13 April 2021


SUBJECTS: Morrison Government’s bungled vaccine rollout; removal of national vaccine target; royal responses to the passing of Prince Philip.

ALLISON LANGDON, HOST: Thanks for joining us this morning. A triple whammy for any hopes of international travel this morning, the Prime Minister warning our borders will stay shut with no indication of a reopening timeline. A Deloitte economics report saying full international travel won't happen until, get this, 2024. And now, Qantas admitting the latest vaccine delays have forced them to review their plans to restart overseas flights later this year. Let's discuss with Shadow Minister for Government Services Bill Shorten and advertising executive Dee Madigan. Nice to see both of you this morning, Bill, it is a very bleak picture.

BILL SHORTEN, MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG: Oh listen, it's a very bad week for timelines for Australians. The reality is that Australians are being held hostage to a botched vaccine rollout. I mean, people were hoping that the vaccines were a par for a ticket back to normal. But now we find out that travel mightn’t a thing till 2024. And it's really, I think, undermined the confidence of a lot of Australians, especially younger ones, in the vaccine program. Full stop. It's very bad news.  

LANGDON: I mean, I think this has been a real kick in the guts when we heard those figures yesterday, we now have the very real possibility of countries finishing the rollout before half of our population even has access to a vaccine, Dee?

DEE MADIGAN: It's the fact that the Prime Minister won't even give a target now. We don't have a target for when our frontline health workers will be vaccinated. You know, we were supposed to be top of the queue. We're sitting at the moment between I think it's Bangladesh and Lebanon, at about 104th. Yes every state did it differently, but they did it well. And the Prime Minister has let down the country.

LANGDON: I mean, Bill, I was talking to one of our U.S correspondents who only arrived over there six weeks ago. She got her vaccination two days ago, before her grandparents in Australia did. The issue we've got, we've got businesses, tourists and university students. They're not going to come here while they need to quarantine for two weeks. And I know we keep hearing from the Government this is not a race, but it now is a race, isn't it?

SHORTEN: Well, the reality is that if we become a backwater from the rest of the world and we drop off the pace, there will be a price to pay for it. Now for a lot of people who don't have to worry about dealing with the rest of the world though, and there's no outbreak here, they might say, what's the problem? The problem is that we were promised that would be doing better than we are. The problem is that we do need tourists to help fuel our economy. We do need international students. We do need our people to be able to go overseas. The problem is that this has now wrecked the confidence in the vaccine program. This is the other unspoken story. It's not just the economy, but a lot of people are saying, well, if there's a problem with one vaccine or if there's a cloud over it, maybe I just shouldn't get vaccinated at all. And that's really undermined the whole process.  

LANGDON: Do we now have an issue Dee, with the messaging?

MADIGAN: Oh, 100 percent. You've got all the anti-vaxxers now, like, oh, look, I told you so. I've now been, you know, got nanochips and stuff in me. So, there's that as well. But we've had the doctors come out saying, you know, the new one, the Pfizer one, you have to have that second jab within a very short amount of time. No one trusts this Government to be able to deliver that as well. So, people will be nervous about getting vaccines at all. The messaging from this Government, the lack of confidence that people now have in this Government, is a massive, massive problem because we do need people to get vaccinated.

LANGDON: I mean, you know, it wasn't long ago we were hearing we are front of the queue, we’ll have access to the best vaccines. We'll have four million people vaccinated by March. I noted yesterday, Bill, the Prime Minister made his announcements via social media rather than face a media conference. What did you make of that?

SHORTEN: I think he's run up the white flag. It was pretty cowardly. This is not America, for goodness sakes, Scomo. We don't need to do the Trump “govern by tweet”. What you need is to front up. And if the media, the mainstream media, are going to ask hard questions, that's what you get paid the big bucks for. The fact that we've got bad news and he's gone into hiding and won't even announce it in front of journalists, to me just speaks volumes about the competence and the courage of the Prime Minister and the Government. It's really weak.

LANGDON: Dee, your thoughts? 

MADIGAN: I think what it shows is he won't take responsibility. Do you know what, if he got up and said, you know what, I'm sorry, we stuffed up ,whatever, people would kind of give him credit for that. But instead, we get this whole you know, I don't hold a hose thing. You know, it's not my fault. It's someone else's fault. It's always someone else's fault. Why doesn't he just admit they got it wrong?

LANGDON: But I mean, it's easy to criticise. But no one could have predicted the issues with the AstraZeneca jab, though, could they, Bill?

SHORTEN: Well, first of all, I don't particularly want to criticise on this issue. I just want the job done. But there are some unavoidable black and white facts here. We are 104th in the world, the reality is that 103 other countries are rolling out their vaccinations. So, what is it that makes 103 other countries leadership smarter than ours?

MADIGAN: And when he said that oh, we’re stopping the AstraZeneca, it was as if we had it here to give to people. We didn't, it wasn't here anyway, so it's just smoke and mirrors.

LANGDON: Well we're going to need a solution soon, because when you hear that we might not be travelling until 2024, it's not good enough - when you think how many families we still have divided, how many people in Australia who have elderly parents overseas. And that idea that people who come to Australia will have to quarantine for two weeks, it will be the end of so many businesses in the country. I do want to talk now, though, about the world's reaction to the passing of Prince Philip, because in the last few hours, both Prince William and Prince Harry released statements in tribute to their grandpa and they’re both – they’re touching and they’re personal. I just want to talk about Harry's for a moment, because Harry has called him “the master of the barbecue, legend of banter and cheeky right till the end. I know that right now, he would say to all of us, beer in hand, oh, do get on with it”. I read that statement today and I thought, you know what? That's the hint of the old Harry that we loved.  

MADIGAN: And the British press will have a problem with it, because they've got to have an enemy in every generation of royals. And it was Fergie beforehand. This time it's Harry and Meghan. And it's a beautiful statement and they'll have a problem with it somehow. 

LANGDON: What do you reckon about that one, Bill?

SHORTEN: Well, good luck to the boys for having grown to adulthood and having their grandpa around. Prince Philip was very distinguished person, no question. But, you know, to dare to be a bit different here, this is a British family and they've got their troubles like families have. When can we just – I don't want to be a therapist to a foreign family on the other side of the world. When will we just have an Australian head of state? Like, they’re are a lovely family, good luck to them. They have their problems. Some people don't like who the grandson's married. I don't mind, she seems a nice person, but I don't really care, dare I say it. You know, it's interesting, but so is Married At First Sight. You know, I just want us to get on, and have an Australian head of state. 


MADIGAN: Yeah, I prefer Married At First Sight myself.

LANGDON: So, you’re using this opportunity to say let's push ahead for a republic, Bill? 

SHORTEN: As opposed to interpreting - I hope Harry and William are best buddies, you know? But I don't mind, good luck to them. But it's about time after 250 years of European settlement that we decided to not worry about a foreign family as being the key determinants in our nation's decision-making structure.

LANGDON: I don't know. I just think it's more important things to worry about right now, like getting the vaccine rollout sorted and underway. 

SHORTEN: Spot on. I agree.

LANGDON: Alright, Bill, Dee, thanks for chatting to us this morning.