RADIO INTERVIEW ABC RN BREAKFAST THURSDAY, 22 JULY 2021

RADIO INTERVIEW ABC RN BREAKFAST THURSDAY, 22 JULY 2021 Main Image

22 July 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
LABOR SENATOR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES


 
E&OE TRANSCRIPT 
RADIO INTERVIEW
ABC RN BREAKFAST
THURSDAY, 22 JULY 2021


SUBJECTS: Scott Morrison’s lockdown; vaccine rollout; Liberal slush funds.

FRAN KELLY, HOST: The Opposition has identified what it says are more than 20 slush funds. This is a quote 'slush funds with billions of dollars that are being rorted by the Morrison Government.' Kristina Keneally is Labor's spokesperson for Government Accountability. Kristina Keneally, welcome back to Breakfast.

KRISTINA KENEALLY, DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY: Thank you, Fran. And good morning to your listeners.

KELLY: Welcome to the program, we’ll get to the slush funds in a moment but the vaccine rollout. First, the Prime Minister says it's regrettable that the rollout is behind schedule and he takes responsibility for the problems. Is that the accountability that Labor has been looking for from Scott Morrison?

KENEALLY: Well, 'sorry' really is the hardest word for Mr Morrison to say and what an extraordinary day of spin and lies from the Prime Minister yesterday. He says he takes responsibility but in the very next breath, he finds a long list of other people to blame. Whether it's ATAGI; whether it's state premiers; whether it is Professor Brendan Murphy -  there's always someone else for this Prime Minister to blame because while he might utter the words about responsibility, he doesn't take responsibility. He doesn't hold a hose. He always has someone else to blame. He's been missing for several days. Missing in action, and he pops up for the day of spin and lies - to blame everyone else. Now, Fran the Australian people know that the vaccine rollout is a shambles. They know it's a debacle. We are last in the developed world. What they want Mr Morrison to do is to admit that he has made a mistake. They're living the consequences of that mistake. They are paying the price every day while we've got half the country in lockdown...

KELLY: *interjects* ..but...

KENEALLY: ...people are forgiving, they are forgiving. And I think what they want from their leaders is for them to actually acknowledge and take responsibility. Rather than just spin, lie and shift blame elsewhere.

KELLY: 'Spin and lies' are strong words. I think it's clear, people are making it clear, that what they want is their political leaders to get on with it not get into sort of political, badbackbiting. I mean, how helpful is it for Labor to be taking pot shots from the sidelines at a time like this when so many people are doing it so hard? What they want is their political politicians to be working together to come up with solutions don't they?

KENEALLY: Fran, throughout this pandemic Labor has sought to be constructive. We proposed JobKeeper - the wage subsidy program that connected employers with employees -very early on. The Government initially rejected it but then came to the table and implemented it. Where we can be constructive, we have sought to be so.
But what we have here is a Prime Minister who said the vaccine rollout is 'not a race'. Yesterday, he stood up and he bald-faced lied. He said he was talking about the approval process. He was not. He made that statement a month after the vaccines had been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. While we've got some 14 million people in lockdown, while we have people struggling to put food on the table, to pay their bills, where they have no sense of when we are going to get back to a point of normal - we need to be pointing out that Mr. Morrison had two jobs this year: roll out the vaccine and set up fit for purpose quarantine. He has monumentally failed at both and it is Australians today paying the price of that.

KELLY: OK. And as you say 14 million Australians now in lockdown. The vaccine rates are not where we need them. They would be higher if there was greater public trust in the vaccine that's supposed to be the workhorse of the rollout - the AstraZeneca vaccine. On Tuesday Sydney's vaccine hub at Olympic Park dispensed only 50 doses of AstraZeneca but 8000 Pfizer doses. Now the Prime Minister publicly appealed to the ATAGI expert group yesterday to review its advice on AstraZeneca. Was that the right thing to do? Is that is that what should happen? That AstraZeneca advice needs to change or something else here to try and get greater confidence in AstraZeneca?

KENEALLY: Well, let's just observe that in other countries where they had multiple vaccine deals, that when the advice came down about the appropriate application of AstraZeneca, they were able to move on to Moderna or Pfizer or something else.

KELLY: ..sure, but we relied on AstraZeneca like the UK have gone with AstraZeneca with great success. So, I'm asking you, what's Labor's position now? Should the Federal Government overrule medical advice to accelerate the rollout or should we get on and try and rehabilitate to some degree the public health advice around AstraZeneca?

KENEALLY: I agree, as does the Shadow Health Minister Mark Butler, agree with the head of the AMA, Omar Khorshid said yesterday, when he said that the Prime Minister is putting unfair pressure on ATAGI here. The Prime Minister is freelancing on AstraZeneca. He is seeking to shelve responsibility for his failures to have enough vaccine deals on to someone else and it is unfair pressure for him to be putting on ATAGI at this time. We do have a situation Fran though, in Australia, where we've only got 11% of Australians fully vaccinated and most concerningly, the most vulnerable remain highly exposed to this highly infectious variant Delta. Only 30% of people over 70 are vaccinated. Now why the Prime Minister hasn't - in his rollout - prioritized older Australians, people in disability care facilities - these are all people that were supposed to be done by Easter and now they have gone through - they are going through winter - facing this highly infectious dangerous Delta variant and that is a failure of the vaccine rollout.

KELLY: Okay. Let's move on, you got to speak to last night on government accountability. That's part of your role in the Opposition. You've counted 22 discretionary funds, you say have been rorted by the Government - the car parks, the sporting grants, the Building Better Regions. All governments have been found to pork-barrel to varying degrees, we can say that I think quite fairly. But you claim the sheer quantum of rorting by the Coalition is off the scale. What is different here?

KENEALLY: A couple things Fran. Listeners of course remember the $100 million Sports Rorts, their infamous colour-coded spreadsheet, decisions made in the Prime, you know, the Prime Minister's Office where money was spent not on the basis of where it was most needed but on the basis of electoral advantage. We've now seen the $660 million Car Park Rorts -Sports Rorts on steroids today - a former Supreme Court judge called it 'government corruption'. And now there's these new rorts we can watch in real time! $800 million modern manufacturing grants. The Prime Minister has learned one thing from Sports Rorts - he has changed the rules so that he is the final decider here. No need to be tripped up by any rules. What these grants represent is a formal baking in of the infamous colour coded spreadsheets. A complete subversion of the Westminster system of ministerial accountability and the creation of a new normal, where Mr Morrison decides who gets what -based solely on his political ambitions. 22 slush funds, that is $4 billion sitting there - taxpayer money - to be spent in an election campaign based on where Mr Morrison thinks that will politically advantage him the most.

KELLY: What's the issue we've seen with the modern manufacturing initiative, as you say it's an $800 million manufacturing grant fund born out of the pandemic because we were forced to examine supply chain gaps for critical supplies like PPE, the fund was applauded, I think when the Government came up with it. The Prime Minister is the final decision maker, but won't he be awarding cash grants based on advice from the Department of Industry?

KENEALLY: The facts that he has - he can take it into account - but he is the final decision maker. He will have sole discretion. He's even bypassing the appropriate minister here - Christian Porter. It will literally be done by the Prime Minister. He recently changed the rules just a few weeks back to ensure that that decision could be made by him. 

KELLY: Have we seen any grants handed out yet that are dubious?

KENEALLY: We have not. The rules have just been changed a few weeks ago. But let's remember, when this grant, this fund was announced they promised it would deliver 380,000 jobs.  So far it has delivered zero. So, zero down, 380,000 to go and now we have a change in the rules. A normalizing of the Sports Rorts process. It is normalizing misconduct. It is rorting on an industrial scale. And it is the Liberal Party baking in taxpayer dollars in the Budget to spend taxpayer money like it is Liberal Party money.

ENDS