Time Liberals faced up to failings and supported Victorians - Transcript, 2SM Mornings



SUBJECTS: Morrison Government’s failure on quarantine and vaccinations; Morrison Government failing to assist Victorian workers; Christian Porter; Reconciliation Week.

MARCUS PAUL, HOST: Andrew Leigh is a Labor MP. Good morning, Andrew. How are you?


PAUL: All right, well, we can bet on a longer lockup. The blame game started. Of course, those conservatives those LNP rusted-on types are blaming Dan Andrews, it's all the Victorian Government's fault. I think perhaps if we had vaccination up to scratch and if we had quarantine facilities away from populations, and of course if we didn't go back on, you know, rules that were in place for government-controlled aged care facilities, we might have avoided this.

LEIGH: Absolutely, Marcus. Every outbreak from hotel quarantine is a direct result of Scott Morrison's failure to put in place a safe national quarantine system. We know quarantine is a federal responsibility because it's in the Constitution, which sets out things the federal government should do - Section 51(ix): quarantine. The Federal Government's lax pace of the vaccination rollout - we've had vaccination on slow-mo - has meant that the impact of the outbreak in Victoria has been much worse than it would otherwise have been. Other countries have half their populations fully vaccinated. We have around 2 percent fully vaccinated and only 18 percent have gotten one jab. We are not even in the top 100 countries in the world in terms of the vaccination roll out. Labor has also been urging Prime Minister to put in place a national ad campaign. It’s sort of strange that the guy who was once an ad man, before he was fired by Fran Bailey, won't put in place government ads persuading people who are hesitant to go out there and get vaccinated.

PAUL: Yeah, look, the Victorian Government, surely they have some responsibility with this outbreak? I mean, it's all very well to sit here and blame everything on Scott Morrison. You know, obviously the federal government manage quarantine and they're in charge of these aged care facilities where they overturned this rule, but, I mean, what responsibility should the state of Victoria play?

LEIGH: Marcus, I guess you've got to ask: would we be in this position if we had British and American rates of vaccination? If Scott Morrison had signed up to vaccine deals with Moderna last year? And if we now had 70 percent of us who had gotten one jab and half of us fully vaccinated? I find it impossible to imagine that under those circumstances we would be locking down Victoria. So yes, I do put the blame squarely at the feet of Scott Morrison.

PAUL: All right. Well, we know the Acting Premier, James Merlino, has refused to rule out extending the state's lockdown, which is due to end Friday. We've got one resident, three staff members, testing positive to COVID. The Government quietly overturned that rule in November, that private residential aged care staff were not to work at multiple sites. I mean, there was a financial incentive in play for people to stay and work the shifts at one residential facility. That was overturned in November when things were quiet. Why haven't we learned any lessons?

LEIGH: It bewilders me, Marcus, the idea that you would allow people to work across multiple age care settings when we know that this was a big source of the virus outbreak early on, when we've had more than 600 Australians in aged care lose their lives to this virus. Also, the decision to not require aged care workers to be vaccinated. It seems to me that if you had that requirement in place there'd be much more pressure on aged care facilities to play a part in ensuring that their workforce was properly vaccinated and to give people the appropriate time off, maybe to give them financial incentives. As it is, you've got people going into aged care centres who aren't themselves vaccinated, potentially spreading the virus.

PAUL: All right, well, we can only hope that today, well, I don't know, I mean, they are worried that they'll be more numbers. I don't think we've seen the end of it yet. It'll probably get worse before it gets better, Andrew, and the economic cost, I reckon, in excess of a billion dollars, if you like. JobKeeper is stopped. There are plenty that are now calling, including the ACTU, we spoke yesterday to them in relation to how people who are reliant on casual employment, I mean, how are they going to pay their bills this week?

LEIGH: It's incredibly tough. Think about an in-person business, if you're operating as a barista or a masseuse or a security guard in Victoria, where does the money come from? The Federal Government can't simply wash its hands of this. I think it ought to be going out there and asking some of those businesses that got JobKeeper last year and didn't need it to pay up and then using that money to support Victorians.

PAUL: Well, that'd be a good start, wouldn't it?

LEIGH: Absolutely. I mean, there's all of these cashed-up businesses. You think about Premier Investments or AP Eagers that got millions of dollars from the federal government and used it to pay executive bonuses and dividends, and then refused to pay all of it back to the Commonwealth.

PAUL: Yeah, there's a bit of a pushback going on from consumer groups, and consumers themselves. There've been, well, not boycotts, but there have been protests out the front of, say, Harvey Norman stores.

LEIGH: Yeah, I think it's good that people are voting with their feet and that they're being absolutely clear about the sort of corporate ethics they expect to see. They're not asking any more of these firms, Marcus, than these firms say that they will deliver. You go to their corporate social responsibility statements and they all say that they're not just there for their shareholders, but they're there for the communities and the taxpayers and for their workers. Yet in their actions, they don't demonstrate that care for their workforce. I'd love to see some of these large firms living up to their own corporate values.

PAUL: Should there be an independent inquiry into the allegations made against the former Attorney General, Christian Porter, Andrew?

LEIGH: Of course there should. These are very serious allegations, and it would be appropriate that Mr. Porter stood aside, as Neville Wran did when allegations were levelled against him. I think that, assuming he’s innocent, it’s in his interest to have an independent inquiry. Suing someone and then dropping the case is hardly an independent inquiry. It's appropriate now that Scott Morrison apply half the rigour to Christian Porter that he applied to Christine Holgate.

PAUL: Well, that's a really good point, isn't it? Anyway, moving on to what happened yesterday. Both parties, whether it's Mr Porter or the ABC and Louise Milligan, the reporter involved in this Four Corners report, each side are claiming victory. I don't know, I would have thought if you really wanted to prove your innocence you would continue with your defamation proceedings.

LEIGH: Yes, suing someone and then dropping the case without getting any damages hardly looks like victory to me. It was a pretty strange press conference from Mr Porter yesterday. Let's move on, have an independent inquiry, get these allegations appropriately heard. Of course, everyone should be accorded procedural justice, but these are serious allegations over somebody who was once the first law officer of the land. It's appropriate that they're tested.

PAUL: All right: Reconciliation Week, what each of us can do to promote reconciliation, Andrew.

LEIGH: Well, this is an important moment to consider how we can improve the relationship with first Australians. One of the things that I did last year was to learn how to do a Ngunnawal acknowledgement of country in Ngunnawal language, which is the local language of the Canberra people here. I've also been a strong supporter of Rob de Castella's Indigenous Marathon Project. Tomorrow morning we'll have a group of members and senators going for a run with Rob de Castella and some of the other members of his Indigenous Marathon Project squad, a great leadership program which trains up young Indigenous Australians as leaders and then giving back in their local community. On the weekend, I'm competing in the Cairns Ironman to raise money for the Indigenous Marathon Foundation, aiming to raise $100 for every kilometre of the 226 kilometre race.

PAUL: Well, good luck. I look forward to seeing how you go and we'll hear all about it next weekend, Andrew. Thank you.

LEIGH: Thanks so much, Marcus. Take care.

PAUL: Alright, there he is. Andrew Leigh, Federal MP, Member for Fenner.


Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.