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27 May 2021

SUBJECTS: Victorian lockdown; calls to fast-track Victoria’s proposed purpose built quarantine facilities; Morrison Government failures on vaccinating people with disabilities

PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: Bill Shorten is the Shadow NDIS Minister, he joins us this afternoon to talk about a couple of things. Now, he's a Victorian MP and former Opposition Leader as well, so he's actually lived through a couple of lockdowns, and today of course the Victorian Government making that announcement for a 7 day lockdown as a circuit breaker. Some significant moves in that, including reintroducing that all so controversial at the time five kilometre rule for actual travel, to minimise people's movement across the state to try and get in control of the virus spread. Some other changes too, no schools, there’ll be a move back to remote learning, although tomorrow will be a preparation day for teachers who of course have to be back to that model that they became very familiar with last year in Victoria. And also, some different access too, to vaccinating. The Victorian Government very keen to get as many people vaccinated as they possibly can, and they have made a change that they have announced today, that between 40 and 49, you are now eligible, if you are in Victoria, to go out and get vaccinated. The reason that is significant is that because of health advice, those people need to get the Pfizer vaccine, and now they’ll be able to. Bill Shorten is the Shadow NDIS Minister, sorry to keep you waiting, but we’ve got you for a couple of minutes now let’s do as much as we can. No doubt you think this lockout in is necessary, but what other measures you think are necessary to come with it, to support people, their jobs, the economy?

BILL SHORTEN, MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG: Very straightforward, I think. A public health campaign encouraging people to get vaccinated, not just in Victoria but all about Australia, because what is happening Victoria with the lack of quarantine services from South Australia, the failure there, could happen in any state. So, public health campaign. I think they have to make it easier for people to get the jab. The Morrison Government has got this fuddy duddy rollout of different categories, it turns out the people of the priority categories have not been getting vaccinated, and there’s a lot of other people who would like to get vaccinated and get on with it, so I think make it easier to get vaccination. So, they are two very straightforward things, but the other thing I would say is can’t we build some federal quarantine facilities, built for purpose? We’ve been saying that for a year.

KARVELAS: Well yeah, we have, you have, there have been calls for it, the Prime Minister says he was doing essentially fast track the Victorian proposal, even build it earlier than the Victorian government suggests.

SHORTEN: Listen, the Prime Minister, he’s always got this perpetually stunned look on his face when something goes wrong, as if he just wished he knew someone who knew a Prime Minister who could do something. Heavens to Betsy, this is why he got elected, he ran to the last election against ,e and said he wanted to get things done, now he's acting like the suggestions box at the local factory, where if the states come up with an idea that he will weigh it up. What is wrong with Scotty taken the initiative rather than waiting for states to do the heavy lifting and tell him what to do?

KARVELAS: Okay, but if the states do the heavy lifting, as Victoria has done, and he says yes, isn't that a good thing?

SHORTEN: Sure it is, but it is about 16 months too late isn’t it. 

KARVELAS: Do you think it really could have avoided this outbreak? Could you have got it up and running realistically, earlier? 

SHORTEN: Sure, Howard Springs was built in this time. The proposal from Toowoomba says they could build it in 12 weeks, so yes, I do think that when we had our first wave, when we saw in China that it was coming, I think they could have had the carpenters and the bricklayers of the air-conditioning experts and the plumbers in, the electricians in, and got it going in 12 weeks. That is from February of last year, so I think we could have easily brought facilities in that time.

KARVELAS: Before I let you go, we also spoke a little earlier to a Linda Reynolds, who is the NDIS Minister, you are her Shadow, and she said – she’s going to make more announcements, but gave me some indication they’re going to fast track vaccinations for people with disabilities in the NDIS, but also in care, are you pleased to hear that?

SHORTEN: Sure, I want it done, but unfortunately for the Government not all of us have amnesia. They promised a plan to vaccinate people in disability supported housing on February the 22nd. February the 22nd. Now it has been 100 days since then, now they're going to come up with a plan to fast track it. This is the whole story of the vote COVID pandemic in Australia. The Federal Government is always acting surprised, they’re a bit like the Mayor of Hiroshima, what just happened. The reality is that we know this problem has been unfolding, where the people with disabilities have reduced immune systems and are vulnerable, and only now is the Government saying they are going to fast track something? This is 2021, not 2020. Anyway, I am glad if they do something, they should have done a long time ago. In Question Time today Patricia, the Government said oh, how dare you politicise the issue. At a certain point, if the Government   is just not up to speed and are not doing what they have to do, we should be calling it out, and if you don't call it out, you become part of the problem.

KARVELAS: Thank you so much for joining us, Bill Shorten. He is the Shadow NDIS Minister. He is also a Victorian MP and of course, former Opposition Leader.