TUESDAY, 7 SEPTEMBER 2021
SUBJECTS: Predicted COVID surges in NSW and Vic; ICU staff speak out; vaccine passport trials; Scott Morrison’s Fathers Day exemption; Grand Final in Perth.
ALLISON LANGDON, HOST: Thanks for joining us this morning. Two states in lockdown and two grim predictions this morning. New South Wales bracing for 2000 COVID cases a day with up to a thousand people in ICU, while Victoria could be smashed with more than 4000 cases a day by the end of this month. It is going to be tough. And I'm joined by Shadow Minister for Government Services, Bill Shorten, who's in Melbourne and here in the studio, Nine senior reporter Chris O'Keefe. Nice to see you both this morning. Bill, this is not what anyone wants to hear or see.
BILL SHORTEN, MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG: No. I think the numbers in Victoria are puzzling to the experts as well, or the projected numbers. It's all about making sure our hospital system can cope. That is the sweet space. Can we come out of lockdown, make sure that our hospitals can cope? All our nurses and doctors and staff. And that's why people have just got to vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate. We've got to use this time to try and virus proof and future proof our system. So once lockdowns stop, we can live without it overwhelming our hospitals.
LANGDON: I mean, that is the critical point isn’t it, can our hospitals cope? And in New South Wales, News.com today is reporting on an open letter from ICU nurses to Premier Gladys Berejiklian. And this is just part of it. It's pretty powerful. “Given the chronic unsafe condition, staffing conditions, exacerbated by COVID-19, we cannot deliver the care you expect us to provide”. Did you hear that? We cannot provide the care you expect us to provide, “and the level of critical care our patients rightly deserve”. Chris, I mean, this is so brutal and there seems to be a huge disconnect between our health bureaucrats and the Premier on one side and those who are actually on the frontline seeing this firsthand.
CHRIS O’KEEFE, JOURNALIST: Maybe so. But yesterday we heard from the Chief Nurse in New South Wales, and she said at the moment, there's 1500 ICU beds, so 1500 intensive care beds in New South Wales hospitals at the peak of the modelling that we're looking to see by the middle of October. We're going to have roughly a thousand people in intensive care, that’s a lot of people in intensive care. But they've modelled that on staffing as well. So if you've got New South Wales Health and the Chief Nurse saying, well, we think we can handle this, it's not going to be great, it's not going to be pretty, but we think we can handle it, well, maybe it's time to rip the Band-Aid off, bite down on the mouth guard and just hope it works out.
LANGDON: Yeah, but I mean, I don't know, Bill. I mean, this is an open letter signed by a lot of ICU nurses. They're already overworked. They're exhausted, they're stressed, and this is coming. And at the same time, you've also got Gladys Berejiklian talking about freedoms, hitting the pub and hairdressers. I mean, where do you sit with all of this?
SHORTEN: Well, I think our front-line staff are doing it hard. Like, I sort of agree with Chris, that the health authorities are trying to do everything they can. But we've just got to understand, and in Victoria, they've been putting up with this for a year and a half, our medical workforce are really exhausted. So, the answer has to be to stop people getting to ICU to begin with. That's where the vaccines come in. The more we vaccinate, and I would just say to people this morning, if you've got family members who are hesitating or if you've got neighbours or friends or hesitating, tell them to not just think about themselves, but think about those frontline nurses. Think about the other people who might need an ICU for something other than COVID, and get the jab done.
LANGDON: Yeah, well, I mean, I think that message is starting to get through. Chris, I also noticed that you last night broke this story about the new vaccine passport technology, it's going to be tested in parts of Sydney, that will allow residents get back into the pub. But there's a catch.
O’KEEFE: Yeah, there is. So, it's going to be a trial. So essentially you'll use your Service New South Wales Check-In app and it'll say if you've had your double dose and you'll be allowed to go to the pub. But to trial it, they want to do it in a place where there's low case numbers, high vax areas. And that means the richer parts of Sydney, eastern suburbs, north shore, northern beaches. South west and western suburbs have been doing it hard there. No chance at all. And I heard the Opposition Leader here in New South Wales, Chris Minns say yesterday, it's not fair, if one third of Sydney is under curfew, you can have a rosé in Mosman. How's that fair?
LANGDON: Yeah. What do you think about that, Bill?
SHORTEN: Well, the reality is it should be one in all in. What destroys morale in a community is not just being locked down yourself, but a sense that there's two sets of rules in this country. I mean, I think Australians, especially in the lock down states, are running on fumes emotionally. You know, they're sort of - the tanks getting empty or on empty. We want to see hope, with the light at the end of the tunnel. But when we hear examples of some people getting special treatment and others not getting that treatment, that really wrecks the whole sense that we're all in this together.
LANGDON: Ok, well, speaking of special treatment, because this one's fired up Chris O'Keefe this morning, reports that the Prime Minister flew home, got a travel exemption, and flew home, to spend Father's Day with his family. You're not happy about this one?
O’KEEFE: Well, how is it fair? We've got the biggest states in Australia under lockdown and big portions of it under curfew. There's people who haven't been able to meet their grandchildren yet, let alone be able to fly from lockdown Canberra to lockdown Sydney for Father's Day. And I don't buy the argument that he had to get back to Canberra from some meeting, a meeting that obviously didn't end up happening anyway and he was going to relocate to Sydney. It all seems a bit cute and a bit convenient for the Prime Minister, to ring up the VIP jet plane and fly in and get to Kirribilli and have Father's Day when people are sitting across the Tweed border, unable to basically shake hands with their children. It's just outrageous to think that the Prime Minister thought he could get away with this. It's Hawaii 2.0, in my view.
LANGDON: Ooh, they’re strong words, I mean Bill, I don't begrudge anyone getting the opportunity spend Father's Day with their dad. I would have loved to, obviously with lockdown we weren't able to.
O’KEEFE: Because you weren't allowed to, were you?
SHORTEN: That’s right.
O’KEEFE: Did you ring the Airforce?
LANGDON: But I'm okay if the Prime Minister can get home
SHORTEN: Yeah, but Ally, that reflects well on you and your general, you know, decency. But the point that Chris is making and the point I was making earlier about different parts of Sydney being treated differently is, you’ve got to have the same rules for people. I mean, I think Mr Morrison has exercised poor judgment in this case. I was a bit surprised when I read he had done this, to be honest. It's not that he doesn't deserve to see his kids, but so does every other Australian. And I think that when people are doing it tough, you've got to do it tough, too. I know that for a lot of MPs, when we leave Canberra, we've got to spend two weeks locked down away from our families. So, I just don't know how he was able to get a permit when most people can't.
O’KEEFE: But as well as that, we've heard from the Prime Minister that this lockdown in Sydney and the lockdown in Melbourne has to work. He sent the ADF in, there’s troops on the streets in south west Sydney, yet he makes the rules so he can go and spend Father's Day with these kids. Just – it doesn’t sit well with me. And I'm not begrudging him the fact - they should be able to spend Father's Day, but so should the rest of Australia. And we can't because we're in lock down, because we didn't have enough vaccines to start with.
LANGDON: Oh, oh, it's worked up now. Come on, Chris. Take a deep breath.
O’KEEFE: Watch my blood pressure.
SHORTEN: But Chris is right. You can't have one rule for Mr Morrison, another rule for everyone else. I just think it's appalling judgement.
LANGDON: Yeah. All I know is I was thinking for Chris O’Keefe this morning, I'd have to bring back Karl’s meditation. Well, here's good news. The AFL Grand Final, it's going to be held this year. It's going to be held once again under lights. The first bounce in Perth expected after seven o'clock at night. Bill, it’s Perth, it's under lights. But is it happening? What is happening, I should say - we know it is happening.
SHORTEN: Seven o'clock at night in Perth. That’s late for the kids in Melbourne to watch it. Listen, I'm glad that Perth’s hosting the Grand Final. I wouldn't want to see it happen every year.
SHORTEN: I think it could be a thriller if Melbourne and the Bulldogs play each other over there. So, I'm glad the Grand Final is going ahead. I think the footballers, you know, they're covering coast to coast doing the best they can. At least some things in life is still going on, even if it is in Western Australia, not in Melbourne.
LANGDON: Yeah, I think I had a brain implosion. I'm not sure what I just said then, but what I was meaning to say is a twilight AFL game, Chris?
O’KEEFE: No, I’m a Rugby League person. I wouldn't walk across the road to watch AFL.
SHORTEN: Oh, Chris… Yeah, well, that's culturally broad of you, digger. Well done.
LANGDON: And this is why you're so angry, my friend.
SHORTEN: Hey Chris - Chris, could you do your angry voice for me?
LANGDON: Go on. It makes Bill feel good, go.
O’KEEFE: The pitch is too high, no one needs to hear it.
LANGDON: No no, you have 30 seconds, just get everything off your chest. Go for it!
SHORTEN: Chris, do you wake up with a grumpy face? [all laugh]
O’KEEFE: Not as grumpy as you, my friend.
SHORTEN: Oh, zing.
LANGDON: Oh, Bill, you should read his body language right now. The arms are crossed. It's good. It's good.
SHORTEN: No look, lockdown’s not easy on people, I get it.
O’KEEFE: No, it’s not.
LANGDON: Chris has got to hang around for Karl’s meditation a little later, and nice to talk to you, too, Bill. You take care, OK?
SHORTEN: See you guys. Bye.