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01 July 2021


SUBJECTS: Non-citizen travellers; Scott Morrison’s quarantine failures; vaccine rollout failure.
PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST, RN DRIVE: Queensland and Victoria's premiers have today doubled down on their pleas for a reduction in international arrival caps. National Cabinet is set to meet tomorrow for a second time this week and the Federal Government has not ruled out reducing the number of international arrivals. Queensland has gone as far as to call for it as to be as high as 70% reduction in international arrivals. Labor Senator Kristina Keneally joins me now. Welcome.
KARVELAS: You've said thousands of unvaccinated non-citizens are returning to Australia unnecessarily putting the country at risk. Border Force though has addressed this, they say that's not the case. Why do you maintain non-essential travellers are putting the population at risk of outbreaks?
KENEALLY: Well, the Australian Bureau of Statistics information lays bare what is happening at our airports, Patricia, and that is we had 10,000 temporary migrants, that is non-citizens, non-permanent residents, come into Australia in May alone. Mr. Morrison would like us to think that the borders are closed but quite frankly they are not. We are seeing people coming in as tourists, people coming in from business conferences and they are not only coming into Australia taking up precious quarantine spots, that stranded Aussies can't get access to, but they're also going into a leaky hotel quarantine system that's not fit for purpose.
KARVELAS: I understand the critique of the hotel quarantine system but facts matter. And the Australian Border Force statement says no one is getting exemptions to come to Australia for holidays. No one. And 84% of arrivals are returning Australians or their immediate family.
KENEALLY: Yeah, look, I think the Australian Border Force needs to go look at what the Australian Bureau of Statistics…
KARVELAS: Those figures, they say with respect. So are you saying they're lying?
KENEALLY: Well, I'm saying that the people are reporting on their incoming passenger cards, that they're coming to Australia for holidays, that they're coming to Australia for business purposes, that they're coming to Australia for conferences. Now, Border Force needs to explain the massive discrepancy that exists between their data and that of the self-reported data of the people who are actually coming into the country.
KARVELAS: Border Force Chief Michael Outram says citizens and permanent residents make up the vast bulk of people allowed to enter Australia. That's right, isn't it?
KENEALLY: Well, yes, Patricia, that's true. But that doesn't discount the fact that we have seen literally tens of thousands of people in the course of this pandemic be able to come into Australia for a wide range of reasons I think the community would rightly judge, is not necessary travel. The other fact of the matter here is Patricia is that Border Force and the Commonwealth Government, the Morrison Government have been giving, on average, some 46,000 Australians and permanent residents ability to leave the country and many of those people are coming back. And, we're not even keeping track of the vaccination status of the people as they're coming in and going across the border.
We're in the middle of a pandemic. We know how detrimental it is when there is an outbreak from the leaky hotel quarantine. And quite frankly, what we see here today in the data from the ABS is that the Commonwealth Government, the Morrison Government do not have a good handle on who is come in and going from Australia.
KARVELAS: We know that a lot of these people actually New Zealand citizens under the travel bubble, are you against the travel bubble?
KENEALLY: In fact, the data that was reported on today in the Nine newspapers deliberately excluded the New Zealand travel bubble.
KARVELAS: Well I'm asking you the question because we know that they're part of it.
KENEALLY: Yes, but the number I'm citing to you don't include the people who are coming in through the New Zealand travel bubble.
KARVELAS: So there's this proposed reduction from a couple of states to international arrival caps, is that reasonable?
KENEALLY: Well, you know if it happens tomorrow in National Cabinet, let’s make no mistake that it will be squarely on Scott Morrison's head. We are now some 18 months into this pandemic and so far the Commonwealth have failed to establish safe national quarantine in every state and territory. And, I don't fault the premiers, Labor or Liberal, who are concerned about the international arrivals. They've got and they've been saddled with a leaky hotel quarantine system. You know, they set it up quickly at the beginning of the pandemic and that was a good thing. But now that we know how this pandemic, this, this virus is transmitted, we know that hotel quarantine is not fit for purpose. And Scott Morrison has known for months the need for a national quarantine system.
And what I would say to your listeners is just consider this: you want to bring a horse or a dog or a cat into Australia, it's gonna go into a federally run fit-for-purpose quarantine system. But if you're a person coming into Australia, Mr. Morrison is quite happy for you to go into a leaky hotel system that cannot contain the virus safely.
KARVELAS: What would any reduction mean, you know, this proposed reduction for the 34,000 Australian stuck overseas and looking to come home?
KENEALLY: Well look, obviously, and Labor has been calling, and indeed the past successfully motions through the Senate, calling on the Government to take more urgent steps to get stranded Australians home. But obviously we are in a situation now where the states are just frustrated and fed up, Labor and Liberal states because Scott Morrison has duck shoved quarantine on to them. And we cannot continue to have a situation where we don't have fit-for-purpose quarantine.

All Australians, whether they are stranded or here in Australia, continue to suffer because we don't have safe national quarantine.
KARVELAS: Are international arrivals the real problem, isn't it just the inadequate quarantine?
KENEALLY: Well, these two things can't be separated.
KARVELAS: Well can they, not be separated?
KENEALLY: Well they can't right now Patricia, this is the problem we have. We have a problem that we have both Australians stranded, we have Australians who can't leave the country and be confident they can come back. And we have people who can't come into Australia or shouldn't be coming into Australia because we have this leaky hotel quarantine system. And this is why it is so fundamentally important that Scott Morrison does really the two jobs he's got in front of him; fix hotel quarantine, make it safer for and fit-for-purpose for coronavirus and roll out the vaccine. And you know, as we've heard today from the likes of Malcolm Turnbull, Mr. Morrison is failing at both of these jobs.
KARVELAS: Yeah that's right. I spoke to Malcolm Turnbull. He's actually my next interview tonight. Our listeners will get to hear that interview on what he's had to say. On the vaccine rollout and confusion around who should get AstraZeneca is Queensland's health advice, the right approach, that no one under 60 should be getting it?
KENEALLY: You know, this has been a colossal screw up by Mr. Morrison. If you stand back and look at you know, this is Scotty the Announcer - he loves the announcement, rarely there for the follow through. He's gone out and announced something after National Cabinet. Maybe he felt he needed to have an announcement. But now we know he didn't take it through National Cabinet. He didn't consult the state premiers. It's not even clear whether he consulted medical experts. Today we've had he's
KARVELAS: But to be clear all they've done is indemnify doctors which they've been calling for, is there anything wrong with that?
KENEALLY: We've had his own expert, the head of, the head of ATAGI, that, the actual medical experts who have been set up to give advice to the Commonwealth Government about the vaccine, come out and disagree with Mr. Morrison. I'm going to take that pretty seriously. And I think all of us should be taking seriously the advice of the medical experts, not the advice of the Prime Minister given late at night in a media conference.
KARVELAS: Isn't the problem though, Kristina Keneally, that the medical experts are not speaking as one? We're hearing this hard-line from the Queensland medical experts but in Victoria, for instance, there's the view that you know, consult your doctor. And if you're younger, you know, you make that decision. It's about autonomy.
KENEALLY: And, you know, Patricia, we set up this whole National Cabinet process to have these conversations in the National Cabinet, not to be having them out there in public with, with varying opinions being put about and that is all because Mr. Morrison didn't do what a leader should do and take this your apparent about-face, this change of public advice through that National Cabinet process. He didn't seek the advice of medical experts, it would seem, he just went out there and announced something off the top of his head, creating this confusion. Now of course people should take medical advice. That's what I'm calling for here.
KARVELAS: Just finally, you mentioned him the former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said that the Government's role is the biggest black and white failure of public administration that he can think of. What do you make of that?
KENEALLY: Well, he's belled the cat really, he's said there in black and white what a lot of people around the country would be sitting in their lounge room thinking. Particularly as they're sitting in their lounge room in lockdown as I I'm here in Sydney and as some 12 million Australians are today. These are all lockdowns that we could have avoided if we'd had a more effective vaccine rollout And let's not forget, Mr. Morrison promised 4 million of us would be vaccinated by the end of March. He promised all aged care workers to be vaccinated by Easter. Neither of those things happened and you know, sure as hell, there is no way Mr. Morrison is going to keep his commitment to have all Australians who want to be vaccinated, vaccinated by the end of October.