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 NEWS BREAKFAST
THURSDAY, 27 MAY 2021
SUBJECTS: Scott Morrison’s failure on quarantine and vaccines; Victoria’s COVID outbreak; Tax Cuts.
LISA MILLAR, HOST: We are joined by Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Kristina Keneally, from Canberra. Good morning to you, Senator. Welcome to News Breakfast.
KRISTINA KENEALLY, DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE & SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS: Good morning, Lisa. Good morning to your viewers.
MILLAR: It was sort of grim predictions from epidemiologist Nancy Baxter earlier, suggesting that we were going to be heading into a lockdown. What kind of impact do you think that would have? And do you suspect also that that's where we're going?
KENEALLY: Our thoughts, of course, are with the people of Melbourne and Victoria, who have done it really tough during this pandemic. Lisa, I think what this current distressing situation shows is the need for Scott Morrison and the Commonwealth Government to inject some urgency into two things: A national quarantine system and the rollout of the vaccine. If we look at Melbourne alone, at Victoria alone, we know that there are 29 residential aged care facilities that have not had a single dose of the vaccine.
Now, of course, we welcome the Commonwealth sending about 130,000 extra doses to Victoria, but there are 5 million people in Melbourne. You know, we need a national quarantine system that is fit-for-purpose and we need urgency in the vaccine rollout. And let me make this point, Lisa - this outbreak that we are now seeing in Victoria started with an outbreak from hotel quarantine in Adelaide. That is the 17th outbreak from hotel quarantine in six months. We need a national quarantine system. We needed it six months ago. That would have been the best time to have it. The second-best time to have it is now, and we need some urgency on these two national priorities - quarantine and vaccination.
MILLAR: And the Prime Minister's response has been under this criticism, that hotel quarantine in Australia has been 99 percent successful. 99.9 percent successful. He's challenged you to suggest a country that's done it better, that Australia is at the top of the list, as far as hotel quarantine goes?
KENEALLY: Well, if we take that argument from the Prime Minister at face value - well, 17 outbreaks in six months, "You've never had it so good, what are you complaining about?" Let me tell you, the people of Melbourne today who are facing the prospect of another extended lockdown, they would disagree with the Prime Minister. They would say, "You got a report, Prime Minister, some nine months ago from Jane Halton, your hand-picked expert, who told you hotel quarantine is not fit-for-purpose." Hotels are for tourists, not for quarantine for medical purposes. It’s fair enough we rolled it out at the beginning of the pandemic because we needed something quickly.
But we now know so much more about this virus, we know it is airborne, we know hotels are for the fit-for-purpose for quarantine. Jane Halton gave the Prime Minister multiple recommendations and he has failed to act on a single one of them. He could be, for example, taking up Victoria's offer of the Mickleham facility and expanding that. He could be working with Queensland, with their offer to expand and work with him on a national quarantine system in that state. He could be looking at Blayden Point in the Northern Territory. This is a Prime Minister who thinks that this is not his problem. He wants to shove everything onto the states, everything is someone else's responsibility, and nothing is his fault. In a national pandemic, and an international pandemic, that is simply not good enough from our Prime Minister.
MILLAR: Does Labor believe the vaccine eligibility should also be expanded right now? Should it just be: "Everyone, get out there and get it"? Because you've said that you want the rollout to be sped up, but what do you actually - who do you actually think can get the vaccine right now?
KENEALLY: Well, first of all, if someone is eligible to get the vaccine, I urge them to do so. We need as many Australians vaccinated as soon as possible. The fact that less than 2% of the Australian population is fully vaccinated is just shameful and an indictment on this government's failure to roll out a vaccination program.
But, Lisa, let's understand this - right now, half of the people over 70 are not vaccinated in this country. 29 residential aged care facilities in Melbourne, where they're having an outbreak right now, haven't had a jab in their arms. That's why I say we need to inject some urgency into the vaccine rollout. We have vulnerable people in the community, our vulnerable populations, who are not getting the vaccine. Where is the federal government when it comes to rolling out the vaccine? Again, this is something they're trying to pretend they've got nothing to do with, this is somehow just a state responsibility, they're just there, kind of - I don't know what they think they're doing, quite frankly. How can we have half of the people over 70 not yet vaccinated?!
MILLAR: Lots of questions still being asked about all that, Senator Keneally. We don't have a lot of time. We've got a couple of other subjects I want to ask you: when is Labor going to make a decision about the Stage 3 tax cuts? Suggestions in the paper this morning it will be late June. That came out of meetings with the leadership group. Will you make a decision by then?
KENEALLY: Let's be clear about tax cuts: One, we support tax cuts for low - and middle-income people. They're the ones who need it the most. The point we've always made about Stage 3 when it went through the Parliament is that it wasn't a smart move to be putting in place a tax cut that comes in years down the road, when you don't know what the economic conditions will be. Now, we will make a decision well before the election. But what we won’t...
KENEALLY: What we won't be doing, Lisa, is play to Mr Morrison's political timetable -
MILLAR: OK, do you personally support the Stage 3 tax cuts?
KENEALLY: The Prime Minister here is trying to create a faux political argument, a fake political argument, to distract from his failures around vaccinations -
MILLAR: It is a danger, because the longer you put this decision off, the more internal unrest, the longer we'll have conversations like this. You can solve it by making the decision - do you personally support the Stage 3 tax cuts?
KENEALLY: Lisa, Labor will make its position known well before the election, and we'll do it in a timetable that suits the national interest. Looking at the economy we would inherit when we come to government, and the appropriate economic conditions. What we won't do is sit here and be dictated by this Prime Minister, who only likes to play politics rather than do the job, the two jobs he's got two this year - rollout national quarantine and deliver a vaccine. He is failing on both of those.
MILLAR: Senator Keneally, thanks for your time.
KENEALLY: Thank you.