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18 January 2022

SUBJECTS: Problems escalate over lack of access to rapid antigen tests; calls for strike action for safety at work; plans for safe return to school; Morrison slides in the polls; Novak Djokovic troubles continue.
KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: You are watching Today right across Australia, great to have your company. Unions and businesses on a collision course this morning, with threats of strike action over a shortage of workplace rapid antigen tests and COVID safety. Now we just heard from Sally McManus, the head of the ACTU, saying businesses need to step up and protect workers. Well, for more, we're joined by Shadow Minister for Government Services Bill Shorten, who's in Melbourne, a wild card entry at the Australian Open perhaps, and in Sydney, Triple M’s Gus Worland, good morning guys, nice to see you. Bill, to you first up, if businesses can't get hold of these rapid tests, I mean, what more are they meant to do?
BILL SHORTEN, MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG: Well, I think both business and workers are the meat in the Morrison sandwich here. We just need to get rapid antigen tests out to the workforce. I said this on your show last October. No one wants to see people not go to work, but people have got a right to go to work and be safe. The simple answer is better masks, better ventilation, and let's get those rapid antigen tests so people can be safe and do the work they've been doing amazingly for the last two years.
STEFANOVIC: I get the messaging around it, but strike action at this time, you may risk losing the public.
SHORTEN: Sure, I understand, and I hope it doesn't come to that, no one wants that. But let's look at why we're having this argument right now. It's because people are concerned about going to work and being infected or made ill. Rapid antigen tests, there's a solution there. They've invented them, Mr Morrison. Let's just get them into Australia. Look, why is it throughout the COVID crisis that the federal government is always surprised by what happens every day? The fact of the matter is we've been on notice. Let's get the tests. Let's get everyone working. Let's make it safe.
STEFANOVIC: Gus, what do you think about strike action? Yeah.
GUS WORLAND, TRIPLE M: Well, obviously you would lose the public over that one, but I'm with Bill on this one. I've got three kids now. One works at Kmart. The other two work in, you know, before and after school care. And I would never want my kids to be sent out to work to those areas, you know, feeling like they haven't got a test to just reassure everyone that they're safe and they haven't got COVID. So, you know, the rapid tests are there now. They're mainly accurate, aren't they? So, we just need to get them. And I do hear we're getting millions arriving. We've probably missed the boat a little bit for a few weeks but looks like we might have fixed that problem up. We've just got to keep them coming through and its now part of life. Now, you know, you're going to have a test now just like you have you your cupper in the morning, a couple of days a week. That's just going to be the new normal, unfortunately.
STEFANOVIC: New South Wales, there's this military style operation to get school kids a rapid test twice a week to keep classrooms open. Do you believe in that in principle, Bill?
SHORTEN: Yeah, absolutely, I do. I think that we've got to remember that for amongst the kids and the teachers, some of them have family members who might have a disability or might have a family member who's vulnerable. The pressure is immense on people. So, I just want to make sure that everyone who's teaching in the system, they know, and the kids know, and the parents know that it's safe to be there. None of this is rocket science. We've got to learn to live with COVID. We always knew that when we stopped all the lockdown restrictions, thank goodness. But one of the things, the prerequisites to making sure we can live with COVID, is that we can access tests. I know people don’t want politics, but Mr Morrison should have seen this train coming. He should have done more than he's done now.
STEFANOVIC: Look, rapid tests aren't going to work for everyone, and there are going to be some situations where parents, you know, they just can't afford to be at home looking after kids who are sick. But aside from all of that, again, in principle, it sounds pretty reasonable, doesn't it, Gus?
WORLAND: Yeah, totally. I think and I think for the time being Karl, it’s going to be the new normal. We're just going to have a part of our daily routine now is that we're going to have a rapid test every couple of days and lives hard enough as it is, so this gives us a little bit of comfort and it's shown that it has, then we're just going to have to do it for a period of time.
STEFANOVIC: Okay. I'm just imagining in households across the country, the kids are all eating their Weet-Bix around the breakfast table, watching the Today show while their parents put them through a rapid antigen test. That's going to be fun in the sun, isn't it, hey? Anyway, Bill, a poll in today's nine newspapers claims voters have lost faith in the PM's handling of the pandemic. As you're going on about this morning. You must be almost able to smell the Lodge now.
SHORTEN: No, listen, one thing we know is that no one can take winning an election for granted [all laugh]. But let's go to the heart of what this poll shows - here we go, my therapist says I'm saying that very well these days [laughter]. The point about it is, though, that every time something new happens during the virus, the Morrison Government, it's like Groundhog Day. They say, Oh, this is pretty unusual. What do we do? But we could follow what's been happening in the rest of the world. And you know, the fact is, workers working in retail or hospitality, or transport shouldn't have to be begging for a rapid antigen test or a better quality mask. And sooner or later, the buck's got to stop with the man in the Lodge. That's Mr Morrison. And, you know, every mistake, they manage, they've got this this reverse Midas touch where they can turn any mistake into a scandal.
STEFANOVIC: I'm surprised Anthony Albanese is not ahead yet. Is that a bit of a worry?
SHORTEN: Listen, I think that we are very competitive, and I don't think that anyone in Labor from Anthony down is counting their chickens until they hatch, you know, let's just make the case for Labor rather than rely on polls.
STEFANOVIC: Okay? Moving on. And there's a massive twist in the Novak Djokovic saga this morning after landing home in Serbia. The unvaxxed star now faces a ban from the French Open as well. But we have this morning, gentlemen, some exclusive vision filmed just before he got deported. Have a look at this.
ANDY LEE: Does that person over there have a legitimate visa to be had to stay in the country?
LEE: Am I, Novak?
DJOKOVIC: Yeah. [throws table] What do you mean? You kidding me?
STEFANOVIC: Gussy, he can't catch a break, can he?
WORLAND: No, you cannot catch a break, and Andy is a vicious host, isn't he? I mean, the poor fella, like the whole thing - no one's won out of this situation, and now he won't be able to play in the French Open. He may never, ever end up being the number one grand slam winner because you'll never get to play again unless he gets vaxxed. So, I know we're having a laugh about it, and you've got to have a laugh about it, but it's serious. You know, it's a big deal and it needs to be dealt with correctly by the tennis authorities.
STEFANOVIC: It does. Bill, do you think the boss of Tennis Australia should go?
SHORTEN: That'll be a matter for the tennis authorities. Look, it shouldn't have got to this. I mean, he needed to go. I support that. But why didn't we deal with this issue three or six months ago? Why does everything always have to become a raging fire before we call the fire brigade? You know….
STEFANOVIC: Good to see the crowds back in Melbourne. It's great to see Ash Barty, we've got a whole host of young Australian players coming through, which is the real positive out of all this. And wasn't it just good to see, fellas? Thank you so much. We'll see you soon.
WORLAND: Good on you, boys.