THURSDAY, 22 APRIL 2021
SUBJECTS: Belt and Road deal thrown out; vaccine delays for vulnerable Australians; honouring Victorian police officers lost in the Eastern Freeway tragedy.
KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: Welcome back to the show, Daniel Andrews may still be off work recuperating, but that hasn't stopped the Federal Government ripping up his controversial Belt and Road deal with China in his absence. It's the first use of new Commonwealth powers to cancel any state or territory agreement believed to be against our national interests. And it is interesting. Let's discuss with Shadow Minister for Government Services Bill Shorten and 3AW’s Neil Mitchell, the first time you guys have spoken in some time, I feel like I'm reuniting you this morning. Morning, chaps. Bill, to you first of all, you thought they were suss. The world thought they were suss. The only one who didn't was Dan Andrews.
BILL SHORTEN, MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG: Look, the Federal Government last year said that they want to make clear that they have sole responsibility for foreign relations. So, they've gone ahead with that. We've said that we wouldn't have signed the arrangements either if we were in government. But I do now think it's important the Morrison government takes control of our relations with China. I think a lot of viewers this morning would be surprised to know that in the last few years, we're now more dependent on China trade than ever. So, on one hand, I think the government needs to get their relations right with China because a lot of jobs are at risk. And the other hand is, we need to diversify our relationships, so we've got other countries we're dealing with, not just China.
STEFANOVIC: You think this is the right move, though?
SHORTEN: I think on balance, it's probably where we were going to go, yes.
STEFANOVIC: OK, Neil, look, the Victorian Government says it was just fighting for Victorian businesses. They literally didn't see the red flag.
NEIL MITCHELL, 3AW: No, they were conned. They were conned, and you can see it unfolding around the world, this is China's way of increasing its influence and beginning to dominate the world. I'm glad to hear Bill say that it is bipartisan, but it's very easy to say, you know, the Federal Government's got to fix its relations with China. How? There's a fundamental problem here. This is a country of principle, whether it's Labor or Liberal in power. China is not. It's a digital dictatorship. They run concentration camps and suppress their people. Now, we're going to have to make a call. We got to look for alternative markets. Our relations with China will get worse. This will hurt. What has happened here will hurt our relations with China. It will hurt trade. It will hurt everything. But it's the price we've got to pay for having principles.
STEFANOVIC: This is provocative and some of our businesses will suffer. Bill, we can't even have a call that we make to our counterparts in China responded to. How do we fix this?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all, you don't become so dependent on one country. We've been feeding this relationship. We've been happy to trade. And now what's happened is we woke up one day and found out we need to diversify. Now, it's like a big ocean liner. You can't just turn it around on a 20 cent coin. So, what we need to do is put the time in to build our relations with the rest of Asia. But the other thing is that perhaps when we deal with China, we should have a principle of no surprises. In other words, tell them early what we think. And then I think at least you don't embarrass people on the way through. Because we have got a lot of ships tied up, coal and wine and our food and it’s important. There's a lot of jobs swinging in the balance.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, Victoria -
MITCHELL: If they don’t like what we tell them -
STEFANOVIC: Go on.
MITCHELL: Sorry, if we tell them what we think, they don't like it. Look at Huawei. We've got the message yesterday after the decision taken, rightly taken, over not having Huawei in this country, and the Chinese deputy ambassador or whatever he is saying, hang on, you've got to sort this out or we won't deal with you.
STEFANOVIC: Yeah, it’s all very strange.
MITCHELL: You tell them what we think, and they walk away from it. It’s unwinnable.
STEFANOVIC: Next up, I think this is shameful. We learnt this morning ahead of National Cabinet that only 10 per cent of Australia's 300,000 aged care staff have received their COVID vaccinations, 10 per cent. That's despite the outbreaks in Victoria, despite a number of enquiries, of a Royal Commission. Now, remember this vision, the Prime Minister receiving his Pfizer jab at the Holy Family Residential Services Care Centre in Western Sydney. Remember that? Where eighty 84 year old World War Two survivor Jane Multiyak received her first jab to much fanfare in February. We all remember that. Turns out if you're a staff member at that facility, you can't get a vaccine. It's unbelievable, Bill.
SHORTEN: Yeah, it's a shemozzle. Another number we learnt yesterday is that only six and a half per cent of the people who live in disability accommodation have been vaccinated. And many of their staff haven't. I think the most vulnerable should be at the front of the queue. The Government has had time. The rest of the world is getting on with vaccinations. But I also don't understand why they just haven't opened up mass vaccinations for people who want it, so that then we can use our resources logistically to send out to aged care and disability care. But a whole lot of workers, aged care, disability care workers, are complaining to me they can't get the jab. It is a shemozzle.
STEFANOVIC: It is. I don't know, Neil, how many warnings, how many things need to go wrong in that sector for the federal government to get it right?
MITCHELL: Well, you’ve only got to look at Victoria, you know, 800 deaths, most of them in aged care last year. It is a shemozzle, I agree with Bill. And it's dominated by spin, this is what's undermining it. the case you use is classic. Scott Morrison and the others get the vaccine but the people in the facility don't. Take the spin out of it. Put real - don't let governments run this. It's too important. The dysfunctional bureaucracy is obvious at a state and federal level. At last we've brought the military in to run it. And maybe somebody who knows how to run a business and logistics, could make it work. We're stuffing it up.
SHORTEN: We should get the GPs to run it. Frankly, they do business every day.
MITCHELL: I agree, I agree.
STEFANOVIC: Yeah. Okay, gentlemen, a very important one, agree with you on both of those important points. It's a poignant day for Melbourne and Australia today, when we all remember the four police officers who lost their lives on the Eastern Freeway exactly one year ago. Neil, you've been campaigning to get buildings across the state line up blue tonight and you've had huge support.
MITCHELL: Yeah, I'm delighted. We’ve have been doing this for 48 hours, the water tower and Wodonga will be blue tonight and so will the Melbourne Town Hall. It is an enormously powerful message. Hundreds of buildings across the state. The police love it because it's a message not just to these grieving families, but to every copper that goes out on the job and risks their lives. It is a message of support from this community.
STEFANOVIC: Well done to you. And we all felt it deeply, didn't we, Bill?
SHORTEN: It was shocking when the news came out that afternoon, just people doing their job, keeping everyone else safe, just mowed down. And I think what Neil's been doing is great. Of course, I just wish you could bring these people back and we know we can't. It's a tragedy. And I'm glad they’ve thrown the book at the driver. But I'm also pretty interested to see how the proceedings go against the employer of the truck driver, because, you know, we've got to make sure the drivers aren't driving unsafely and this is just the consequence of that shocking tragedy.
STEFANOVIC: Gentlemen, thank you for your time today. There will be also a minute's silence at 5:36pm today, and tonight our thoughts not just in Melbourne and Victoria, but across the country with those police officers’ family, who lost their lives.
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