09 February 2021


SUBJECTS: Concerns re: hotel quarantine; calls to relocate returned travellers from cities; AstraZeneca vaccine safety; COVID support for heavily impacted sectors; Bernardo’s charity award.
LEILA MCKINNON, HOST: There's fresh concern this morning over Melbourne's hotel quarantine system, leading experts warning the programme is not fit to contain that highly infectious new variant of COVID-19. So, what are the options now for containing the virus? Let's discuss with the Shadow Minister for Government Services, Bill Shorten, who's in Melbourne, and also Triple M's Gus Worland. Bill, let's go to you first. 


MCKINNON: These hotel quarantine breaches, they're a huge concern. Do we hope the vaccine just puts an end to this kind of quarantine, or do we need to build a purpose-fit quarantine areas out of towns and cities? 

SHORTEN: Spot on, Leila. I think it's both. I think the vaccines are the longer-term solution, but in the meantime, I don't think the problem's just Melbourne's. I think it's the challenge of having people in the middle of our cities. I do believe that we need to look at the location of where we quarantine people. Back in the old days, we used to quarantine people away from our cities. So, I think that's, as Annastacia Palaszczuk, the Queensland premier, said, I think that's got to be on the table. Better facilities.

MCKINNON: Gus, what's your take on that? 

GUS WORLAND, TRIPLE M: Yeah no, I suppose it's a little silly of us to think that we could just do it in the cities, it would all be okay and we wouldn't have a problem. In fact, this whole COVID, we thought, every time we think we've nailed it, something else pops up, doesn't it - another strain or some other drama. And of course, when you're dealing with humans, that's exactly what's going to happen. But how long is it going to take us to build these sort of places? How much expense will go into it as well, all these things need to come into play. But I've got a feeling we're going to be living with it for a long time. So like Bill said, everything should be on the table.

MCKINNON: Right. And while our Government is standing by its support for the AstraZeneca COVID vaccine due to be given to millions of Australians, that's despite growing concern internationally it's not effective. South Africa's even pulled it off the table completely. Bill, what do you think? Do you have confidence in the AstraZeneca vaccine?

SHORTEN: Well, based on what the medical experts are saying, the AstraZeneca vaccine should be part of the answer. I have said earlier on this show, in previous weeks, that it's a shame that we didn't tie up contracts with five or six of the vaccines rather than just three. But let's get it right. I can see that we want to make sure the rollout happens properly. I think Australians just want to go back to normal, but we can't go back to normal till we get the vaccine. So, it's fundamental. In the meantime, though Leila, I worry about all the people still doing it hard and the travel industry and live events. So, until the vaccine’s sorted, I think we need to keep some JobKeeper programs in to help people.  

MCKINNON: Yeah. What are you proposing?

SHORTEN: Well, in terms of that, I think that for our tourism travel agents and the like, they should be getting more support and I think that we should keep JobKeeper there. The other thing is the live events industry - 

MCKINNON: As a loan there? I'm sorry to interrupt, Bill, as a loan, like a HECS-style loan, or just a continuing hand out?

SHORTEN: No, I would actually keep something like JobKeeper. It has been successful. But the argument that all of a sudden, we hit a cliff on March 31st and hey presto, click your heels and everything's back to normal, I think someone's having a lend of the sectors that are doing it hard. So, our travel agents who look after us when we go on holiday, our live events industry who entertain us and the conferences we go to. I think that March 31, there's no vaccine sorted then. So, we should keep JobKeeper going until we get back to normal.  

MCKINNON: All right. So, Gus, let's talk a little bit more about the vaccination program. All this questioning of the situation doesn't help, does it, because people are wary of vaccines generally. What do you think?  

WORLAND: Yeah look, absolutely jabbing something into your body. You know, that's a huge thing for a lot of people. But I'd like to say one thing to you guys this morning is that my mother in law got the first part of it done in the UK on Saturday. And the difference in her when we spoke to her on FaceTime sort of an hour or so afterwards was incredible. She's a lady in her 70’s. The hope that she had in her eyes and her voice was immense. And Bill and I have spoken many times over the last year about the hope that's required just to get us through mentally, through all these dramas that we've had since COVID came around. And it was just such a boost to see her and her neighbours and everyone around her that had that vaccination. So I think we would undermine the importance of just getting our own mental fitness right, by having hope and having something that we're looking forward to that might get us back to some sort of normal.  

MCKINNON: And it's a sign of the times. The charity Barnardo’s is scrapping its Mother of the Year award, because it no longer reflects all types of families. Bill, do you support this or are you perhaps a little sad there's no longer a special award for mums? Should we congratulate parents?  

SHORTEN: Barnardo's does a good job. But having said that, I think they need to go back to the drawing board on this. I wouldn't cancel a mother's award. I'd like to give one to every mother in Australia, frankly. You know, I get we have blended families and I'm in a blended family, families come in all shapes and sizes. But rather than scrap it for mothers, just create another award. For goodness sake. Our mums do a tremendous job and I think they need to rethink this approach.  

MCKINNON: What's your take Gus? 

WORLAND: Yeah, I couldn't agree more. Mums deserve an absolute medal putting up with the husbands let alone the kids and everything else that goes along. So, yeah no, we should add to it rather than take away.

SHORTEN: Let's nominate your missus, Gus. I agree with you.

WORLAND: She deserves it.

MCKINNON: And I think we all should have a medal presentation every evening once the kids get to bed. I feel like I am getting a medal if they go to sleep. Bill, Gus, thank you very much.