Main Image

01 June 2021

SUBJECTS: New restrictions for vaccinations in aged and disability care; Melbourne’s COVID outbreak; support for Victoria; NRL State of Origin moves to Townsville; addressing head injuries in NRL.

KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: Welcome back to the show. It's good to have your company on this the first day of winter. Well, no jab, no frontline work. That's the blunt message to aged care workers in Victoria, after it was confirmed the latest outbreak had infected a resident and staff at two homes, putting many more at risk. Joining us now is Shadow Minister for Government Services Bill Shorten, who's in Canberra and in Sydney, Triple M’s Gus Worland, good morning, guys. Nice to see you this morning. Bill, to you, first of all, I mean, this is happening, a lot of this in your own electorate. Why do we still have workers and residents who aren't vaccinated working at multiple facilities? I just can't believe it.

BILL SHORTEN, MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG: It's heartbreaking. I've been speaking to families who've got loved ones in the Arcare facility in Maidstone in Hampstead Road. Listen, I think the aged care facility is doing the best job it can, but it is disgraceful that residents and aged care workers, and the same with people with severe disabilities and disability workers, have not yet been vaccinated. Quite literally, there's one job for the Federal Government this year. It's to get that vaccination out. And it would be good if they could help run the quarantine service better. But let's just vaccinate everyone. The anxiety on people is shocking.

STEFANOVIC: A report has been filed, I think, with the union, and it says that one of the workers at one of these facilities was tested for COVID and as we all know, once you get tested, you've got to ask that they were told to keep working. Have you heard or can you confirm any of that?

SHORTEN: I can't confirm that particular report. But the union's been in touch with me to say that they are hearing from their members that some of them have been asked at different facilities to keep working. There is a general problem that we've got aged care workers because they’re only paid twenty-three dollars an hour before tax, that they have to work in more than one facility, or they work with aged care and the disabled. And as a result, they're not able to not work because if they don't work, they starve. But by the same token, it just increases the risk of infection. The Commonwealth has been told of this problem. They created a scheme on paper that if you work at two different employers, the employer who employs you more could ask for a subsidy and therefore the worker wouldn't have to work at the other place. But the system doesn't exist in reality. And last November, the Government quietly dropped requiring people to only work at one facility. So, this is a car crash, which was avoidable. My hometown of Melbourne, my home state of Victoria, is locked down and yet there's not enough vaccination being done, and aged care workers are being asked to put themselves at risk. It is a real problem.

STEFANOVIC: Gus, guess this is a horrible, horrible case of deja vu, isn't it?

GUS WORLAND, TRIPLE M: It certainly is. We seem to have sort of done so well in certain parts of this COVID, but we've completely mucked up this vaccination and how someone can be working in the front line and not be vaccinated? Like the word unbelievable has spoken about all the time these days, overuse. But that is unbelievable that that could actually happen, how we couldn’t have a process and a system set up.

STEFANOVIC: And now we know that the psychological impact would last time around we had we had our elderly and our vulnerable waiting in facilities for testing. And we saw the anxiety that produced, and we said we'd move heaven and earth to make sure this didn't happen again. And it IS.

WORLAND: Yeah. We should be completely focused on them. And I've been doing a lot of work with the sort of mental fitness with what I call oldies and with a lot of love and affection. Forty-four per cent of the elderly don't get a visitor in a whole year in a nursing home in this country. We don't look after old people well. You add that to what Bill's been talking about. You mention what these people are going through. And they're going through it alone,

STEFANOVIC: Okay, I mean, that is just an awful statistic, isn't it? Bill, they're talking about a ring of steel now again in Melbourne and across the regional areas. I mean, that will have huge ramifications as well.

SHORTEN: It's costly. It divides communities. But the real point is that we've got mountains of vaccines at the warehouses, refrigerated warehouses. Why can't we just get the jabs in people's arms? I mean, if needs be just run mass vaccination centres 24 hours a day. Before Christmas, you can do 24 hours of shopping. But for the vaccination? Pay the overtime and just get the jabs in people's arms. The Government's made it too complicated. No one knows if they're eligible. And there's this whole debate about which vaccine you want. The workforce and the residents haven't been vaccinated. The workers are required to work across more than one facility just to make a living wage. The quarantine system isn't what it should be. When you get off a plane, you shouldn't be at a hotel in the middle of the city, as we've said on the show, go to a special built facility. The government has been negligent, negligent, negligent. This is all avoidable. 

STEFANOVIC: Two hundred and fifty million from the state government for businesses. It doesn't really touch the sides, doesn't.

SHORTEN: Victoria has been abandoned, you know, like, I don't know, Mr Morrison's quite, you know, I guess we're all political, but I think he just made a calculation that he doesn't want a vote south of the Murray. But it's much more than just politics. The small businesses, the anxiety, the upset. I get calls every hour from constituents and small businesses saying, Bill, will the lockdown go past Thursday. What's going to happen? This is a real strain.

STEFANOVIC: What will happen?

SHORTEN: Think we're going to find out in the next 48 hours, the next 24 hours. You know, we've become obsessed sadly again, it's like the Olympics of COVID, we’ve just been what's the medal count? What's the what's the positive test count? It's that is the number that matters every day now in Australia.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, and we have to move on to another topic, a much lighter topic, depending on the way you view things. Some huge State of Origin news this morning. Game one headed to Townsville. Some questions about how much it’s cost the Queensland Government. Gus, some talking of upwards of eight million dollars to secure it. Wonderful, wonderful news for Townsville and north Queensland, a great rugby league place. You'd have to say that everyone across the country would be supporting this wholeheartedly.

WORLAND: No, that is not true.

STEFANOVIC: For regional Queensland.

WORLAND: Well, obviously, we're happy for the people of Townsville. And it's obviously a great stadium and it's going to be a great night. But obviously, Queensland getting two games now, when you know, Sydney should be getting two of the games if anyone had a chance to do it. But as Freddy Fitler said, and I've spent a lot of time with Freddy lately. It'll be all the more sweeter when we kick your you know what on Wednesday night, 

STEFANOVIC: I saw that story with Steve Mortimer in the paper this morning. 

WORLAND: Oh, yeah.

STEFANOVIC: I have to get you on that just quickly. He has dementia and the head knocks thing. This is a serious problem. And this dovetails in with the heat that's on the NRL at the moment. Some of us just not justified.

WORLAND: No, absolutely right. And that came out, he thought that he had to stand up for Vlandys, who's been obviously rather part of this crackdown. He is in his 60s, one of the great players he used to tackle around the bootlaces. Remember, everyone used to talk about what a wonderful tackling style he had. And he's got dementia. He's lost most of his brain, he said

STEFANOVIC: Is there not a greater argument for what the NRL is trying to achieve.

WORLAND: Exactly right. So he was saying that just so everyone can get off Vlandys and understand that this is a much bigger situation, we need to look after players and we need mums and dads to look at the game of rugby league and say, yes, I'll let little Johnny play.

STEFANOVIC: Very good. I was going to Bill ask you about Origin, but I don't want to rub it in, especially at a time when Melbourne is going through an awful lot.

SHORTEN: Yeah, listen, I think it's a good move. In 2015 when I was Labor leader, I did push for the funding for the Townsville Stadium. Now they're going to play the origin there. And one thing I learned about north Queensland and Far North Queensland and I'd say this to you Gus, is North Queensland is a different country to South East Queensland anyway. So, you just going into three different states really.

STEFANOVIC: They like Labor more up there?

SHORTEN: On a good day. 

WORLAND: Don’t you love talking to Bill.? Doesn’t Bill look Prime Ministerial, with the tie and everything?

SHORTEN: It's just a little ray of sunlight for you gentlemen today.

STEFANOVIC: That’s nice. 

WORLAND: Big cuddle to you Bill. And everyone in Melbourne. 

STEFANOVIC: Good on you. Thank you, guys.