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16 December 2021

SUBJECTS: Predictions of thousands of daily COVID cases as restrictions in many states ease; Queensland’s quarantine requirements for COVID contacts; Josh Frydenberg’s jobs predictions; Mosman resident complaints lead to COVID clinic closure. 
SYLVIA JEFFREYS, HOST: Welcome back, there are calls this morning for calm as COVID cases climb around the country. Premiers are holding their nerve, removing restrictions and reopening the country despite warnings of spiralling cases, which could top 25,000 a day. For more, we're joined by Shadow Minister for Government Services Bill Shorten and Triple M’s Gus Worland, good morning to you both. Bill, to you first. That figure of 25,000 came from New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard. Victoria's Health Minister says the same could happen in your state, but this is living with COVID, right?
BILL SHORTEN, MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG: Exactly, it's about living with COVID. I think the biggest question which anyone in Australia waking up today is worried about is, will borders closed? Can the family Christmas plans go ahead? I really expect and hope that the borders won't close and that plans can go ahead. But what we need to recognise is Omicron is different to Delta, so it's time to change a bit of direction. We need to accelerate the booster shots right now, and we need to make sure that those plans for the five- to 11-year-olds to get vaccinated, that that's possible to happen. We've got to adjust our plans, but not wreck Christmas.
JEFFREYS: When do you want to see a booster shots available, three or four months after the second dose?
SHORTEN: Listen, they say five months, I went and checked, I get my five month booster shot at the end of December. I'm not saying that you bring it forward to the point where it's not effective, but we've got to make sure that when people want their booster shots, it's available that day. No rigamarole, no red tape. Soon, as five months clocks up, bang, you get your booster shot.
JEFFREYS: Well Gus, that press conference in Sydney yesterday left a lot of people scratching their heads over mixed messages, right? Brad Hazzard talking up case numbers, talking about 25000 a day by the end of January. Meantime, the Premier is saying everyone stopped focusing on case numbers. Let's look at hospital numbers instead. The Chief Health Officer, Kerry Chant clearly wishing that mask mandates were still in place. No wonder everyone's so confused and worried.
GUS WORLAND, TRIPLE M: Exactly right. I'm with the Premier. I'm going to go with the Premier on this one. The Minister, as far as I'm concerned, those case numbers, we've forgotten about that months ago. We were talking about the numbers of actual people in hospitals, just like the Premier said. And also, there's a lot of people at the moment that have the double vaccination may get COVID and be absolutely fine. So, every time I hear the numbers, it sounds scary. It sounds like they're numbers that people are truly sick or they may actually end up dying. So, at the end of the day, we're living with it. Just like Bill and you said off the top, this is the new way of doing things. Otherwise - it's not going away anytime soon. Otherwise, what are we going to do? Shut down the world again. We need to open up. We need to be doing this just for our own human spirit and let the science look after the immunisation, the boosters and just get on with it.
JEFFREYS: So, meantime, if you're flying into Queensland as the state opens up, any close contacts of a positive case still face 14 days in isolation. Bill, infectious disease experts say seven days of isolation is more than sufficient. Surely the Queensland Government needs to reduce that isolation period before Christmas, not after.
SHORTEN: Well, I have to say, I think that's probably right. If 7 days does the job, then you shouldn't be stuck for 14 days. You said it earlier and so did Gus. What people want is they don't want mixed messages. We'll all follow a health regulation so long as we think the health regulations are sensible, but where we just think they’re bureaucracy gone mad, that's what really loses people. So, I think that if we're going to live with COVID, which we are, let's just have sensible regulations which do the job, not bureaucratic overkill, which just drives people to despair.
JEFFREYS: So as the Queensland Government overreaching with 14 days of isolation in place right now?
SHORTEN: Listen, they're going to - 
SHORTEN: I've got no doubt they're going to work it through. They'll work it through. I'm not, you know, one thing people also hate is they hate mixed messaging, but they hate everyone blaming and finger pointing everyone else. I've got no doubt common sense will prevail.
JEFFREYS: Okay. Well, plenty of people are hoping that will be the case, that's for sure. That's a little depressing this talk of 25,000 cases a day, but the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is doing his very best to put a smile on your face this morning, Bill. His mid-year report predicting one of the world's strongest COVID recoveries and a million new jobs created over the next four years. Do you share the Government's optimism Bill?
SHORTEN: I think there will be a bounce back out of COVID. You know, people have been saving some money, they've got money to spend. But you know, I do think that Mr Frydenberg might be telling some Christmas fairy tales about wages. For the last eight years, wages have basically been in the toilet. They haven't increased at all. Whenever the Government said they're going to go up, they don't go as far up as the Government promises. So, I take with a big grain of salt when he says oh, wages are going to miraculously jump up. They haven't under this Government, and I still worry that ordinary everyday families are going to see cost of living moving faster than wages.
JEFFREYS: Gus these forecasts rely on the assumption that there will be no more border closures. Is that a risk?
WORLAND: Of course it is. You know, and you know, I agree with Bill a lot of the time, but I'm just going to take a real positive spin on this one. I think he's done a pretty good job. I think JobKeeper, if you look around the world, Australia has done really well at keeping everything going as well as we possibly can. So, let's give him a little Christmas fairy tale if he needs one, because it's been a tough year for everyone and I've been very proud of how Australia have dealt with this. So good on Josh. And you know, hopefully we can, like you say, no border closures and we can just have this Christmas together. I'm down here in Adelaide for the Test match. People are in bars, people are having a good time. We still socially isolate, we still have our masks on, we still wash our hands - I've never seen blokes wash their hands at the bathroom at a bar more often than this. It's just awesome that we've taken on this stuff. We still need to keep doing that, but we need to move forward. We need hope that we're through this just for our own mental fitness.
JEFFREYS: It's good to find the silver linings, isn't it, men are washing their hands… Our next story prompting a bit of backlash this morning, residents of the posh Sydney suburb of Mosman have successfully closed down a COVID testing clinic. Residents and business owners complaining that the excessive traffic and long queues were disturbing. The neighbourhood, Bill - a bit rich?
SHORTEN: Oh, Mosman, too posh for vaccination? I think that has got to be a first world problem. Testing and vaccinations, what's going to keep Mosman open? But anyway, we're a I love Gus's incurable optimism. But these punters in Mosman, I don't know what they're on, but that's a bit silly.
JEFFREYS: Gus, your take on this one.
WORLAND: Yeah, I live pretty close to them and they've just got to give themselves an uppercut. I'm sure there's only just a few people that have made that decision, and the council for some reason went with it. But now we need as many of those places open as possible. When people start feeling a little bit average, we need for them to be able to go somewhere local, make it easy for them to go and get tested so we can actually live with this COVID thing better than we are. So, we need more of those things opening, not things shutting down.
JEFFREYS: Well, Gus, allow us to bask once more if we can in your optimism, Gus regarding the Ashes today?
WORLAND: Absolutely, absolutely. We're looking good. The main thing is that they're going to have over 35,000 people at the ground. It's a day/night Test match. Had a beer last night, just looking out onto the ground. I was in tears. I mean, absolute heaven, so I cannot wait and I'm really looking forward to the Test match starting tonight.
JEFFREYS: Very good. Gentlemen, thank you very much for joining us this morning. We appreciate your time. 
SHORTEN: Thank you. 
WORLAND: Pleasure.
JEFFREYS: Enjoy the cricket.