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28 September 2021

SUBJECTS: COVID stress on frontline health workers; states’ roadmap out of COVID restrictions; hope for a re-united Christmas. 
U.S VIDEO PACKAGE: We've been running out of body bags and have to walk around the hospital finding them and then you have to the double bag them because the morgue is full, and so you have to put ice on them.
KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: Gee, it's hard to watch, isn't it? That was an ICU nurse in the U.S posting on social media this week, revealing her utter heartbreak, dealing with the new spike in deaths from COVID. And here, a Melbourne nurse has given a stark warning about the impact of the pandemic, causing many young nurses to reconsider training to become ICU specialists in the first place. Let's discuss with Minister for Government Services Bill Shorten and in Sydney, Stella and Body and Soul magazine’s Sarrah Le Marquand. Good morning, guys. Nice to see you. Bill, Our frontline nurses under so much pressure through all of this. At a time when our leaders are talking about freedoms, we do need to keep that in mind.
BILL SHORTEN, MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG: Yeah. Listen, this is a really timely opportunity to thank our nursing staff and our hospital staff. They're the ones who have been doing this for nearly two years. There's burnout, there's fatigue. It's one of the reasons why you just can't simply click your fingers and open up, because we don't want to overwhelm our hospital staff. And I just want to say thank you to all our nurses and the rest of the teams in the hospitals. Where we've got to, we couldn't have got to without you and all of your work colleagues.
STEFANOVIC: Sarah, it's not over yet, either. This is going to keep going.
SARRAH LE MARQUAND, STELLA MAGAZINE: Well, it is Karl. And we've seen experts saying that with New South Wales unveiling their roadmap and Victoria expected to follow suit, that we will have to be keeping a very close eye on the impact for our frontline health care workers. They are, as we've just seen there, truly the most vulnerable workers in the country and we need to make sure that our freedoms as impatient as we are, don't make their lives any harder. But I just would echo what Bill said. Please know if you're working in ICU, you're working in a hospital, the whole country is behind you. We can't thank you enough. And when this is all over, let's throw them a ticker tape parade.
STEFANOVIC: Good idea. Really good idea. Bill, you'd sponsor that, wouldn’t you?
SHORTEN: Absolutely. I’d be throwing some of the confetti.
STEFANOVIC: Good. Let's move on. And the clear message is the unvaccinated will have to wait longer to gain their freedoms. Bill Melbourne finally calmed down. Obviously, the anti-vaxxers ran out of steam, but Daniel Andrews is now playing hardball. If you're unvaccinated in Victoria, you'll have to wait until after Christmas to enjoy equal freedoms. It sends a pretty clear message.
SHORTEN: Yeah, I have to say these days when I walk around, maybe it's some of the unvaccinated who are protesting the loudest, but I think the quiet, overwhelming majority of Victorians and Australians say: ‘We've had our jab for our family, we've had our jab for our community, we've lost two years, we want our life to go back to normal, and I'll tell you what - the vaccinated are not going to let a few hesitants stop us from getting back to as normal as we can get’.
STEFANOVIC: Sarrah, compare that to New South Wales, where the unjabbed only have to wait until December 1 for the same freedoms. How do you feel about that?
LE MARQUAND: Look, to be honest, Karl. I would rather see that push back a little bit. I think Victoria have got the right idea here, but I think the point’s being made, it's going to be close to two months that people who refuse to be vaccinated or aren't vaccinated don't enjoy the same level of freedoms as the vaccinated. So, I think that's a good thing. But as Bill said, you know, we're not going to let anyone stand in our way and let's just refer to what we were just talking about. If you are holding out for some reasons, just remember who is paying the price and it's the most vulnerable in our community and our frontline health care workers.
STEFANOVIC: A lot of mums too concerned, you know, at that point that their kids still aren't vaccinated.
LE MARQUAND: Well, I feel the same. I mean, I've got two children that are under 12, and we're looking at going back to school in New South Wales, as they keep asking me, you know, when? How long are we on holidays for? I'm like, it’s not holidays boys. It's home-schooling, which probably says more about my failures as a home-schooling parent than anything else. But I do think, you know, there is a lot of fear, as you say, among parents and particularly probably around mums. But again, really, the onus has to be on the adults among us and we have to do the heavy lifting here, because if we're getting those vaccination rates up to 95 per cent, as a parent when the vaccine is cleared for children my children's age, I'll definitely be there doing the right thing. But until then, it's on us to make sure that our children are protected.
STEFANOVIC: Bill, small businesses were told 70 per cent things would open up. That's not happening.
SHORTEN: Yeah, listen I'm as keen as any other Australian for lockdown to end, and I get the Premiers are doing different things and I wish we could just get agreement. But really, at the end of the day, where's the Prime Minister? He's the national leader. You know, I had someone stop me in the street the other day, and they don't feel that they have a national leader anymore. The new leaders of Australia are the Premiers, the Prime Minister is MIA. I understand that he's got to go overseas, but in the middle of a pandemic, couldn't he just get people to agree? I mean, there's been a real failure here. I feel like I live in the United Nations of Australia these days, and that's a failure from Canberra.
STEFANOVIC: The good news is, though, Bill, we have complete agreement on when the states do open up. Sarrah, for example, let's look at the roadmap out of here. If you've got your whiteboards handy, everyone ready, everyone ready for this? I feel like we need have. We've got some music, some Christmas music. Have we've got some music?
LE MARQUAND: Well, I can sing a carol, Karl.
STEFANOVIC: Here we go. [sings] he took it away. So, this is last Christmas and this Christmas. Queensland is refusing to commit to a Christmas deadline. They'll wait for updated National Cabinet figures. Don't hold your breath. Tassie wants 90 percent of over 12 vaccinated first before they open up. South Australia is happy to stick to 80 per cent. The Northern Territory will implement quarantine for anyone from Sydney, the ACT non-committal and Western Australia, she'll be right, we'll open up by 2050 if we're lucky. Gladys Berejiklian frustrated that she could travel to Paris before Perth. Sad, isn't it, Sarrah?
LE MARQUAND: Yeah, that's a good headline, isn't it? I will just say, though, you know, the French are a little annoyed since we revoked our submarine agreement, so we might not be allowed into Paris before 2050.
STEFANOVIC: Not as annoyed as Queenslanders.
LE MARQUAND: Well, absolutely. Look, I think it's a really serious point, though obviously this sort of closed border strategy has worked very well, particularly for Queensland and Western Australia. But I do think that we will see the political fortunes of those Premiers start to turn as we get near this Christmas deadline. I'd be curious listening to Bill when he talks about the Prime Minister being MIA. I think most people would agree with that. But as for getting consensus among the states, I mean, we've been having this conversation for 19 months. They clearly can't seem to get anyone to hold the line when they come out of National Cabinet. So, I'm thinking maybe they need to be playing some Christmas carols like you just did then because it's very inspiring and motivating.
STEFANOVIC: Exactly. Bill, you like a bit of Wham! don’t you?
SHORTEN: Yeah, well, the going to Paris, we're not exactly flavour of month, I reckon we'll probably do better in Kabul these days, maybe. In all seriousness too, though, Christmas, I think that's a good goal for everyone. I think that Australians have done enough for the last year and a half, two years. Wouldn't it be good if we could just get agreement led by Mr Morrison of the states, that as a reward for the last year and a half, families who are interstate, that we can actually travel and Australia can be one country again, at least this Christmas.
STEFANOVIC: Hear, hear. Good on you, Bill. Good on you Sars, thank you so much. Best of luck.