TUESDAY 25 JANUARY, 2022
SUBJECTS: World Health Organization’s message on COVID; Morrison Government failure on RAT kit supplies; vaccinating our kids for the return to school; Barnaby Joyce’s insensitive comments about COVID deaths; rights deal struck for use of the Aboriginal flag
ALLISON LANGDON, HOST: Nice to have your company this morning, prepare for a COVID end game. That was the hugely positive message delivered overnight from the World Health Organisation's director in Europe. But just a few hours later, WHO’s global chief burst that bubble of hope, saying talk of an end game was quote, “dangerous and we should prepare for more variants of the virus”. Let's discuss with Shadow Minister for Government Services Bill Shorten, who is in Adelaide this morning and in Sydney, Triple M's Gus Worland, nice to see you both this morning. Bill, talk about mixed messages. It's almost over… errrr, no, it's not.
BILL SHORTEN, MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG: Yeah, listen, I think the challenge here is not to be Pollyanna and think everything's blue sky, but not to be all doom and gloom. I'd like to see, we all want to see, the pandemic peak, but to all of our health staff working hard, to all the families getting their kids ready for school, all those who've got family members who are sick, I don't want to insult their intelligence to say we're out of the woods, but it would be good to know that there's an end in sight. I think the challenge now is to make sure that we just keep doing what we're doing so that we look after our community and look after our health workers in particular.
LANGDON: Yeah, look Gus, official case numbers, they’re falling. But with RAT kits in such short supply, it's hard to know what the real picture is, isn't it?
GUS WORLAND, TRIPLE M: Yeah, exactly. And I'm with Bill there. Like, there is an end game in sight, but not quite there yet, but we are moving in the right direction. There is hope, there is blue sky as Bill said. So, we've just got to keep our eye on it, keep listening to the medical people, but realise we have to live with this and there's going to be numbers that increase and there's going to be deaths and so forth. But we have to live with this particular variant and there's going to be more variants. Somehow - we can't shut down and lock down again because that's even worse. So, we just have to keep living with it and keep working at what's best on a day-to-day basis.
LANGDON: Well, Bill, it was good to see the rollout of free RAT’s go so well yesterday.
SHORTEN: No... Listen, I went around hunting around the chemists in my local area in Melbourne looking for RAT’s. It's ridiculous, frankly. Our pharmacists got mugged - the Government makes a promise, and the pharmacies find out 20 minutes beforehand that they're meant to be delivering all these free RAT tests or get the RAT tests out. I do not understand why we're scratching around now for antigen tests when we knew this was going to be a problem last year. It's very frustrating, especially as schools are about to return and parents want to make sure their kids are okay.
LANGDON: And Gus for me, it was seeing so many vulnerable pensioners yesterday, going pharmacy to pharmacy, looking for RAT’s unsuccessfully. It wasn't good enough, was it?
WORLAND: No, it's not. And we knew that rapid tests were going to be a big part of moving forward and living with this particular variant and with COVID. So why we wouldn't be - I know there's a worldwide shortage, but we all seem to be just one step behind where we should be at the moment when it comes to getting these tests and getting ourselves back up and running again. So, I was fortunate enough to go and actually get some for my mum, but there's no way my mum was mobile enough. She doesn't drive anymore. There's a problem at the train station near hers at the moment, she’s got to jump on a bus so she wouldn't have gone otherwise. So, if you don't have someone there to support you, you just simply don't get them. And if you did turn up, they weren't there. And to see the elderly and the pensioners getting turned away by, as Bill said, great pharmacies doing their best, they'll sell them. They'll give them to them if they could. But we just don't have them.
LANGDON: Yeah, I mean, I remember seeing one older lady going, I think she'd been to about three or four pharmacies, and in the end, she said, it's more dangerous me out trying to find one. I'm just going to go home and give up. Bill, I know the rapid tests are going to be critical to get kids back to the classroom safely. But with more than half of all primary aged kids, they won't be vaccinated. My little boy starts school this year. He won't be vaccinated in time before school starts. Does that bother you? How many won't have that protection?
SHORTEN: There's no doubt in my mind that, why aren't we talking about a school immunisation program? When I was a kid, you turn up to school and one of the things they do is immunise you against the various diseases. What's wrong with us having an old-fashioned immunisation program? All the kids have got to go to school, so there they all are. Why don't we just roll that out? Just… why is it in this country when it's come to COVID that we always make things more difficult than they have to be? The kids have got to go to school. We want to keep them safe. Let's vaccinate them at school.
LANGDON: Hey, look, I want to talk to you about the Deputy Prime Minister yesterday. In that radio interview, Barnaby Joyce said people are not dying from COVID in Australia, but and it's a big but, he did quickly apologise, saying he made a mistake. So, Bill, he deserves credit for that, doesn't he? We don't often hear a politician say sorry.
SHORTEN: Uh, why? I mean, it's always a problem for politicians that they forget to put their brain in gear before they speak. But to me, the problem is even broader than that. I think the Federal Government just wants COVID to go away and who doesn't? But they seem to forget they've got a role in teaching us and helping us to live with it. You know, I think, why don't we have a Centre for Disease Control? Why are we keeping relying on imported products from overseas for the basics, for what we do? Why don't the pharmacies have more resources to do their job? And it just seems to me that the Government, you know, the loose language of the of the Deputy Prime Minister, is a symptom of all of what's wrong with the Government at the moment - that it's someone else's responsibility, and we're just going to try and talk our way out of a problem rather than lead the nation out of the problem.
LANGDON: Gus, what do you think about what Bill just said?
WORLAND: Yeah. Barnaby's had a shocker there, you know, but you're right, he did apologise straight away. But even to have that sort of thought process in your head means that he probably isn't quite on the ball when it comes to this. And if you're not on the ball when it comes to the COVID situation, what are you on the ball with? It's the most important thing at the moment that we're all talking about, and it's affecting our lives so much. So, yeah, I'm pleased he apologised straight away. But even to have that line of thought in his head means that he's probably not quite on the quite on where we want him to be as Deputy PM.
LANGDON: Yeah, I wasn't sure our politicians knew these words and you go. Hey, but I just want to finish on this one because the deal's been struck - sorry, Bill, that was a low blow. A deal has been struck to allow the Aboriginal flag to be flown for free by all Australians, but it's cost taxpayers 20 million dollars, the government finally striking a deal to resolve those issues over copyright. Gus, I mean, that's not cheap. Twenty million?
WORLAND: No, it's not. But it's the right result. And when you think about how huge this particularly is as an issue, it really is a bit of a - totally the right amount of money to spend. Get it out and about. It's free now. We can have it right next to the Australian flag. Exactly how it should be. And it's a really, really good result and a good a good news story.
LANGDON: Bill, unbelievable that hasn't always been free, I guess.
SHORTEN: Well, I just I think it sounds like an OK outcome, to be honest. People who design it are getting some credit, and a lot of that money is going to go to a committee to make sure there can be events and recognition of our First Nations peoples heritage. So, you know, we've got too much to argue about in this country. So, if there's one less issue to fight about off the table, I'm happy.
LANGDON: Yep, I agree with that. I'm sure Gus - Gus is nodding his head. We're all in agreement this morning. Nice to see you both enjoy the rest of your week.