2SM MARCUS PAUL IN THE MORNING
TUESDAY, 29 JUNE 2021
SUBJECTS: Scott Morrison’s quarantine and vaccination failures; Intergenerational Report.
MARCUS PAUL, HOST: All right, each and every Tuesday we catch up with Andrew Leigh from Canberra. Andrew, good morning, mate. How are you?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Terrific, Marcus. Great to chat with you.
PAUL: Yeah, you too. Look, what's happening in your neck of the woods there in the ACT? Just fill me in with what Andrew Barr and his local government are doing. Are you on lockdown as well?
LEIGH: We're on mandatory masks, Marcus, and we're what's called an orange zone. People are being encouraged to limit travel, work from home if they can. There are no cases here at the moment, but we're pretty close to Sydney so the chances of something coming through is very real.
PAUL: Yeah, of course. All right. Now, we've been trying to be as positive as we possibly can Andrew, particularly with Sydney in lockdown and all the rest of it, but we can't forget what's led us to be in this position. It's pretty obvious. I saw a list that was put up by you and your colleagues yesterday that had Australia well, well down the list of developed nations when it comes to a vaccine rollout. Now, as positive as we all want to be, there's no doubt - no doubt in my mind - that we've botched it.
LEIGH: That's right, Marcus. If you look at the rich country OECD group we are dead last. We get the wooden spoon for our vaccine rollout. That means that we're going to continue seeing these sorts of lockdowns because people haven't had the jab. We have one of the highest rates of vaccine hesitancy in cross-country surveys I've seen because the Prime Minister, a former ad man, hasn't put in place the kind of advertising campaign that would encourage Australians to get vaccinated. I do think it's really important that the Government put these risks in context. There is a blood clot risk from AstraZeneca. It's 4 in 1 million. There's also a blood clot risk from COVID. It's 165,000 in 1 million. We need to be very clear with people about the risks that COVID poses, and the benefits of getting the population vaccinated. The only way we go back to normal, in which we have nightclubs and international travel and all of the good things that we were enjoying in 2019, is if we get those high vaccination rates. That's Scott Morrison's responsibility. He needs to do domestic manufacturing of mRNA vaccines, he needs to have purpose-built quarantine facilities, faster vaccine rollout, and a strong public awareness campaign. That's Labor's 4-point plan. We're encouraging the Prime Minister to move quickly, but last night's press conference just sounded like a litany of apologies for things that he wished he'd done last year, rather than a leader taking charge.
PAUL: We are playing catch up, there's no doubt about it. Everything seems to be reactive rather than proactive. Look, in fairness, we all know that there's not been any kind of rule book or playbook if you like for dealing with this once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, but that's not to say that, you know, perhaps we should have listened a little more to the experts. Experts, the Halton Report and others, very clearly stated to the Prime Minister and the Federal Government that you just can't use hotels to quarantine against the very, very deadly virus of the Coronavirus. You can't do it. It won't work. You'll get leaks and eventually that will lead to what we've got now: lockdowns in our biggest cities around the country. I mean, hotels are great for tourists. Not so much for quarantine.
LEIGH: Absolutely. We've now seen 26 outbreaks from hotel quarantine and lack of investment in purpose-built facilities. Places like Howard Springs have worked well. Inner-city hotels have worked less well. We need to get that right because we invariably you're going have people coming in and out of the country. We want to do much more of that. So much of our economy has benefitted from international tourism. Look at the university sector, which has been a huge driver of prosperity. That's driven not just from international students, but international staff as well. Openness has been one of the great keys for Australia's economic success over the last few generations. If we retreat to a closed economy then we're going to be poorer in the future. Look at the Intergenerational Report that was released yesterday.
PAUL: Yeah, tell me about that, Andrew.
LEIGH: Well, it really paints a pretty dismal picture of the next 40 years: suggests the next 40 years will see Australia grow more slowly; see Australia have lower increases to living standards. Productivity -- which has stagnated -- it has these heroic assumptions that productivity will kick up again. At the same time, yesterday Treasury released a working paper showing that the market dynamism has fallen. With less spending on education as a share of GDP, which the Intergenerational Report forecasts, I don't see how we're going to get those drivers of prosperity. I really worry that Josh Frydenberg is running on hope and hope isn't a plan. Marathon runners have a saying: you don't rise to the level of your hopes, you fall to the level of your training. You've got to be training as a Treasurer to lay the foundations for prosperity. You can't just sit back and hope productivity will fall into your lap.
PAUL: How did I know you'd work in analogy to your marathon running? How did I know you'd work a running analogy into your commentary this morning, Andrew? Look, we heard from ACTU Secretary Sally McManus. She called in to the program this morning. She says they welcome the federal government mandating vaccines for aged care workers, but there's no real plan on how they will do it other than giving employers $30 per worker per jab. They're worried that some of these frontline workers, and I agree they should have been all vaccinated ages ago, but some of them may miss work, so we need to ensure that while we're vaccinating those at the coalface we're also looking after them.
LEIGH: Exactly. It should be as easy as possible for an aged care worker to get vaccinated. As you say, it makes total sense that aged care workers are vaccinated, and it's now still only about one in three that are vaccinated. That's a huge danger for people in those communities. We also need to think about the work practices too, because aged workers have been paid so badly and haven't had the stability of employment many have looked to work in multiple aged care homes, and that's been one of the sources of the spread of the virus across aged care homes. Ensuring that we have a more professionalised aged care workforce and that we have more experts there just makes total sense. These used to be called nursing homes and then they took the nurses out and started calling them aged care homes. One of the recommendations of the Aged Care Royal Commission which the Government has yet to take up is to make sure that you've got 24-hour nursing care in aged care homes. There's a lot to be done in aged care, which includes, but isn't limited to, making sure the workers are vaccinated.
PAUL: Alright, thanks for coming on, Andrew. We will talk to you again next week. Appreciate it, mate.
LEIGH: Great pleasure, Marcus. Thank you.
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra