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15 June 2021


SUBJECTS: Reprieve expected after 4 years for Biloela family; vaccine shortages hamper rollout; farm worker visa requirements to be scrapped in talks with Britain; joint meeting with Joe Biden.
KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: Welcome back. It's great to have your company this morning. The near three-year ordeal for a Tamil family trapped in immigration detention should today finally come to an end. It's expected they'll be freed from Christmas Island and reunited in Perth, where one of the children is being treated in hospital. Let's discuss now with Shadow Minister for Government Services Bill Shorten and in Brissie 4BC’s Scott Emerson. Morning, lads. To you, Bill. First of all, how do you think our immigration system has treated this family?

BILL SHORTEN, MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG: I think enough is enough. The Biloela community in central Queensland years ago signed a petition in massive numbers to say, could the families stay where they'd been living and working for years? And instead, they've had this three-year ordeal in our detention system. I just think we should reunite the family and let them live in a community who've signalled they want to have them.

STEFANOVIC: You don't worry at all that the floodgates will open; the sky will fall?

SHORTEN: Listen, if everyone's got to go through the multiple years of process that this family has gone through, that’ll be amazing. I don't believe that. Every year, governments exercise discretion. I mean, remember the famous one where the nannies all seemed to be able - if you were a French nanny, you could get in here. So, I think that the community shown they want them, so, tick. I don't think it sets a precedent, tick. So, let them just be reunited.

STEFANOVIC: Ok, Scott, when you've got Barnaby Joyce championing a family's cause on immigrant families cause, you know, the conservatives have got it wrong. Took them a while though.

SCOTT EMERSON, 4BC: Yeah. Look, Barnaby, Ken O'Dowd is the LNP member for that area as well. Obviously, the usual string of Liberals in down south as well. You know that obviously there's divisions there within the Coalition on this. It's interesting to see that Peter Dutton's moved out of home affairs. Karen Andrews has come in. We've got Alex Hawke there on immigration. I think the Government is looking at this and saying, look, this is a wound we have to solve. It's gone on for too long, cost too much money. How do we extract itself out of it? It'll be very interesting to see what Alex Hawke does announce rather than saying, look, they’re here to stay forever, or some sort of halfway place where they're back in the community, but they're not really classed as refugees.

STEFANOVIC: I agree that it sends a conflicted message to the conservative electorate, allowing one, even one family in, doesn't it?

EMERSON: I think that's exactly right. I think there's a lot of supporters out there for the Coalition who say, no, do not let them in. This is what I've been hearing from Scott Morrison as Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison as Prime Minister for a long, long time, and if they suddenly let them back in, what does that say to their base?

STEFANOVIC: Yep, I agree with that. Let's talk about another vaccine hold up. Reports this morning that Victorians could have to wait weeks to get their first jab due to shortages. And guess what? The Federal and State Health Ministers are blaming each other. Bill, again, come on.

SHORTEN: It’s Saga No. 998. I mean, I as a Victorian and a Melburnian, I'm frustrated. We were told there'd be enough vaccines. Now we're told there's not enough vaccines. The Feds were ultimately responsible for procuring enough vaccines. I mean, to be honest, as someone said to me yesterday, this is more of a stroll out vaccine than a rollout vaccine. I mean, come on, let's just fire up and get it done.

STEFANOVIC: The thing is, though, Bill, I mean, you've got the Federal Government saying there's a scheduling problem and you've got the State Government saying there's not enough. Where is the truth in all of that?

SHORTEN: You know what? Who knows? And for some, they'll be tempted to say, who cares? But let's just get it done. The reality is that the mini outbreak that happened, which forced all of us in Melbourne into fourth lockdown, shows that we need to get people vaccinated so we can get to a herd immunity. We need 75 per cent plus people to get the vaccination. It seems to me that we don't have enough vaccines at the moment. And that is not good,

STEFANOVIC: Scott, you'd have to worry about in Queensland, no one's exactly stampeding the vaccination hubs.

EMERSON: No, you have a look at our roll out numbers here, we're second and last in terms of the full rollout of vaccination, in terms of jabs, and then third last in terms of one jab. Look, I can understand the frustration of a lot of people out there, the states and feds constantly wrangling over this. Who to blame? Well, in Victoria, I think Victorians who have gone through their fourth lockdown, all they want to know is they can go out there and get a jab. And if they can't get a jab, that's a real worry. We're not seeing this happening in other states at the moment. So, you do think yourself, if it's a federal problem, it'll be happening in every other state. That doesn't seem to the problem, it seems to be just in Victoria.

SHORTEN: Well, I think that to be fair to the Victorian Government, more Victorians want the jab because we've seen what happens when you don't get. So, I don't know if there's the same demand in other states.

STEFANOVIC: And to be fair, in Queensland, Anastasia's kept you all safe, Scotty.

EMERSON: Well, look yes, but the vaccination rates are very low, so that's the other thing.

STEFANOVIC: That's going to be a problem down the track. Bill, the requirement for British backpackers to do 88 days working on a regional farm are set to be scrapped in a new trade deal potentially with Great Britain. Big issue this. We can't find enough workers for ag; we can't find the hospitality.

SHORTEN: Yeah, listen, I think you've got to just - these bilateral trade agreements. You've got to make sure that it's a good deal for Australia as well as the UK. I know Prime Minister Morrison's in England, no doubt he wants to make some new friends. So, he says, no worries, we'll do whatever you want. But we've got to make sure we have enough agricultural workers, and so you've got to be wary of starving the farmers of the workforce they need to pick the crops.

STEFANOVIC: I would have thought he comes in with a little bit of a position of power in negotiating post-Brexit with Great Britain. But anyway, we'll see what happens. Doesn't seem to have the power to get one on one with Joe Biden. It's interesting, isn't it? It's almost impossible to get a one on one with Joe Biden, is it not, Bill?

SHORTEN: Oh, that hasn't been my experience. [all laugh] Mind you, I didn't go to any Trump rallies. Who knows? Nice tie. His as well.

STEFANOVIC: Have anyone from QAnon stay with you ever? [all laugh] Never?

EMERSON: Well, that's right Look, I think Bill's obviously got away with his wily words with Joe Biden there. But look, yeah, I think Scott Morrison, you would have thought he was hoping to get a one on one with Joe Biden rather than a one on one on one with Boris Johnson. 

SHORTEN: The plus one. 

EMERSON: You do wonder about that. There are words for those kinds of things.

STEFANOVIC: There are. But we’ll move it on… 

SHORTEN: Move it on. My 11-year-old would say that was flexing. [all laugh]

STEFANOVIC: You flexed well Bill, this morning. Thank you. We'll leave you for another day, Scotty.