting enthusiast for a long time. How on earth can a team win a match when we don't know where the finishing line is?

JONES: That's a good point. Good point. Good to talk to you. Enjoy Burnie.

SHORTEN: Thank you.