FRIDAY, 1 OCTOBER 2021
SUBJECTS: Gladys Berejiklian’s resignation; international travel restrictions easing; vaccine passports
SCOTT EMERSON, HOST: Now, someone who understands politics intimately, he said he's had the ups and downs of politics over his career, he's still there fighting away, is Bill Shorten, the Shadow Minister for Government Services and the NDIS, and he joins us on the line now. Bill, great to have you on for 4BC Drive.
BILL SHORTEN, MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG: It is Scott, at the end of another interesting week.
EMERSON: It has been extraordinary week. Now look, let me first start off, I just mentioned that Sharon has texted us and said she was very, very sad to see Gladys Berejiklian go. What's your reactions to today's announcement?
SHORTEN: I was surprised and shocked, was my initial reaction. I wasn't expecting this. I'm not intimately involved in what happens in New South Wales state politics, but in my dealings with Gladys Berejiklian, when we've been on the same stage or at events, I thought she was a very dedicated politician. I think she served New South Wales well, really, all things said over the last five years as Premier. I'm disappointed for her and I - you know, these words do mean something sometimes, but I thank her for a service. It's been a bewildering turn of events.
EMERSON: Well, as you know, politics can be a very tough business and sometimes a very cruel business as well, and amazing how things can change very rapidly and just in the matter of 24 hours.
SHORTEN: Well, absolutely. You know, I thank her for the service. I notice that the New South Wales opposition leader Chris Minns, I think has taken the right approach here and you're not scoring any points. He just said, you know, thank her, and no one can doubt that she was committed to trying to do the best for New South Wales during the COVID-19 crisis. I hope that the Liberals who are sort of sizing up her job or the vacancy now she's gone, make a decision quickly because what New South Wales needs and what we all need in Australia, is decisive action. We don't need rudderless states careering all over the place. It's been hard enough for the people as it is.
EMERSON: Alright, now I'm talking to Bill Shorten, the Shadow Minister for Government Services and the NDIS. Now Bill, today's announcement by the Prime Minister Scott Morrison heading into National Cabinet today on international travel. What's Labor's view about that?
SHORTEN: Well, I haven't seen all of what my colleagues have said, but I personally hope it works. I think it's been very difficult for Australians stuck overseas, and there's Australians who want to visit family overseas. We haven't been able to. So, if we can make this development work, that's a good thing. We could all use a bit of good news. But I also hope that we've got all the detail right, you know, rapid testing at the borders and making sure that people who come here aren't to sort of, land here and walking around scot free. And I think that we need to make sure that people are double vaccinated. But if you can get all those safety things right, then I think this is a net positive for the nation.
EMERSON: Well, the Prime Minister has basically brought it forward by a month. Are you comfortable with that timing, having the national borders opened next month rather than in December?
SHORTEN: Well, it all depends on probably what we don't know. Can we make it work? If we open the borders and all of a sudden there's a whole lot of people come here who have COVID and they get out into our community, well, then probably we have opened too early, but if we've got the rapid testing, if we can make the hotel quarantine work, if we can make the home quarantine work, you know, I'm not someone who wants to see our people locked down, our businesses slowed, our travel delayed for a minute longer than we have to. It's all about making sure we've got the balance of risk ready for it. And that's why the states and their health systems are going to be crucial in delivering any relaxation of travel.
EMERSON: Well, there seems to be a kind of inconsistency between the states I think, say in New South Wales or Victoria, they're much more open to this than say Queensland, so there's no consistency from the Premiers. Does that raise concerns for you? Particularly, say, here in Queensland, where Annastacia Palaszczuk look, she clearly has a lot of support out there for a strong stance, a hard stance in terms of border closures here. We saw that with the last state election, but clearly, she's much more reluctant to open the borders either to other states or internationally, especially before, say, New South Wales or Victoria.
SHORTEN: Well, she's done a good job keeping COVID out of Queensland, so you can't complain about that, really. It's filling up our hospitals with people on ventilators and intensive care units, and our nursing staff and medical staff are pretty fatigued. But, you know, ultimately, I don't think any jurisdiction can go forever with being COVID free. So, the question is using the time between now and when you open up to COVID-proof your systems. Make sure that you've got enough resources in your hospital system, that you can do the rapid testing, that we can do home testing, that we can make sure our schools are designed to make it so that kids are safe, that we get the vaccination rates right up into where it needs to be. So, we're going to have to get ready for life when COVID does arrive. And, you know, I think that's got to include making sure that our hospital and health systems are in the best possible position. Absolutely.
EMERSON: Now I want to talk to you about vaccine passports as well, because obviously there's been a lot of talk in the last couple of weeks about vaccine passports. What's your view about them?
SHORTEN: Oh, well, maybe if we rename them vaccine driver's licenses, people wouldn't have such a hassle with them. I mean, perhaps the word passports been weaponized by the anti-vaxxers to say that somehow, it's an impingement on people's freedom. I think you do need to know if someone's been double vaccinated for many, many things. If you're going to put kids into the school, I'm interested to know if the teachers have been double vaccinated. If you're going to go to mass sporting events, rubbing shoulders with people, it'd be good to know if they've been double vaxxed or not. So, I think we've got to have some way of finding this information. It's not the end of the world, as some libertarians say it means, that somehow, it's an imposition and it's the creation of a pure dictatorship, because we surrender information all the time to be able to rub shoulders alongside each other. We all carry our driver's licenses, or we’re meant to. No one says that having a driver's license is an imposition. So, I think that it's just where we're at. When you travel overseas and you go to some countries, for many years we've had to prove that we've had an injection on yellow fever or whatnot. I mean, we've been immunizing our kids against viruses really since they invented the smallpox vaccine at the end of the 18th century. I mean, the Massachusetts school system introduced compulsory vaccinations in 1809. I mean, think about - there's many viruses now which are really in the history books: diphtheria, measles, polio, mumps. And that's because we've got vaccination. So, I don't know how we've got ourselves to a situation in Australia that when you hand out free medicine, which stops us getting sick, stops us going to hospital, stops us crowding up our hospital system, stops us causing hardship to others as well as ourselves, since when did that become a bad idea?
EMERSON: Indeed, indeed. I think it's making a lot of sense there, Bill, in terms of that. Now just finally today, obviously, well, Sunday we've got the NRL Grand Final. I know you come from Victoria. I suppose you probably back the Melbourne Storm if that's the case. And - they didn't - I tipped them to get into the final and they didn't get there.
SHORTEN: I’ve been a big supporter over the years. And as I try and tell my Queensland family, it's the third Queensland team anyway, it’s just based in Melbourne.
EMERSON: It is indeed. Alright, then what about on Sunday? Who you're backing the Rabbitohs or the Panthers?
SHORTEN: Oh, well, Anthony Albanese is always talking about the Rabbitohs and so I might out of loyalty to our parliamentary leader, I'll support the Rabbitohs.
EMERSON: I thought you were going to back the Panthers just as you were going to say that, as a contrast
SHORTEN: No, and the Panthers unfortunately put the blade into the Storm last weekend, so that was a bit disappointing.
EMERSON: Indeed it was. All right Bill Shorten, great to have you on 4BC Drive this afternoon.
SHORTEN: Good on you, mate. Cheers. Bye bye.