SUBJECTS: Covid outbreaks across the country; national plan; vaccine supply; Women’s Safety Summit; Emily’s List report; Sam Duluk.
DAVID BEVAN, HOST: Good morning to Senator Simon Birmingham.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM, MINISTER FOR FINANCE: Good morning David Bevan and listeners.
BEVAN: Good morning Senator Penny Wong.
PENNY WONG, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS: G'day, how are we?
BEVAN: I'd like to ask both of you, perhaps you can respond first Simon Birmingham, because you're actually in government, do South Australians just need to brace themselves for a surge in COVID cases? It's coming, it's just a matter of time. And I say that with the news that in Victoria, and we know Daniel Andrews locks down hard, he locks down fast, they've confirmed today 246 new COVID-19 cases. They can't contain it, it's only a matter of time before we have it.
BIRMINGHAM: David, there is a certain inevitability. COVID-19 is endemic throughout the world, and the Delta variant has only presented new challenges to everyone. And so, of course, it's the right thing to do to try to keep it out for as long as is possible while we try to reach those vaccination targets of 70-80% across the population and give as many people as possible the opportunity to be vaccinated. It's the right thing to do to keep applying suppression strategies and the Doherty Institute modelling, the national plan that the Prime Minister's been taking through, the Premiers, is one built upon not just having a point at which we say, ok, let it rip, it's about careful, planned, informed steps that still apply safety measures so that we manage the impact on our health system, so that we give everybody that opportunity to be vaccinated. But to your question, it's not possible to say that COVID-19 can be kept at bay forever. And so, everyone needs, as people are doing in such recording pleasing numbers, to keep turning out, keep getting vaccinated because the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to make sure those vaccine levels are as high as possible when, when we do face those challenges in the future.
BEVAN: Penny Wong, it's just a matter of time, so, let's get used to it, and comments from Annastacia Palaszczuk, the Queensland Premier, I mean she seems to want to keep borders closed until children are vaccinated. They look like modern day King Canutes, don't they?
WONG: I think, Annastacia is doing absolutely the right thing, which is to focus on how we keep our people safe and our children safe. I mean the numbers in Victoria and the numbers in New South Wales are just a tragic reminder of why Mr Morrison's failure to have the vaccine rolled out swiftly and early has had real life, tragic consequences for Australians. And it is unsurprising that people are questioning this man's capacity to lead us out of lockdown safely. Because that is actually the question. How do we get out of this as safely as possible and not simply casually accept more people dying? And one of the things we do have to do is to make sure that our hospitals system are fit for purpose and are capable of dealing with the increased level of hospitalisation, that we are already seeing in New South Wales, with the number of cases. And I think it is very important, that instead of having the political fights that Mr Morrison and Simon and others seem to want to have with state premiers, that we focus on what is it that we need to do to ensure that Australians are protected - both from vaccination, you know it is much later than it should be, but get vaccinated, but, of course, also how we open up safely.
BEVAN: Jo has called ABC Radio Adelaide. Good Morning Jo.
JO, CALLER: Oh hi, I'm actually over 60 and I had my second AstraZeneca shot yesterday - so nobody is allowed to call me stubborn - but we do have a serious problem with the over 60s who have not had one shot. On the 27th of August ATAGI advised the Federal Government to seriously consider allowing the over 60s access to Pfizer, Moderna, the MRNA vaccines, ok? The Federal Government decided not to take that advice and has basically banned over 60s from Moderna and Pfizer and has continued to do that. I know people who are refusing to go and get it no matter what and we are facing a massive catastrophe. I would like to ask Senator Birmingham why the Government has ignored ATAGI advice, because we are looking at particularly the 60 to 69s unvaccinated in massive numbers, and there's going to be a national disaster.
BEVAN: Simon Birmingham, do you think Jo's right?
BIRMINGHAM: No, not entirely David. So, of those aged over 50 across Australia 81.1% have had a first dose of vaccination. So that's a really strong turnout by the senior Australians and those groups who were first open to get vaccinated. For those over 70 it's 88.9%. If, if we go back eight weeks ago, only the quarter of those over 70 had had double vaccination, now that is fully two thirds, some 66.6% have had the double vaccination and as I said 88.9% of over 70s have had that first dose and more than 80%, over 50s have had the first dose. And a couple of messages; I'd really encourage Australians and South Australians there. I saw the comments by Professor Nicola Spurrier over the weekend that there is a cohort of South Australians who had the first choice and haven't yet had the second dose and overdue for it. If you've, if you are due for that second dose, please go out and get it. The health advice, if you had AstraZeneca, has never changed, in relation to people, who’ve had the first dose, had it safely, should absolutely go back and get that second dose of AstraZeneca, and get that done to make sure they're as fully protected as they possibly can be. Of course at some stage, as we see now, the first shipment of the four million extra Pfizer doses coming from the UK, in addition to the extra one million that we got from Poland and the extra half a million that we got from Singapore, at some point, we will be able to open up choice of vaccine to everyone, but right now we want to make sure that those aged over 16, indeed over 12, who are getting their first chance at a vaccine, get that, get that first chance, that first opportunity. And for the older South Australians, encourage them to keep getting the vaccines that are available to them. As plenty of people have been saying of late and responding to, the best vaccine for anyone is the vaccine that's available to them and everyone should follow through and do that.
BEVAN: The big news coming out of Canberra today will be this National Women's Safety Summit. Senator Penny Wong, I'd imagine there'd be bipartisan support for the summit. It's just a matter of surely just getting a practical list coming out of this summit, so it's not just a talk first, and then both sides turning up and saying yeah, we'll do it.
WONG: I'm happy to come to that. I'm just going to have a very quick response to the many words that Simon just uttered in response to, I think was Jo's question. It took him a long time to get to the point of answering, which is essentially the reason they haven't taken the advice is because they didn't arrange enough supply. And we said this last year. Chris Bowen, Anthony Albanese said last year, you haven't got enough deals. As always, Mr Morrison said that's not correct, blamed others, said that wasn't the case, and now we are, Australians are paying the price. And the price is lockdowns, and more people who are getting COVID. Now I absolutely encourage people to get vaccinated, but the Federal Government should take responsibility where it lands.
On the Women's Summit, of course, we want to see something real out of this. We want to see something that isn't a to do list for the states. We want to see resources committed; we want to see government actually acting. I think that the thing that many women and men are concerned about is that this Government does not demonstrate that this is a priority for them. And we saw that with the [email protected] report, which, lay on Christian Porter's desk for a year. Mr Morrison said we're going to accept every recommendation and they didn't. They voted against seven, at least seven of the recommendations in the Senate last week. I hope this summit, does have an outcome which is constructive and real, where we have resources for example on something like housing. The numbers on housing are extraordinary. We've got in 2019-2020, I think 39,000 people sought long term housing from specialist homeless services. Only 1,200 of them got long-term housing. And yet today, we had Anne Ruston, Minister Ruston on Fran Kelly saying, admitting the Federal Government has no plan to do anything about housing supply for all these people fleeing domestic and family violence.
BEVAN: On the front page of the Weekend Australian, David Penberthy wrote, 'Aspiring Labor women face stand over tactics threats and intimidation when they dare to seek office against factionally backed male candidates, a damning report prepared for the ALP's Emily's List has found.' Is there trouble within your own party, Penny?
WONG: You know, I have for 30 years or more worked inside my party to try and improve our culture, to promote more women, to make sure our rules ensure that more women come into parliament and, of course, that we're a party where women feel safe. Now in terms of getting more women into parliament, we've been very successful in that. We have achieved more women across all factions, in all levels of parliaments, state and federal. And that's a good thing. Of course, we've got more to do. The Emily's List report is an important report. And I think we should consider it and make sure we learn from it. But I would say, we've made a lot of progress over the last decades. More work to do, and we'll keep doing it.
BEVAN: Supporters of Alice Dawkins maintain the boys club is still running your party in South Australia.
WONG: Well, you know, I have seen some of those reports and I'd just make this point; we had two candidates in that preselection battle. And you know, they're transparent, open preselections. They are run with a rank and file ballot and a central ballot. That's the way that preselection was run. I did note, I was very concerned about Alice's public comments that she didn't feel safe. And I raised them - I think I've expressed to you on this program - I raised those with the state secretary and he made clear that, first, that everyone has a right to feel safe. Secondly, if there are any complaints about anyone's behaviour that has caused someone to feel unsafe, we do have a complaints mechanism internally, and people are open to make a complaint through that mechanism.
BEVAN: But of course, what they would say is you're going to the very people who are running the party, who are part of the boy’s club. Everybody's going to look after themselves. You know that's what they're gonna say.
WONG: Well, what I'd say to them is, a lot of us, a lot of women - and you know I'm a founding member of Emily's List - have worked over many decades to try and ensure we have a party that promotes more women, that puts more women into parliament and enables women to participate. And if there are things that are happening that cause people to feel they can't participate - no one's guaranteed of outcome - but if people feel that they can't safely participate, then they should make a complaint. And there are many of us inside the party, women across this party, and decent men who don't want a situation where people don't feel safe.
BEVAN: Simon Birmingham, your own party's got issues. The right, on the weekend, didn't win as many seats on the state executive, as they were expecting. That now leaves the question of Sam Duluk's preselection unresolved, because the right can't force his return. What do you think should be done with Sam Duluk?
BIRMINGHAM: David, nothing on that particular score has changed since we last spoke, a week or so ago. My view is that we should see the outcome of the work that the House of Assembly, the Parliament had in place and we ought to see that concluded.
BEVAN: You think they should, you think they should resume that investigation, the parliamentary investigation?
BIRMINGHAM: Well it certainly needs to be concluded one way or the other. Doubt hangs over whether or not it will resume. If it's going to resume, then it should get on with it and get on with it quickly.
BEVAN: Yeah but do you think it should continue, that's the question. Do you think it should continue?
BIRMINGHAM: David I think it would be preferable to have all of the information available and that means that ideally there would be clarity around what that looked at and that if it needs additional work to finish off its investigation, that additional work is undertaken, so that there's some finality attached to it, for Sam’s sake as well as for everybody else’s sake.
BEVAN: Well, you’re not doing it for Sam’s sake. You think there should be a continuation of that investigation because you don’t think he should be in the party.
BIRMINGHAM: David, I think the party needs to make sure we stand clear on principles of respect, of behaviour, and that Sam’s behaviour, as outlined in the court proceedings recently, wasn’t up to the type of standards we’d want to see. Ultimately all the cards should be there on the table, fully informed by the facts when state executive considers it. I was thrilled on the weekend to stand beside four new candidates, all women running for us, preselected for the next federal election, in Boothby, the Senate, Mayo, Adelaide, and that’s in addition to the Legislative Council ticket Steven Marshall’s got for the next election, where 6 out of 7 candidates are women, women preselected in traditional Liberal strongholds around Schubert and Frome. These are all good progress that we’ve been making, and I want to see more of that.
BEVAN: Ok, so you’re not backing Sam. Penny Wong, how could Labor preference an Independent Sam Duluk over a Liberal candidate?
WONG: Well hang on, as I've just heard both in that conversation but also what Mr Marshall has said, it's not even clear that this guy won't return as a Liberal.
BEVAN: Well, I think Sam Duluk’s chances of getting back into the Liberal party are pretty slim.
WONG: Mr Marshall has left open Mr Duluk returning to the party, pending a parliamentary investigation, which as I understand it, was on hold while the police investigated these matters. So, I think let's deal with first things first, and see what the Liberal Party does Mr Duluk, and then you can talk to me about what the Labor Party's response might be to what Mr Marshall does.
BEVAN: What I'm saying to you is that his chances of getting back into the Liberal Party have been reduced, so if he stands as an Independent, can Labor back an Independent Sam Duluk rather than a Liberal endorsed candidate. Because it'll get down to preferences.
WONG: Hang on David really, I mean, you're asking me to deal with an issue, which may or may not happen. And you know, I have a very clear view about preferences for example, unlike the Coalition, we have consistently put One Nation last.
BEVAN: Yeah, well should you put Duluk last?
WONG: Who you are preferencing does matter.
BEVAN: That’s why I’m asking.
WONG: People will be aware of my – let me finish – my view about, and Labor’s view about Sam Duluk’s behaviour. But I think the bigger public issue right now is to be very clear for Steven Marshall, be very clear about what Mr Duluk’s status is. Because as I read the public comments from the Premier, is he wanted the parliamentary investigation finalised. Does that mean he is leaving open Mr Duluk returning? I think that is the more pressing question.
BEVAN: And then it will be a pressing question whether you give him your preferences.
WONG: If he runs as an independent obviously we'll have to deal with that. And you know, my view is someone like Mr Duluk doesn't belong in our parliament. That is my view.
BEVAN: Penny Wong, thanks for your time.
WONG: Good to speak with you.
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.