06 May 2021



SUBJECTS: India, Stranded Australians, Travel bubble with NZ, Scott Morrison doesn’t take responsibility for quarantine, China-Australia relations.

PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: Kristina Keneally is the Shadow Minister for Home Affairs, welcome. We'll get to India in a moment, but is New Zealand justified in pausing the New South Wales travel bubble while the source of the outbreak there is investigated? 
SENATOR KRISTINA KENEALLY, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS: Well, first of all, this is concerning news and as a Senator from New South Wales and a resident of New South Wales, it's important that all of us take heed of the medical advice and the new restrictions that are being put in place this afternoon. New Zealand will follow his own medical advice, but I think what the outbreak or the case in the potential outbreak here in New South Wales shows that this pandemic is far from over, that we are going to need to learn to live with this virus for some time to come. And why it is crucially important that we have appropriate measures in place like a national quarantine facility like an efficient rollout of a vaccine, like the implementation of the Halton review into Hotel Quarantine, these things matter. And they matter because we are going to have to live with this virus for top for some days to come for several months and possibly us to come. And the Prime Minister's failure to advance on these crucial measures that get us back to some sort of normality are really what are going to hold Australia's economic recovery back.
HOST: Is it Labor’s view that repatriation flights from India should resume on May the 15th?
KENEALLY: We have been calling for repatriation flights since last year. And indeed, Senator Wong and I put a motion to the Senate that was supported by the Senate, that there should be repatriation flights. Let's understand the failures that have led us to the mess we are in. Failure number one, the Prime Minister did not send out planes to bring Australian citizens home when other countries around the world are doing so failure. Failure number two, he didn't put a set of national quarantine facilities when Jane Halton recommended last year that he should do so. Failure number three, the rollout of the vaccine has been shambolic and that has left people in this in this dire in these dire circumstances, and failure number four was to announce a ban on the flights to India with severe penalties, jail and fines in the middle of the night without any consultation with the local Indian community. That is why we are in the mess we're in and we shouldn't do it everything we should to help those Australians who are stranded.
KARVELAS: I just want to go into the penalties themselves. The legislation itself. Do you believe that legislation that was passed without it being you know, really fussed over at all just slipped through the Parliament all those years ago? Do you think it needs to be revisited? That it’s too draconian? 
KENEALLY: Well, the legislation is one thing, Patricia, but governments of the day always have the capacity to take decisions.
KARVELAS: No, no, I’m going to interrupt.
KENEALLY: That is the problem here.
KARVELAS: Why have the legislation then if you don't think it should be used by governments, which is what it sounds like you're saying. Do you think the legislation itself needs to be re-looked at?
KENEALLY: No, what I think we have here, probably Patricia is a problem of double standards that throughout this pandemic, the government of the day, the Morison Government chose not to apply to penalties in that legislation, when there were outbreaks in Europe when there were outbreaks in the United States. But suddenly, when there is an outbreak in India, the government threatens jail time and severe financial penalties to Australian citizens who seek to come home in the middle of a humanitarian crisis. Now, people are rightly questioning why this double standard has been put in place. And it is simply un-Australian for the government to threaten this type of action in the middle of this humanitarian crisis against its own citizens.
KARVELAS: I’ll ask again, do you think that legislation needs to be revisited? 
KENEALLY: Patricia, what I’ve just said is, the legislation is not the problem. There may be circumstances where such penalties tend to be used but not in the middle of a global humanitarian, sorry, a global pandemic and a humanitarian crisis in India, where we have seen…
KARVELAS: When would you, would you ever need legislation like that to threaten your own citizens like that?
KENEALLY: There may well be circumstances, but it is up to the government of the day to make that determination. And in this context, in this global pandemic, where we've not had to you see the government use those threats and those penalties when we've had an outbreaks in Europe and in the Northern Hemisphere. And yet when we have it in India suddenly in the middle of the night without any warning. These threats are made by the government threats made by the way that are not supported by medical advice.
KARVELAS: Do you accept that the limited capacity to safely quarantine people means it's going to take months to get everyone home? 
KENEALLY: Well, I don't accept it. Because it's not something that should be happening. I got to say I was quite taken aback by the Minister Alex Hawke’s comments this morning that even if we dedicate all Howard Springs, just to people returning from India, it will still take months to get them out. This is the failure, months ago last year, Jane Halton warned this government that they needed to create national quarantine facilities to get stranded Australians home, Scott Morrison didn't listen. And he didn't act, quite frankly, the Australian people are getting sick and tired of the Prime Minister who always seeks to blame others. He blames the States for quarantine, takes no responsibility for the consequences of his failures. And who simply does not act. This “I don't hold a hose mate” attitude of the Prime Minister is something Australians are getting sick and tired of.
KARVELAS: What is the timeframe that Labor believes these people need to be brought home by given the current circumstances? 
KENEALLY: Let's just revisit the timeframe that the Prime Minister set out and now…
KARVELAS: He said by Christmas, there's no doubt about it. You're absolutely right. So the circumstances we're currently in which is that sort of basis of my question. I said, the logic of what you're saying, but we’re in what we’re in now, right? Like it's not a parallel universe, so what do we do now? What's the timeframe?
KENEALLY: Here’s what we need to do now, we need to see the Commonwealth set up a national quarantine facility, for 120 years - the federal government has been responsible for quarantine, even today, you want to bring a horse into Australia, it's going to go into a federal quarantine facility. You are an Australian citizen who wants to come home in the middle of a global pandemic suddenly Scott Morrison washes his hands says he doesn't want to know, you’re the States problem…
KARVELAS: The Prime Minister is doubling Howard Springs. He's now actively…
KENEALLY: Can we talk about Howard Springs, c’mon.
KARVELAS: I’ve got a… give me my question. He's also politely, he's also of course, said he’s interested in this Victorian plan that his Department is now looking at. So that's potentially two - is that enough - how many do want to see the government? 
KENEALLY: I’m sorry, potential announcements from a Prime Minister who loves an announcement but never delivers, is simply not enough. And that's what I'm saying this whole, “I don't know the hose mate”, “let the states sort it out”, “it's not my problem”. That's not leadership in the middle of a global pandemic. It is simply un- Australian that we have our own Australian citizens our mates stranded overseas in this humanitarian crisis, and the Prime Minister hasn't come up with one idea of his own. And let's talk about Howard Springs I know you mentioned it, the doubling of Howard Springs is not on track. I asked about this at COVID committee hearings a few months ago, didn't get any confirmation. What do we read this morning, the LNP. Senator from the Northern Territory, Sam McMahon, raising the same concerns - that the doubling of capacity there at Howard Springs is not on track - that is highly concerning. So here we have a government that can't even keep to their own commitments. Frankly, this should be a national priority. I cannot understand what they're doing over there – where’s the Cabinet? Where is the leadership in the Cabinet - to just get Australians home?
KARVELAS: Does Labor have any objections to Australian cricketers flying to a third country before they come home? Given it's being paid for by the Board of Cricket Australia or cricket control in India rather?
KENEALLY: Well, this comes back to the whole - announcement / delivery - problem with this Morrison Government. Just last week, we heard Scott Morrison say this loophole, you know, this going to a third country out of India would be banned. Well, is it banned or not? You know, what is the health advice? What are the rules here? You know, what I would like to see – what Labor would like to see is a clear plan to get Australian citizens home, whether they are cricket players, or people who have gone over there to say goodbye to a dying relative - doesn't really worry me. What worries me is that we have the capacity to get people home fairly, quickly and safely. 
KARVELAS: Will it undermine the Biosecurity Act if the Federal Court strikes down the India travel ban?
KENEALLY: Well, again, this is a problem for the government to answer. They have their own legal advice. You know, frankly, I think it's sad that there has to be a challenge - citizens are going to court here they're going to the United Nations in appeals to try and do what citizens around the world are able to do which is to go to their home country. I mean, that passport that people have, that has Australia on it used to mean something and it used to mean that your government looked after you when you were in a crisis when you were when you are stranded or in trouble. Now, it seems to mean your Government is going to simply leave you behind because it's politically convenient for them to do so.
KARVELAS: How significant is China's decision to cancel the China-Australia strategic economic dialogue? 
KENEALLY: This is a concerning situation. And while it is a concerning situation, and we want to have a good relationship with China, it can't always be on China's terms. And we need to be standing up for our national interest here. I think what it points to is that, that Scott Morrison has not made it a priority to either repair the relationship with China or indeed, to seek to diversify our trade markets with other countries in the region, or indeed around the world. If you look, you know, certainly we're not we're not enhancing our relationship with India at the moment.
If you look at other jurisdictions like Indonesia, there's been little effort done by the government to substantially, to substantially expand or diversify our trading relationships. And this is going to be again a national priority for this Government. 
KARVELAS: Should the Federal Government cancel the 2011 Trade and Investment Agreement China struck with WA given they cancelled Australia's Belt and Road Deal?
KENEALLY: Labor supported the legislation that allowed for the federal government to surprise, surprise, do what federal governments are supposed to do, which is run foreign policy. It is up to the government to make a determination about what agreements are in the national interest. I'm not going to start you know, picking and choosing between the literally thousands of agreements that exist, whether it's between governments or universities or other relationships that people may have.
KARVELAS: The Prime Minister has talked about China today. He spoke about Taiwan as well, and he referred to the one country two systems' principle. Penny Wong said he, he got it wrong. What do you make of what he had to say? 
KENEALLY: If the question is who is right on foreign policy? Penny Wong or Scott Morrison? I and probably everyone else in the country is going to look to Penny Wong for correct leadership. I mean, Penny was right when she said, you know, the things that Scott Morrison sometimes says in relation to foreign policy, and particularly in relation to China will keep you up at night, sleepless. Quite frankly, we have a government that has been ramping up the rhetoric whether we're talking about the Home Affairs Secretary, Mike Pezzullo and his comments that the drums of war are beating and pointing, although, he didn’t specifically mention China. Through to today what seems to be a Prime Minister who doesn't even know the policy of his own government. You know, one country, two systems has never been Australia's policy in relation to Taiwan, has the Prime Minister changed it? And if he has, he needs to front up and explain that to the Australian people. 
KARVELAS: Kristina Keneally, lovely to speak to you. Thanks for coming on.
KENEALLY: Thank you.