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02 July 2021

SUBJECTS: National Cabinet meet over vaccination rates; human cost of hotel quarantine; phubbing.

ALLISON LANGDON, HOST: Welcome back to the show. Now, could this be the day it all changes, National Cabinet stops squabbling and actually works together to give us our pathway to freedom? The Prime Minister and state leaders reportedly using today's meeting to strike a deal over the magic vaccination number, which could end the misery of lockdowns forever. Let's discuss with Shadow Minister for Government Services Bill Shorten in Melbourne and Chris Smith from 2GB, who is on the Gold Coast this morning. Good morning, gentlemen. 


CHRIS SMITH, 2GB: Good morning. 

LANGDON: So, Bill, I just want you to take a moment, right? Visualise what life without lockdowns would look like. Can you see it? 

SHORTEN: Yes, I can.

LANGDON: Can you smell it? 


LANGDON: We just need a plan, don't we?

SHORTEN: Yeah. I really hope National Cabinet comes up with a plan. I think all the mixed messaging on public health is really frustrating people. You know, as a Melburnian, my sympathies are to the parts of Australia that are locked down. People just want to know that there's a light at the end of the tunnel, which is not an oncoming train. But for goodness sakes, we really need Scott Morrison to get on with vaccinating people. And the quarantine facilities, it just seems to be, you know, 26 outbreaks, it just seems to be an ongoing sore, which needs to be fixed, and now.

LANGDON: I mean, we need to see that happen. But, Chris, we also need the Premiers to stop lobbing bombs and to work together, don't we?

SMITH: Yeah, I think you're way too optimistic. I don't see anything coming out of National Cabinet. I don't think it's been much chop from the get-go. And I just think, now we're talking about having some kind of threshold for the amount of vaccinations or the amount of people we’ve vaccinated. So, we can somehow open up. This is six months down the track before you do this. This is not a decision that should be made today. The decision that should be made today is how about we get our health departments sorted out so that they don't breach their own rules and create outbreaks like they've done in Queensland and New South Wales. It is that simple. And secondly, they would be so much tension in that room today. How could they ever agree on anything?

LANGDON: Do you think they can put all those differences aside, Bill, or is too much happened?

SHORTEN: I think they should. The fact of the matter is that Australians from all of our cities have been willing to trust the medical advice, hope that the political leaders have got their act together. Now is the time to think about the country, not about the point scoring. I think it's pretty straightforward. I think we need a goal. Chris is right. It'll take a while, but we need to get to that 70 or 80 per cent vaccination and then we just - lockdowns as a strategy, we can't keep doing it. I mean, we're becoming like - it's easier to get to North Korea than it will be to Australia if we keep going down this path, we’re like the hermit kingdom of the world. So, we need to get - but we need the vaccinations. That's the that's the X Factor. And we do need to make sure that when people are coming to Australia, they're not going into a hotel which wasn't designed to be a quarantine facility. We need purpose-built facilities. But I just hope they work together because it's too important not to.

LANGDON: So, you just said for Labor, 70 to 80 percent vaccination rate. Which one is it? Is it 70 percent? Is it 80? Because I think we need an actual figure here.

SHORTEN: We do. And the experts should give it to us. But from what I've read you can get a herd immunity where 70 to 80 per cent, whatever that number is, then 95 per cent of people won't get the COVID. So, you know, I do think that we do need a target. Just this constant, you know, wet your finger, and put it up in the air and see which way the breeze is blowing is not a substitute for a proper strategy. 

SMITH: They can't even agree on the medical advice, Ally. They cannot agree on the medical advice this week. So, what chance?

LANGDON: Yeah, it's pretty grim, isn't it? But I'll tell you what, they've got to come up with something, because with 12 million Aussies stuck in lockdown right now, I think sentiment has really shifted. People are really cranky. And if ever you needed a reason to come up with a plan, I want you to look at this case, it’s Gillian Hannah. She's in quarantine in Sydney. Her dad died in Melbourne before she could see him. Take a listen. 

VIDEO PACKAGE: Losing a parent is just horrendous and heartbreaking at any time but finding out when you were in a room with four walls on your own is just - it's just cruel and it's completely inhumane. 

LANGDON: That's what all of our leaders need to look at today, Chris. It breaks your heart, doesn't it?

SMITH: Well, it's not only heartless, but it's stupid. The woman had been vaccinated twice. She had both had doses. What value do you put on vaccination then, if she can't go from one state to another and get it, there are eight hundred and fifty-three million people in the world who've had both doses. We can't even allow them to come to the country? It’s almost as if we've told everyone to go and get vaccinated, but you'll get very little for it. Well, you should get a lot for it, which means we should be able to go from point A to point B, especially on compassionate grounds

LANGDON: Bill, different rules for those who are vaccinated, do you think?

SHORTEN: I think that's where we've got to head. I mean, there's got to be some incentive to get vaccinated. I mean, I've had my first vaccination now, of course, that was AZ and now we're told that that's not necessary and it's some other vaccine. We've got to get the messaging right. Got to get the vaccines out. But we've got to have some hope in this equation. People will put up with stuff if I think there is some hope at the end. But at the moment, we're not sure what - we're like we're in this footrace, but we don't know where the finishing line is. So, it is time to get an agreement. What is the finishing line look like? Because once we're at the finishing line, you know, we’re there. And so that's what I think people need to keep them going. But at the moment, we're almost like mice, hamsters in this hamster wheel, and we never get to where we're meant to be going.

LANGDON: Yeah, well, look, I'm going to be optimistic about today - 

SHORTEN: Yeah, I hope so. 

LANGDON: And hope that our politicians can pull it together and put the good of all of us, all of us front and centre. But now I'm going to shift gears a little bit here, because, gentlemen, I've got a question for you. Have you ever been phubbed?

SMITH: Well, yes. Are you saying this business about people being obsessed by the text messages or Instagram and not obsessed by what you're saying?

LANGDON: Yeah. Have you heard of phubbing before?

SHORTEN: I was unsure if it was that or if it was an untoward advance against you on a bus, but that hasn’t happened.

LANGDON: Karl is phubbing you right now Bill, okay?

SHORTEN: I hate to say it but in Melbourne we were able to go out to dinner last night and I reckon my kids phubbed me last night. I had to say, get to get off the phone guys, let's have a look at the food. Don’t take a photo of it.

SMITH: Aly, there's nothing worse than an extremely intimate moment, someone likes to sort of focus a little bit more on Instagram. Now, I'm only making that point for a friend.

SHORTEN: Yeah, that's never happened to me.

LANGDON: You might have to work on that one there, Chris. And Chris, can you explain to me, how are you on the Gold Coast? Sydney is in lockdown. How are you up North?

SMITH: Oh, I escaped a couple of days before Sydney City itself was locked down and we went up to the Whitsundays. I was supposed to come back and work at 2GB this week, but Ben's back in the chair, so I've just extended my holiday. Except Annastacia Palaszczuk has ruined that the last three days.

LANGDON: Oh, look, three days of lockdown’s alright. I wouldn't be whinging there. And I'd say to so nice to see Melburnians travelling through regional Victoria and on holidays. It's well deserved and a nice sight, isn't it?

SHORTEN: It's fantastic. Victoria's got a lot of great regional tourism, but, you know, it's school holidays. I'm taking the kids along the Great Ocean Road next week myself. Just, come to Victoria - when you can - and there's a lot to see in Victoria too.

LANGDON: Car trip with the kids, good luck with that, my friend. 

SHORTEN: When you can. In like, five years’ time…

LANGDON: Maybe lockdown’s better, I don't know. Nice to talk to you both. 

SHORTEN: See ya, bye.