SUBJECTS: Coronavirus; stimulus.

KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: To discuss, I'm joined by the Shadow Minister for Government Services Bill Shorten. Bill, good to see you this morning. And 2GB and 4BC’s Chris Smith good to see you as well. To you, Bill. First of all, the Treasurer is saying don't panic, but it's hard not to when there's there's been a murder on the dance floor on Wall Street and here.

BILL SHORTEN, MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG:   I think in the long term and, by the end of the year, this virus should have worked itself out. But in the short term, I think we're still living in two different worlds, aren't we? We see events being cancelled around the world and the share market is collapsing or going down. But by the same token, a lot of people think that they're healthy, you know, they’ll just get through it. So we've got almost competing views in our own head. Do we panic, do we rush down to Coles at 7:00 a.m when they open to get the toilet paper? Or do we just sort of stay calm and just get through this? 

STEFANOVIC: And I think that's the problem and the messaging from the Government has been a bit all over the place and the Opposition I reckon has gone a bit AWOL as well probably because it doesn't know what its position is as well. Why don't you just start with the three million casual workers?

SHORTEN: Well I do think that there's a big problem in Australia where we're asking a lot of workers to self-quarantine but the problem is if they all self-quarantine, they don't get paid. You know, one in three workers in Australia, about 30 per cent are casuals or they don't have any sick leave. So, you know, we saw this report in Hobart where a casual worker went to work, even though they'd been told to self isolate. Everyone thinks that's a bad thing, obviously. But I think we now need to start changing the way we look at these casual workers. Perhaps it's time to do what some in the union movement are suggesting - a special leave where the employer pays the person whilst they're self isolated and then maybe the government reimburses the employer. Because we shouldn't be asking workers to either starve or go to work when they're sick. We've got to be smarter than that. 

STEFANOVIC: Bill makes a good point. Three million casual workers. That’s a tremendous amount of people who are going to be struggling, who are going to have a time when they don't have income. 

CHRIS SMITH: It might be a similar case to what we saw during the summer period with volunteer firefighters where we had them extending their period of fighting over a longer period than what they normally would. So we gave them these one off payments, not great payment, but I think it meant something. And maybe this is a great opportunity to do that. But the Government has a really big problem - this is probably harder to stimulate the economy right now than what it was with Kevin Rudd during the GFC. 

STEFANOVIC:  Yeah, Bill, this is really interesting, too. And we're talking here, there has been some leaks from government. It'll be pensioners, Newstart, people who will get a little sugar hit. The problem is we don't know how long this is going to go for. And a sugar hit by its very nature only lasts a very short amount of time. Will you support the stimulus package?

SHORTEN: We haven't seen what they’ve said, but I will say and Anthony Albanese and Labor have been saying that we do think this is time for some stimulus. In terms of how long, does it go for three or six months? What's been racking my brain is say you get a worker who works in an aged care facility, say you get someone who works at a hotel, say you get someone who works at a sporting event. Does everything go down? I mean, in America, Stanford Uni is canceling classes. In Europe, they're canceling big football matches. We will get through this by the end of the year. And I think what the nation has got to decide is how quickly do we respond? I actually think we need to respond even more quickly than we are here, because, you know, I know plenty of people Karl, you know, people tell me ‘I’ll be alright, I'll get through this. So why do anything?’ The reason why I reckon we have to go harder and earlier on stimulus, on perhaps even canceling some events is that the fewer people actually get ill then we can use our medical resources for those who really need help. Now I know that might not be fashionable to say, but if the rest of the world is doing it, I suspect we have to contemplate these tougher measures.

STEFANOVIC: I think that makes a lot of sense. And the less pressure we have on our medical facilities right now, it also gives our health workers the chance to, you know, to breathe and to get all of their systems in place. As a leading emergency worker, by the way, this morning, gentlemen, who is saying the schools, universities and businesses should all be shut down now so we can ride it all out. She has written to Gladys Berejiklian about this. What do you think about that? If you shut everything down now for two weeks, is that just prolonging things?

SMITH: No, we don't do that. I think we shut certain schools and certain universities down when we have a number of contractions that are difficult to control and we can't trace them back. And I think we're doing a really good job of tracing them back. And certain schools have reopened. So you've got those that have been hit by the coronavirus at home, self isolating. I think we're handling it really well. I think we've been on the front foot from the get-go. 

STEFANOVIC: We were just talking, half joking to our EP Steve Burling. What happens if one of us was to get the virus? And then obviously breakfast television in the country would close down in general [ laughter ]

SHORTEN: No one's worried about the politicians getting it. [ laughter ]

STEFANOVIC:  That is true. But Bill what about the prospect of you being in isolation, and how would Chloe be with that?

SHORTEN: Oh I wouldn’t mind a couple of weeks. But I’m not sure Chloe would be so happy.   [ laughter ]

STEFANOVIC: Chris, what about you? 

SMITH: It’s the producers and all the people on the floor that do this show, Karl, not you.  It's all the background people.

STEFANOVIC: I don’t know. Are we going to have to get all these plans in place? I don’t know what you do. 

SHORTEN: Have you bought some baked beans?

STEFANOVIC: I’ve got plenty of baked beans, I’ve got tinned spaghetti, Heinz spaghetti, Kraft singles. 

SMITH: The run on toilet paper gave us a clue as to people staying home. We've got a stimulus being announced today. A lot of people just want to lock themselves up at the moment because of the coronavirus, you give them money, they’re not going to spend it.

SHORTEN: Oh I don’t know Chris, they’ll be spending it on the toilet paper 

STEFANOVIC: And fuel. You’ll be able to drive around in your car in pure isolation for weeks on end. Bill good on you, thank you for that. And Chris, good to see you. 

SHORTEN: Cheers guys.