15 December 2021













SUBJECT/S: COVID-19; Government rorts 


PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST ABC RN DRIVE: Let's return to the situation in New South Wales where a sharp spike in cases has pushed authorities to encourage people to get their third shot. The state today recorded more than 1300 infections - the highest number in more than 10 weeks. But Health Minister Brad Hazard says modelling from the University of New South Wales shows the state could see 25,000 cases a day by early next year. New South Wales Labor Senator Kristina Keneally is the Opposition's Deputy Leader in the Senate and the Shadow Home Affairs Minister and she joins us tonight. Welcome. 
KARVELAS: Senator, you're in Sydney. Are you worried about the situation where the state gets to this potential 25,000 cases a day? 
KENEALLY: Of course, these are concerning numbers and concerning reports, and I think we'd all be particularly concerned about the impact on the health system and our hospital system and whether there would be any flow on effects. To my mind Patricia, this poses two challenges, mindful that none of us want to go back into lockdown, and the two challenges are: One, that we get the booster shot rollout right, that we don't have a repeat of the mistakes made with the vaccine rollout. And similarly, that we get the rollout of the vaccine to children right. That is, we've got enough paediatric doses secured, that it's clear for parents how they book their children in. Those are the two big steps we need to take as a community, and we need the Government supporting us this time, not dragging the ball and leaving people behind. 
KARVELAS: The State Government has eased a swathe of social distancing restrictions, is that the right call? 
KENEALLY: Well the State Government here in New South Wales, and indeed all governments around the country, should act in accordance with health advice. That's been what has allowed Australia to come through the pandemic with lower case numbers than other jurisdictions around the world and, notwithstanding the failures in aged care by the Morrison Government last year, that led to hundreds of deaths. So, as a Senator for New South Wales and as a resident of Sydney, and particularly Southwest Sydney, strongly urge our Government here in New South Wales to take heed of what the health experts are telling them and if the situation starts to change, to change accordingly.  

I think the worst outcome here Patricia would obviously be having to go back into lockdown, particularly over summer. The other really concerning potential outcome would be to see our hospital system choked up so that other health conditions were not getting treated. So, you know, I do think Dr Kerry Chant has served the New South Wales public reasonably well, but the New South Wales Government made mistakes. They didn't lockdown the eastern suburbs fast enough and the virus, the Delta variant, escaped to Southwestern Sydney with devastating impact. We can't afford that again.  
KARVELAS: Let’s move on. Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has called for an end to pork barrelling saying it's out of control, following this analysis from the Nine papers and they found that Coalition seats received $1.9 billion over three years while Labor electorates got less than $530 million. Now we know pork barrelling has happened on both sides of politics when either party is in power. Will Labor really commit to ending the practice, if you're elected? 

KENEALLY: Well in fact, we've got legislation before the Parliament, introduced by Senator Katy Gallagher, that requires transparency when ministers take decisions against department advice in awarding these grants. This is one of the reasons, we've got a Government rotten to its core with industrial rorting. Mr Morrison spending taxpayer money like it’s Liberal Party money and trying to keep it secret from the electorate. In fact, this very story today from the Nine papers arose from a question Labor asked the Minister for Finance Simon Birmingham, in the Parliament. He said it was too hard to do this analysis, well, congratulations to the Nine papers who have done this work. And it is staggering. These figures are staggering. This is really Patricia, to put it in context for the listeners, this is a one in 100 year flood of rorting. I mean, Mr Morrison will say anything, do anything, we know he'll lie and now we know he will pretty much rort anything in order to buy a vote. And Patricia, quite bluntly, with a Government this rotten to the core, it shows why we need a national anti corruption commission. 
KARVELAS: But a national anti corruption commission wouldn't have really been able to do much on the grants we've seen, would it? 
KENEALLY: Well, these grants, so many of the decisions taken in secrecy, taken against department advice. You know we've had to rely on auditor general investigations to be able to reveal some of the colour coded spreadsheets, some of the dodgy decisions, the industrial level rorting and this is a corruption of our democracy. It is a corruption of our democracy. You know, corruption is defined as using public money in ways that don't benefit the taxpayer, but in fact, benefit public officials. Understand this. One of these programs is the community safety fund. This Liberal Government literally took money off communities that needed it for safety- they were ranked high in those needs - and gave it to seats they're trying to secure and keep in an election campaign. That to me is a corruption of our democracy. 
KARVELAS:  Queensland National Senator Matt Canavan, told Channel Nine that regional electorates, which had received the largest amount of funding had often been impacted by droughts and extreme events. And given they tend to be more conservative populations, they happen to be Liberal National seats. Is that a fair point? 
KENEALLY: Let's counter that with some actual facts. Mr Morrison's own seat, Cook - not affected by the drought - they’re on the coast. He received $8.2 million, that $8.2 million is more than four Western Sydney Labor held seats combined. Fowler, McMahon, Chifley and Greenway combined got less than Mr Morrison got in Cook.  

You've got Anthony Albanese in Grayndler, again in Sydney, gets just $750,000, while the neighbouring Liberal held marginal seat, literally next door in Reid, received $14.8 million.  

One seat gets $750,000, one seat gets almost 15 million, both within Sydney. 
KARVELAS: But the Government says that this analysis doesn't include grants programs that focus on the provision of social services, which they say include significant spending in Labor electorates. 
KENEALLY: Well, you know what else just doesn't include? This doesn’t include sports rorts and its colour coded spreadsheets. It doesn't include the building better regions rorts… 
KARVELAS: Sure, but on the social spending, what's, what's your response to… 
KENEALLY: Well, my point is, if this included all grant programs, I think the Government would be even more embarrassed because the industrial scale rorting that has happened in all these other grant programs just goes to show this is baked into Mr Morrison's way of operating.  

He clearly doesn't give you anything unless he thinks you're going to give him something back in return. And that is why I say we need a national anti-corruption commission and when you look at the behaviour of this government, no wonder it's been more than 1000 days since Mr Morrison promised that national integrity commission and he has failed to deliver it. He doesn't want the electorate to know what he’s up to. 
KARVELAS: So Kristina Keneally, do you think then that if Labor were in government, you'd spend the same amount in the Wentworth electorate, which is a Liberal electorate right now, versus Tanya Plibersek electorate of Sydney? Is that something Labor will guarantee? 
KENEALLY: If you lived in Wentworth, you’ve got, the Government spent about $230 per person. Whereas, Fowler, in Southwestern Sydney, and admittedly, the seat I am a candidate for in this election, one of the most disadvantage electorates in the country, the government only spent $6.69 per person. One surf club in Wentworth got double what the entire electorate of Fowler got. Come on. You cannot tell me that this is funding being allocated based on need. It is funding being allocated where Mr Morrison want to buy votes. 
KARVELAS: We’re out of time. Thank you, Senator Kristina Keneally.