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10 December 2021


SUBJECTS: Pfizer vaccine approved for 5 to 11 year olds; WA vaccination rates and re-opening plans; Morrison Government ditches Taipan helicopters; mystery remains over Novak Djokovic’s vaccination status ahead of Australian Open; NZ cigarette ban for life for under 14’s
SYLVIA JEFFREYSHORTEN: Welcome back, a major development this morning in our national vaccine rollout, with Pfizer given final approval for children aged 5 to 11. The rollout starting on January 10. For more, we're joined by Shadow Government Services Minister Bill Shorten in Sydney and 6PR host Gareth Parker in Perth. Good morning to you both. Bill, to you first, if I can. Australia becomes one of just a handful of countries doing this. Do you expect parents to embrace this?
BILL SHORTEN, MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG: Oh, I think it's excellent. My daughter's turning 12 in December, and we've got her booked in for a vaccination. I'm like a lot of parents of kids under the age of 12. We don't want our kids catching COVID. And so, I'm really pleased that parents will be able to get their kids vaccinated. And I actually think when it comes to hesitancy, people who might be hesitant for themselves are still motivated to keep their kids safe. So, I think we parents will embrace this and I will give a lot of peace of mind for next year's school.
JEFFREYS: WA, Gareth, is still lagging behind the rest of the country in vaccinating adults. How do you expect the rollout for kids to play out there?
GARETH PARKER, 6PR: Well, there's no shortage of supply in this state, which is good news. Anyone who wants a vaccine can get one. You say we're lagging behind. It's true. We have been lagging behind New South Wales and Victoria, but we're nearly there. We've nearly caught up, and the mark that's been set here is for people over the age of 12, whereas most other states are measuring it over 16. So, by the end of this month into next month, I expect that we'll be right up there at 90 per cent. So that's good news. For kids, I think the important thing is that parents are able to choose here. I think especially for the younger kids, it's great that it's available for parents. We'd like to provide that protection for their children, but I certainly wouldn't like to see government start to mandate things, and there's no suggestion that's happening in Western Australia at this point. But I wouldn't like to see them start to mandate things, especially for the really young kids. I'm a parent of a two-year-old and a and a newborn, and I think that five, six seven, there's not great evidence that COVID’s really dangerous to those kids just yet. So, I think parents should always have the right to choose these things for that age group. For those younger age groups.
JEFFREYS: There has, I think you're right, been some confusion about whether or not it will be mandated for school students. Bill, that's not likely to happen, is it?
SHORTEN: Yeah, I'm not aware of that happening. I think a lot of parents will move to vaccinate their kids once they're at school because, you know, I know having an 11-year-old that I've been uneasy, that you know, that my daughter could pick it up at school. And sure, it doesn't seem to be as serious in kids as adults, but I think most parents are just going to want to keep their kid safe. That's what we're hardwired to do.
JEFFREYS: Okay, Gareth, I need to ask you about Queensland's reopening on Monday, because that must sting a little bit for West Australians who are probably, I suspect, feeling even more isolated now. But do you think that reopening date could come forward a bit?
PARKER: I don't know. We're anticipating an announcement any day now from the WA Premier Mark McGowan. It could be as soon as today. I'm hopeful it's as soon as today for families who've been separated, and it doesn't just affect people living in Western Australia of course, it affects people who are either from here or have got family or friends here who live in other parts of the country who desperately want to reconnect after such an uncertain period. Equally, there are those who have their whole lives here who still aren't that keen to let COVID back in. We've lived a really normal COVID free existence, with the exception of the travel issues, and for those people, there's still a bit of trepidation. So, the Premier is trying to walk a line here, but I am hopeful that we might learn as soon as today, get some clarity. And if it was brought forward, who knows? That would be nice.
JEFFREYS: A lot of people will be interested in that announcement if it happens today, Gareth. Now, The Australian this Morning is reporting that Australia is scrapping our entire fleet of forty-seven Taipan helicopters, after reaching a new $7 billion deal with the United States to buy Black Hawk and Seahawk replacements. Bill, the Taipan helicopters we know have been plagued with problems for years. Was this the right call from Defence Minister Peter Dutton?
SHORTEN: Well, I'll talk to my colleagues. This story has sort of been breaking overnight, but the general principle that if you've invested in expensive equipment but it's not working, when is the right time to just put your hand up and say, this isn't working, I wouldn't want us to reinforce defeat. In other words, if the Taipan is a turkey and it isn't what we hoped it would be. You know, these are hard decisions, but is it - maybe you do get points for making the hard decision to go back to something which is more reliable, although you have to ask, how did we get ourselves into this situation in the first place?
JEFFREYS: It sounds like you might be giving some support to Peter Dutton, Bill Shorten.
SHORTEN: Well, we don't know all the circumstances, but sometimes you're better off admitting you're wrong than pretending you're right when in fact you're wrong.
JEFFREYS: Well, Peter Dutton does join us on the program a little later, so we will get his take on that. Let's talk some sport now. Confusion still reigns over whether Novak Djokovic will play at the Australian Open, and we still don't know whether or not he's vaccinated. Bill, the world Number 1 is such a drawcard for the event, but how do you think that the Melbourne Park crowds are going to respond if he is given an exemption to play?
SHORTEN: Listen, people love the Djoker. He's a great performer, but he's also paid millions and millions of dollars. I just think that if any exemptions granted, it's got to be transparent. I don't think they can afford to be two rules, one rule for some and another rule for everyone else. So, if there is a medical exemption granted by Tennis Australia, I just think it's going have to be transparent otherwise it's going to leave a bad taste in people's mouths, I think
JEFFREYS: Gareth. He has, though, played other grand slams around the world this year. His competitors don't seem to have an issue playing against him. Are we being too rigid here?
PARKER: Well, I think that it's a clash between what's happening in other parts of the world and what's happening here. We've got very strong rules about vaccination that governments have set, saying if you want to come to our state or to our country, then you have to be vaccinated. Now, if that's the rule, then that's the rule. It should apply to everyone. That said, individuals again have the right to decline to share their own private personal medical information. If Novak Djokovic gets a medical exemption, you would presume he's getting it from state and federal governments, and if he gets it, he gets it. Should it be transparent, I think I agree with Bill about that. Yeah, it probably should. But I'm also cognisant of the fact that people's own medical information is their medical information. We all know that he got COVID, and he had it. So, in a sense, he's got some level of natural immunity to it anyway. So, look, it's a tough one, but tennis fans want to see him play, but so many people have gone out and done the right thing, especially in Victoria, which has suffered so long under lockdowns. They wouldn't want to see, I don't think, any carve outs for anyone, let alone multi-millionaire athletes.
JEFFREYS: Well, the clock is ticking. We'll surely have to find out soon. A very interesting announcement in New Zealand yesterday, with a plan to ban anyone under the age of 14 from ever buying cigarettes for life. So, the aim is to completely wipe out smoking within the next four years in New Zealand, with some health experts saying the plan could be adopted here. Bill, what's your take on this? Is this overreach?
SHORTEN: I'm uneasy when I read about this. Both my parents died of catastrophic heart attacks, and they were both long term smokers, so I'm no fan of smoking. But on the other hand, you know, we've had a lot of government in our lives, and I don't know. I feel uneasy that the idea that all of a sudden we're basically saying smoking is illegal, it'll lead to a black market in cigarettes. So, I don't know, I'd like to - I'm uneasy about it, to be honest. I didn't feel comfortable when I read it. I thought, are they joking?
JEFFREYS: Yeah, I think you probably won't be alone, Gareth. What are your thoughts?
PARKER: Well, funnily enough, I'm actually quite a fan of it, and I'm not usually a big fan of governments telling people how to live their lives. But if you invented the cigarette today and said, here's a new product that we want to bring to market, there's absolutely no way you'd be able to sell it. And it's hard to make a case as to why taking up smoking is a good idea. For existing smokers, they can still get their cigarettes, and of course, there'll be issues with black markets and kids will get their hands on them if they're available in society. That's what happens now with under-18s in Australia and New Zealand and everywhere else. I don't mind it. I don't mind it. If it discourages people from taking up a habit that really has no redeeming value, I don't see the problem.
JEFFREYS: Okay, let's end this morning on something we can all agree on. How good are the Aussies in the Ashes right now, Bill?
SHORTEN: Listen, the Poms lost a wicked on the first ball and it's gone downhill for them ever since. Incredible.
JEFFREYS: It's amazing to think it could go downhill from there. It almost has. Gareth, are you enjoying this as much as I am?
PARKER: I'm loving it. I'm loving it. No, it was a masterclass by perfect Pat Cummins with the ball on day one. And then what a century from Travis Head yesterday, who you know, a lot of doubt about Travis Head and whether he could solidify that spot at number five in the order? Well, if he bats like that, he'll be batting number five for Australia for the next decade. So, congratulations to him and good luck to the Aussies as they press towards victory on day three today.
JEFFREYS: He's giving it to the doubters, isn't he? Gentlemen, thank you very much for joining us today. Have a great day. We'll see you soon.
SHORTEN: Thank you.