27 April 2021
TUESDAY 27 APRIL 2021
SUBJECTS: India’s growing COVID crisis; calls to close international borders to India; inflamed rhetoric on Australia-China relations; Australia’s need to act on domestic violence
ALLISON LANGDON, HOST: India is facing a virus tsunami, a humanitarian crisis on an unimaginable scale. For the sixth day in a row, daily cases have surpassed 300,000. 2,700 people have died, and that's just the official figure. The real number is believed to be much, much higher. Hospitals are now running out of oxygen and emergency beds. We've got patients dying on floors. We've even got them dying out on the streets. Our government is now looking to send desperately needed supplies while also considering at special cabinet today whether to stop or travel from India to prevent infections arriving in Australia. Let's discuss with Shadow Minister for Government Services Bill Shorten and 2GB and 4BC’s Chris Smith, nice to have both of you in. Bill, I mean, your response when you see those scenes in India, and is it time to ban all flights from the country?
BILL SHORTEN, MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG: My first response is it's an awful time for India. And I just want to express my solidarity with all Australians of Indian descent. But it is well past time to shut our borders to flights from India. And one very good humanitarian reason to do it is if we don't have COVID here, then we can use some of our supplies, which we are not using to fight it here, to help India in India, which we should do as well. India is our friend. We should send them what we can, but time to close the borders. They should have been closed days ago.
LANGDON: I mean, we know that they make up 40 per cent of all quarantine cases from India. But the other side of this Bill, is you've got more than 8,000 Aussies trying to get home, including our cricketers. Do we just leave them there?
SHORTEN: Oh, you've got to try and do special flights. Australians should always be able to be supported home. But let's be clear - as a general principle, let's just close the borders for traffic from India and then we can send them some supplies. Where we've got Australians trapped over there, then we've got to try and see how we get them home. But as a general rule, I think most Aussies are saying close the borders. So then at least we can help our Indian friends in India, rather than have to fight more COVID in Australia.
LANGDON: Chris, your thoughts on this? Because, I mean, I don't know how we can say on one hand, let's close the borders, but let's bring home the Australians who are trapped over there.
CHRIS EMERSON, 2GB & 4BC: Yeah, Bill’s fairly fixed on closing the borders, this is a lot more complicated than what it sounds. It's easy to say borders closed, we move on, and people wouldn't understand that there are individuals, not just the cricketers, who need to come back, people who have anchors here in Australia, not necessarily anchors in India. However, in principle, I think we've got to close the borders. I think we've got to get Lear jets in there to get the cricketers out. That's it. They've got to get out of there. Forget about the IPL.
LANGDON: Hang on, hang on. Are you saying we just we just go in, we just get the cricketers out and we leave everyone else?
EMERSON: Well, they are representing Australia. They are they are there without family. They are there without connections. I doubt whether the 9,000 that are still there that want to come home don't have connections to family. I think there's they've probably got some support in that country, especially given the fact that they were told thirteen months ago to come home and they're still there. So, I think they're probably safe enough to remain in the country, you know, surrounded by family. I don't think the cricketers can say that. I think we've got to get them out. They represented the country, but this is a terrible time. And we've got to firstly concentrate on getting our equipment over there, our hospital ICU equipment over there, because we don't have a crisis here.
LANGDON: I mean, as you say, our hearts break for everyone in India at the moment. Cabinet is meeting today and I'm sure we'll hear a decision on what's going to happen in regards to travel. Now, I want to ask you about this, because I'm not sure about you, but I was alarmed this morning to hear our Home Affairs secretary, Mike Pezzullo, warning Australians the drums of war are beating, as military tensions rise with China in the Indo-Pacific. There's even stronger language in his message to staff, saying Australia must be prepared to send off yet again our warriors to fight. Bill, this is one of our most powerful security leaders using pretty strong language.
SHORTEN: Yeah, I don't understand why they're using such inflammatory language. I distinguish how we handle China from some of the sort of public language. I like what Theodore Roosevelt, the great American President, said. Walk quietly, but carry a big stick. So, by all means, we need to stand up for our trade. We need to stand up for human rights. But I don’t know, language like ‘drums of war’, I think that's pretty hyper-excited language. And I'm not sure our senior public servants should be using that language, because I'm not sure what that actually helps except cause more anxiety.
LANGDON: Chris, your thoughts on this was an inflammatory or is he just calling it as it is?
EMERSON: I think you’ll find that he is a non-politician, so he doesn't need to be diplomatic. He understands the intelligence. He knows the threat. We had warships being launched only two days ago by China. We know that they’re transferring or transforming their island territory into military installations at the same time, they are seriously, one, trying to intimidate Taiwan to roll over. Taiwan won't, China, if it wants a war, will have a war. And I like the fact that we've got a non-politician who knows the facts behind the scenes telling it like it is, because we need to wake up. This could be a war and it's on our doorstep.
LANGDON: But he's also putting Australia front and centre when he uses language like that. Now, moving scenes on the Gold Coast last night. The community coming together at a vigil for Kelly Wilkinson, allegedly murdered by her former husband. Campaigners are demanding she didn't die in vain. Bill, gosh, it was such a beautiful and touching event, so important that from Kelly's death, we finally see a change in how we deal with domestic violence. But is it going to happen?
SHORTEN: Well, based on previous record, I'm not sure it will. It was an amazing service and it should change. But I'm going to be - you know, Chris said, let's have it straight. Let's talk straight. Well hear some straight talk. Queensland in 2015 did a big report, Not Now, about this domestic violence. The Victorians had a Royal Commission in 2016. New South Wales had a big report in 2011. And it's time for the Federal Government to step up. Domestic violence is neither inevitable nor just a fact of life. There are a lot of recommendations out there, and I think it's time for the feds, Mr Morrison, to lead. Six years ago. I challenged Mr Abbott to hold a summit on domestic violence to get everyone together. Now they're doing it six years later, but I think they need to make clear that there's more perpetrator intervention. Women who are afraid for their kids or their own safety need to have access to some immediate funds to leave. I think we should have monthly monitoring. This is - and why don't we just agree, in honour of Kelly Wilkinson's memory, that all the recommendations which have been written and not acted on just get acted on.
LANGDON: Hmm. Chris, your thoughts on this? Because I feel people say this is a real moment for change. My fear is we said that when we lost Hannah Clarke and her three kids, we swore it would never happen again. We're hearing this morning, too, that if you put your hand up as a domestic violence victim, six month wait before you can even speak to anyone.
EMERSON: I am hearing what Bill says. He's right, but I don't think it's a federal government jurisdiction. I think it's a state government jurisdiction. But the National Cabinet can play a role here. You get the state governments in and say police can't ignore someone knocking on their door saying, I'm going to get injured, I'm going to get hurt. They've got to have a system in place where you can take those people, with support, monetary support, as Bill points out, and get them into safe places very easily. We have the situation with Kelly's case, where she's gone to the cops twice and hasn't found any shelter, like it's just tragic. So, this is National Cabinet, not just the Prime Minister. The state Premiers and territory Ministers need to say we need systems in place with police and also with some of those domestic violence hubs so that people are in shelter once they fear for their lives. We've got to be able to have that automatically.
LANGDON: We know how, to get to that moment where you're so brave to go, OK, right. I'm going to leave, I can do it now, to then have a door shut in your face and have to return. We've got to do better as a nation, we really do. Chris and Bill, thank you both for joining us this morning, appreciate it.
SHORTEN: No worries.
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