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31 May 2021

MONDAY, 31 MAY 2021

SUBJECTS: COVID cases in Melbourne aged care centre; Morrison Government’s misleading language on vaccination targets; economic support during snap lockdowns; Emma Husar.

MICHAEL ROWLAND, HOST: Let’s get more on that developing situation in Melbourne with an aged care worker testing positive to the virus. The Arcare facility in Maidstone she works at sits in the federal seat of Maribyrnong, the electorate held by Labor MP and former leader Bill Shorten. He joins us now from Parliament House. Bill Shorten, good morning to you.


ROWLAND: I believe you've been in contact, obviously, as the local member with the aged care facility in question. You've got some more information this morning. What's that?

SHORTEN: Well, first of all, the staff are working very hard at Arcare in Maidstone, in Hampstead Road. They're doing a great job. As I understand, the second round of vaccinations will be happening today, to the residents. The first round of vaccinations was on May the 12th. Interestingly, wasn't scheduled for staff to be vaccinated then. But fortuitously, there were 34 extra vaccines. So, a range of the staff were vaccinated. But worryingly, both the staff member who has recorded positive and one resident, possibly two but one resident, who appears to have contracted COVID were both vaccinated in the first round. So, it just emphasises to me and I think to everyone listening, that two vaccinations is what we need. And when I hear the Federal Government saying one vaccination somehow a goal, well as I understand it, it's only second-hand reports from the facility, but the people who are sick actually had had a vaccination. So, one is not enough.

ROWLAND: So just confirming, based on your information, one resident and possibly two also now infected there.

SHORTEN: Possibly, yes.

ROWLAND: Right. Okay, we'll follow that up. Just on vaccinations, I mean, something that really troubles me is that we had references from the authorities to, a set amount of people have been vaccinated. Should, going to your point about two vaccinations being absolutely necessary to offer as much protection, should there be reference to, in future, set amount of people have been half vaccinated or have had one dose? 


ROWLAND: Because when you hear vaccination, you immediately assume you're completely vaccinated. And that technically is not right.

SHORTEN: That's right. Labor's been making this point in parliament last week, but perhaps it might have gone over the heads of some people and, you know, possibly I’m the same as most people. I've had one vaccination down at the Showgrounds in Melbourne and you sort of think, well, that builds up your protection. But it is disturbing if the aged care worker and the resident have had one vaccination and still got COVID, that tells me that you need two vaccinations. And it certainly put me back up on my toes and be saying to the Morrison Government, don't B.S. the people. If a proper vaccination is to then call it what it is. And don't pretend that by people having doses that somehow the job is done, the job is not done until you have two vaccinations. I should just quickly add in, I think Arcare is doing a pretty good job down at Hampstead Road, and I think they're right onto this. And so, you know, my thoughts are with them. And hopefully the patient can have their condition confirmed and treated, perhaps at a hospital. But I just would stress my support for the centre and the workforce there. They seem to be doing everything they can.

ROWLAND: And we heard from the Health Minister, Greg Hunt, yesterday that all aged care homes in Victoria, with residents and staff in, have just received at least one dose. He says there's a problem with consent. I think the figure quoted was 15 per cent of residents, were saying no to even one dose. Is that a worry to you, too?

SHORTEN: It is a worry, but it also worries me that Mr Hunt thinks that everyone's had one dose. At Arcare, they were fortunate that there were some extra vaccines left over on May the 12th, and so 34 of the staff could get their first vaccination. But there'll be staff there getting their first vaccination today. So, I don't know where Mr Hunt's getting his details from, but it doesn't match up with what I'm hearing on the ground. But of course, if people are refusing to take the vaccination, I've just got to say to them why? And even if you think you're bulletproof, just think about your neighbour down the hallway or the worker who's caring for you. This is not just about yourself, it's about the community. And we've got to think of the collective good, not just your own particular world view.

ROWLAND: Looking at the broader vaccination effort, in your view, is it a race?

SHORTEN: Well, it is now. I mean, I think there's been a degree of complacency, not just by the Government, but perhaps amongst Australians, if there's no outbreak of COVID, then the urge to go and get the vaccine doesn't seem as great. But we've seen even in Melbourne who are pretty switched on to these matters, the vaccination rates have exponentially increased. The queues have got longer, because now there's an outbreak. So, all I would suggest to my fellow Australians is that once there's an outbreak, queuing up to get the vaccination seems to me to be too slow. So perhaps we need to get up out of our lounge chairs and from our kitchen tables. And I would say to people in states and towns which haven't had to go through the lockdown that my hometown in Melbourne's going through, don't wait till the lockdown to get vaccinated. I mean, simple common sense says that if there's COVID anywhere, it could affect any of us at any time.

ROWLAND: Now, I took a look at the financial assistance, as you know, James Merlino, the acting Premier in Victoria, Tim Pallas yesterday, very angry at what they see is a lack of federal government support for this current lockdown. In reply, we've had the Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, putting out a statement pointing out the tens of billions of dollars offered to Victorians over the course of the pandemic, including, of course, JobKeeper. Is it a fair position to assume for the federal government to assume that because of these short-term lockdowns, it should be the state governments providing the bulk of the financial assistance?

SHORTEN: No, of course, that's a ridiculous position. I mean, there has been assistance in the past. No one's debating that. But when you've got a new crisis that requires new measures, you're only as good as your next fight, not your last fight. I mean, it's alright for Mr Frydenberg to go around the boxing ring and say, I won my last match, my last bout. The reality is we're now in a fight. There are six point seven million Victorians who are locked down. The argument that what you've done in the past means that you don't have to do anything more in the present is a is a fairy tale. And I think that's why people hate politics sometimes, it's because, you know, you've got two blindfolded politicians’ sort of swinging away in different corners and not landing a blow. The truth of the matter is that we've got small businesses doing it hard all of a sudden. The truth of the matter is that we've got unemployed people who were trying to get their first job last week and now can't because of the lockdown. People are hurting. What we need is for people to sit down and work together rather than just, you know, yell at each other meaningless sort of rhetoric.

ROWLAND: Before you go to another issue. Former Labor MP, your former colleague Emma Husar wants an apology from Anthony Albanese, your leader, over claims that people she claims are people in Labor, leaked false information about her exposing herself to a colleague back in 2017. In your view, does Emma Husar deserve an apology?

SHORTEN: Well, obviously, I can't speak for Anthony. Listen, there were a lot of people caught up in Emma’s matters, but I do think that Emma, she was on the receiving end of some poor treatment, too. So, I've spoken to her in the past. I regret the way she was treated. I don't say that that covers all the matters, but I do think that there were some people in New South Wales Labor who didn't treat her well. And Emma and I have had our own conversations on this matter. So, I do in part feel for her. I don't think she was all in the wrong here.

ROWLAND: So, on that front, does she deserve an apology, yes or no?

SHORTEN: But listen, Anthony wasn't the leader then. And so, you know, I'm not going to get into that. But certainly, for my own view, I think she received some pretty unfair treatment. And I'm happy to say that. Well, not happy, but I'm prepared to say it.

ROWLAND: Bill Shorten in Canberra, thank you. 

SHORTEN: Thank you. 

ROWLAND: And just repeating that news, Bill Shorten, based on information he has got from the Arcare facility in Maidstone, at least one, possibly two residents Lisa, also now infected by COVID. We are, of course, chasing independent confirmation of that. And, of course, we'll get the latest information from the Victorian Government, hopefully in the next half an hour or so. But if that is true, that is a definite turn for the worse, sadly.