SENATOR KRISTINA KENEALLY
DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE
SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS
SHADOW MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY
SENATOR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES
ABC AFTERNOON BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, 2 JUNE 2021
SUBJECTS: Morrison’s Quarantine Failure; Morrison’s Bungled Vaccine Rollout; Victoria’s Circuit Breaker Lockdown; Halton Report.
PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: Kristina Keneally is the Shadow Minister for Home Affairs and Government Accountability, she's also my next guest this afternoon on Afternoon Briefing here on ABC News. Welcome.
KRISTINA KENEALLY, DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY: Thank you, Patricia.
KARVELAS: Should the Federal Government build a standalone quarantine facility in every state that wants one?
KENEALLY: Patricia we have been calling for this for some time. Indeed since Mr Morrison's handpicked expert, Jane Halton, handed him a report eight months ago, telling him hotel quarantine was not fit for purpose when it comes to maintaining and containing coronavirus. Now, Mr. Morrison likes to say we're not in a race here. According to Mr. Morrison, we're not in a race to roll out a vaccine, we're not in a race to get quarantine fixed, but quite frankly, we've now had 21 outbreaks of COVID from hotel quarantine and every one of those outbreaks sits on Mr Morrison's head, because he has failed to act when he had clear advice that we need a fit for purpose, national quarantine system.
KARVELAS: But Kristina Keneally, even under the Labor Government's proposal from Victoria, it would be additional to hotel quarantine - it doesn't shut down the hotel quarantine system, it's an additional mechanism. Do you believe that it should work alongside hotel quarantine or do you want hotel quarantine discontinued full stop?
KENEALLY: What Jane Halton's report says Patricia is that we need to have different options around quarantine, and as we come to know more and more about this virus that it is airborne, there are legitimate questions about whether or not hotels should continue on. Now I have said, it's fair enough we stood up hotel quarantine at the beginning of this pandemic and I give credit to the states when they were duckshoved responsibility by Mr. Morrison on to them for quarantine. Because let's not forget Patricia, quarantine has been a Federal Government responsibility for more than 100 years. We get a global pandemic and what does Mr. Morrison do? Decide it's all the states' responsibility. He then gets his own handpicked expert, Jane Halton to give him a report. Eight months ago she she says hotel quarantine should not be the only option on the table, that we need fit for purpose quarantine facilities, we need a risk management approach and what have we seen throughout this pandemic is Mr. Morrison has sat on his hands. He's been willing to blame other people, but he takes no responsibility. He doesn't hold a hose, he doesn't hold a syringe, and he clearly isn't interested in building fit for purpose national quarantine.
KARVELAS: So, under Labor's ideal scenario, would you shut down hotel quarantine?
KENEALLY: Patricia, as I said, Jane Halton makes clear, we need a range of options on the table..
KARVELAS: I think we need this clarified do you believe it should continue alongside these facilities?
KENEALLY: What we see now with this virus, and this has been something we've learned since Jane Halton's report is that it is airborne, and that when you have a people who are risk - high risk - of having COVID in hotel quarantine you have the high risk of hotel quarantine outbreaks. 21 outbreaks. Every one of those outbreaks risks another lockdown. Every one of those outbreaks risk lives lost. Every one of those outbreaks risks a deadly outbreak in aged care, and that is why we need national fit for purpose quarantine facilities. Jane Halton was spot on when she said that hotel quarantine is not fit for purpose in the long run. She made a number of recommendations, and quite frankly, to hear the Prime Minister in question time today say that they have fully implemented the Halton review, quite frankly, he's just lying there.People are sick of a Prime Minister who blames everyone else, takes no responsibility. They just want a Prime Minister, Mr. Morrison, to fix it. Just get on in fix it. We need the vaccine rolled out, we need a fit for purpose national quarantine system, and we need quite frankly now, some support going into Victoria as they are facing an extended lockdown.
KARVELAS: If the Federal Government takes control of quarantine, then, should they also decide how many returned arrivals each state takes?
KENEALLY: Here we have again a Liberal Government, and Mr Morrison, who used to parade around as Immigration Minister saying he was in control of the borders. Suddenly we have a legitimate international emergency at our borders, and Mr. Morrison wants to wash his hands of it. Suddenly, it's all the states' responsibility. Ruby Princess? Not his fault - that's Gladys Berejiklian. Hotel quarantine? Not his fault, he wants to blame the states.
KARVELAS: You're not answering my question which is do you think that the Commonwealth should have these facilities and then make decisions about how many returned travellers come in?
KENEALLY: The Commonwealth should have been part of those decisions from day one.
KARVELAS : So should it be, because the states are making those deteminations.
KENEALLY: Patricia, who is, who is in charge of the borders? That's what the Constitution says it is the Federal Government. It is our contention that since day one, the Commonwealth should have been part of those decisions, they should have been integral to those decisions, they should have been controlling the borders and controlling quarantine. That is what the Constitution says - it's their job to do. But again we know with Mr Morrison, he always finds someone else to blame, and takes no responsibility. That's not leadership, it is a failure of leadership and is why this lockdown in Victoria sits at his feet - it is his failure and Victorians who are going through this lockdown know that if we'd had national fit for purpose quarantine, if we had a faster acceleration of the vaccine rollout, this is a lockdown they did not need to have.
KARVELAS: Well, I just want to challenge you on that, because even if we were on track and we're definitely behind. That's a fact. But if we were on track with the vaccine rollout do you really think we would be covered enough to be enough fully vaccinated people even by the original estimates to avoid lockdowns?
KENEALLY: Every jab in an arm makes a difference Patricia, and you know let's remember Mr Morrison promised that by Easter, all aged care residents and all disability care residents would be fully vaccinated. What do we now know as a result of Senate Estimates? Only a third of aged care residents have been fully vaccinated, some 1.5 percent, just a few hundred of the 20,000 or so people in disability care, have been vaccinated.
KARVELAS: It's true. We are behind. We are behind. There is no doubt about that.
KENEALLY: So far behind.
KARVELAS: The question is, even if we were on track, are you really saying that we wouldn't be having this lockdown?
KENEALLY: We would be in such a better position Patricia.
KARVELAS: But we would still have lockdowns wouldn't we thought there was a super variant of the virus in the community, and you know we'd still have to pull the trigger sometimes wouldn't we?
KENEALLY: You know I lived in, I live in the red zone in the Northern Beaches and lived through that lockdown at Christmas, and I understand that these are going to be challenges but the severity and the risk would be so much reduced if Scott Morrison had done two things: One, taken up Jane Halton's recommendations, eight months ago when she handed them to him, and he was briefed three times! Three times he was briefed - he has still failed to act. And secondly, if he had injected some urgency in the vaccine rollout, you remember the promise that 4 million Australians will be fully vaccinated by the end of March? We're not even near that yet.
KARVELAS: I want to pin you down if I can - which is, we'd still have this lockdown though wouldn't we?
KENEALLY: Patricia, who knows if we would have had a lockdown of this severity and this length we are now looking at an extended lockdown in Melbourne. And my point is we would be so much better off, Victorians know we would be so much better off.
KARVELAS: Don't we at some point and I know you're not giving them health advice, no one expects you to know what this point is, but then we need to be having a conversation at some point about what the vaccination rate should be the percentage of our population covered before go into lockdown?
KENEALLY: Patricia - what a great idea! And wouldn't that be something that maybe, I don't know, the Health Minister and Mr Morrison should be leading, instead what have they done, they have abandoned all targets for vaccination rollout. So abjectly have they failed to meet their initial targets of getting all aged care residents vaccinated by Easter, getting all disability care residents vaccinated by Easter, getting 4 million Australians vaccinated by the end of March, they've just given up, they have just given up. This is a question you should put to the Health Minister.
KARVELAS: Yeah, I can't wait but either way you think that we're still gonna have restrictions until we have high levels of vaccination right, that's an inevitability?
KENEALLY: There is no doubt we are going to be living with this virus for some time to come, which is why it is so frustrating that we have a Prime Minister in Scott Morrison and we have a Federal Government that hasn't come to accept its fundamental responsibility for vaccination, quarantine and management of the international borders. There is no doubt, this, this virus isn't going away anytime soon, but sadly, there seems to be no indication that Mr Morrison is going to show the leadership or take the responsibility that Australians need to ensure that we can leave safely.
KARVELAS: So in Singapore, they've got what 30% of their population now vaccinated, and they're still in a lockdown, so we have to be real with people don't we and say even when our vaccination rates go up, these restrictions may be part of your life?
KENEALLY: Patricia, nobody is pretending that they wouldn't be. But what we know is that if we had more Australians vaccinated and if we had a proper quarantine system, we wouldn't be running risks. We are running risks every day. Twenty one outbreaks from hotel quarantine. Each one of those outbreaks risks a greater lockdown, risks a deadly outbreak in aged care, and as long as we are not vaccinating people and providing fit for purpose quarantine those risks are going to continue to be greater.