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25 August 2021

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


 

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
DOORSTOP INTERVIEW
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
WEDNESDAY, 25 AUGUST 2021

SUBJECTS: COVID; Ruby Princess.


KRISTINA KENEALLY, DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE: Mr Morrison hasn’t found a crisis that isn’t someone else’s fault, or a problem that isn’t someone else’s to solve. He’s failed monumentally in the two jobs he had this year; vaccination and fit for purpose national quarantine. We now know thanks to the Inspector General of Biosecurity that Mr Morrison failed to stop the one boat that mattered, the Ruby Princess. The Ruby Princess, contributed massively to the first wave of COVID in Australia, responsible for over 600 cases 28 deaths and the Inspector General for biosecurity has today made clear it was the federal Government the Morison Government that failed to stop the Ruby princess.

Federal officials did not complete the’ traveller with illness checks’. Federal officials did not check the ship's medical logs. Federal officials letting the one boat that mattered, the Ruby Princess spreading COVID across the country; 28 Australians died. Mr Morrison said at the beginning of this pandemic just weeks before the Ruby Princess arrived, that he was putting Australian border force in direct command of arriving cruise ships.

What the federal Inspector General for Bio Security's report shows clearly is that Mr Morrison did not keep his promise. Mr Morrison, letting the one vote that mattered the Ruby princess and Mr Morrison tried to blame the states. We know what this Prime Minister is like, don't we? People are home doing the hard work because of these lock downs. They are trying to educate their kids. They are trying to keep their small businesses afloat. And they just want a Prime Minister who works as hard as they do. But with Mr Morrison, letting in the Ruby Princess, didn't roll out the vaccine, didn't build fit for purpose quarantine. And now half the country is in lockdown.

It's enough. We cannot risk three more years of Mr Morrison's 'that's a matter for the states'. I don't hold a hose mate. too little too late. Happy to take any questions. 

JOURNALIST: There's been a couple of Labor MPs who appear to have broken ranks on this vaccination targets namely Bill Shorten and Joel Fitzgibbon. They say that they would support the partial reopening and easing some restrictions when we over 70% fully vaccinated. Do you support this this plan? 

KENEALLY: Well I reject the premise of your question. Quite frankly, Mark Butler said much the same yesterday, making the point that yes, the Doherty Institute modelling is quite clear that it's 70 to 80%. There's the capacity to open and Mr Morrison has rocks in his head if he thinks anybody wants lockdowns to continue a day longer than they need to. 

Let's be clear with what the Doherty Institute said and indeed what my colleagues yesterday have said. That reopening does depend on vaccination, we've got a bungled vaccine rollout, thanks to Mr Morrison. It also depends on contact tracing, being able to keep up and in New South Wales right now it is struggling. People from Western Sydney are telling me and my office that is taking sometimes 10, 14 days before they get contacted about a close contact. That's just not keeping up. That's why we're seeing COVID Delta strain spreading right throughout the community. 

It also depends on our hospitals being able to cope with the ICU's. And right now, we know that in Western Sydney hospitals are overwhelmed. it also depends on our children being protected. We know now that the Delta strain is contagious amongst children. We know that children are getting sick. My own colleague Katie Gallagher is not here today because she is home caring for her desperately ill 14-year-old child who hasn't been vaccinated who now has COVID.

Let's be clear, we now know that our children are fast becoming the front line on this COVID fight and Where is Mr Morrison's plan to vaccinate our nation's children? In the United States they've been vaccinating under 17’s since May, since May. We don't have a plan yet to vaccinate our children. So, I think the parents across Australia want to know for Mr Morrison, what is the plan to keep their children safe

JOURNALIST: So, to clarify, even if we reach over 70%, you wouldn't support that?

KENEALLY: Let us be clear, the Doherty modelling is clear. The 70% is important. It's fundamentally important. The only way we're getting out of this is vaccination. But it also depends on our children being protected, on our ICU's is being able to cope and on our contact tracing being able to cope. That's what the Doherty modelling says. And what I say to Mr Morrison is just get a plan. Stop picking fights. This is a Prime Minister who would rather have a political fight than develop a national plan to keep Australians safe. Australians are doing the hard work of lockdowns right now and they don't want to do it anymore. I don't want to do it anymore. Let's understand this, there is no leadership from Mr Morrison. This blaming everyone else, somebody else's problem to solve. It's time for leadership, Mr Morrison. Australians deserve better.

JOURNALIST: The outbreak in New Zealand, there were 41 cases there yesterday. Is that the Prime Minister’s fault for allowing the virus out of Australia and into New Zealand?

KENEALLY: Let us understand. We've got half the country in lockdown here in Australia. We’ve got Western Sydney in the harshest lockdown conditions the country has seen and now we have New Zealand with an outbreak. This is Mr Morrison's fault. This is Mr Morrison's lockdown. He didn't roll out the vaccine. He failed to meet every vaccination target. He didn't set up fit for purpose national quarantine when his own hand-picked expert Jane Halton told him several times to do so.

JOURNALIST: So how is it the Prime Minister’s fault the virus gets into New Zealand?

KENEALLY: The Prime Minister has allowed the virus to leak out of our leaky hotel quarantine system. He has allowed the virus to spread across Australia because we are not vaccinated. And he has reopened the travel bubble with New Zealand without putting in the safe precautions here in Australia. And can I say this. There are Australians right now trapped in New Zealand. They can't get home. Why didn't Mr Morrison have a travel plan a contingency plan for when that travel bubble burst? Let's remember this. Mr Morrison has failed on the jobs that he had. Protect the borders, keep them safe, roll out the vaccine and set up fit for purpose quarantine.

JOURNALIST: But if the virus gets in through New Zealand quarantine program, isn’t that the fault of the New Zealand Government – Jacinta Ardern’s Government. Not the Australian Government?

KENEALLY: Mr Morrison has failed. He has failed to keep Australians safe. The fact that this virus is now spreading across Australia and into New Zealand sits with the Prime Minister of Australia Mr Morrison, who has failed to do the jobs that he had. protect our borders set up national quarantine and rollout of vaccine 

JOURNALIST: So if he’s responsible for it spreading to New Zealand is he then responsible for it spreading from the other parts of the world? I mean what responsibilities the New Zealand government have.

KENEALLY: I can't speak for what the New Zealand Government does or doesn't do. But what I can speak to is how Australians had been let down by Mr Morrison. They have been let down because he failed to stop the one vote that matters. They've been let down because he didn't set up a national quarantine system fit for purpose. And they have been let down because they and their children are not being vaccinated fast enough. Mr Morrison didn't do enough deals to get enough vaccines. Mr Morrison didn't want he bungled the vaccine rollout.

We haven't even vaccinated some of our most vulnerable citizens. Yesterday in the Parliament the Morrison Government and their ministers were just giving themselves a big old pat on the back. The reality is Australians at home, want to get vaccinated, they want to get out of lockdown and they know that our leaky hotel quarantine system and the failures in the vaccine rollout have put them in these terrible harsh conditions.

JOURNALIST: Do you think Brad Hazzard is partly to blame for that?

KENEALLY: What the Inspector General of Biosecurity makes clear is that it is Federal Government officials failed to do the ‘traveller with illness checklists’, failed to check the ship's medical logs. And what this report makes clear, is that if the Federal officials who are responsible for the border had done their jobs, the likelihood that the Ruby Princess would have led to 600 cases and 28 deaths wouldn't have happened.  
Let's understand this, Mr Morrison blocked Federal officials from participating in the New South Wales inquiry. He blocked federal officials from appearing at the new end giving evidence at the New South Wales inquiry. If the New South Wales inquiry had been able to question Federal officials, they may well have uncovered what the Inspector General of Biosecurity has uncovered. And that is that Federal officials let down the nation. 

Now even Brett Walker, SC who conducted the New South Wales inquiry has said overnight, that having read this report, he wishes had he had this information at the time, that his findings might have been different. Let's be clear here. Mr Morrison tried to pretend that everything with the Ruby Princess was New South Wales’ fault. Borders have always been a Federal responsibility, and they always will be. What this report shows is that Mr Morrison failed to stop the one vote that mattered. Thanks, everyone.

ENDS