By Tanya Plibersek

29 July 2021




SUBJECTS: Sydney Lockdown; Financial support during lockdown; Liberals’ failed vaccine rollout.

ALAN JONES, HOST: Well, here we go. No need for introductions: two talented women who always front. They're not frightened of questions. Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, a Liberal Senator from New South Wales, real ability. And Tanya Plibersek, in spite of the young face, Tanya Plibersek has been in the Parliament for nearly 23 years. Concetta, can I start with you? If you were a person in South-West Sydney not in a knowledge job where you can work from home and the pay cheque keeps coming in, but others have no such luxury - they must travel, they've got to get their hands dirty. You're a tradie or you might have to travel 10 miles, or 10 kilometres, to a job stacking shelves at Woolworths - you can't. The taxpayer gives you 750 bucks a week. How would you feel being locked down when the Deputy Premier Barilaro says on television this morning, he doesn't know what's working and what's not working? And these people face even more Draconian provisions: wear your masks outside, which has no epidemiological proof; telling people to dob one another in; increasing the penalties; call in the Defence Force. Concetta, this sounds like Myanmar to me.

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS, SENATOR FOR NSW: Alan, as patron senator for a number of seats in Southwestern Sydney, in the past weeks my staff have been making direct calls into these areas and the feedback is people are not happy about the delay in the vaccine rollout, they want the Pfizer, there's those in small business and construction who can't work from home, issues about homeschooling, and a push to vaccinate their children, livelihoods have been -

JONES: How do they live on 750 bucks? 

FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Well, this is the problem and they will blame the politicians who are drawing a salary, and of course, Alan, against all of this - let's not forget, these are culturally and linguistically diverse communities and the change in the messaging about restrictions complicates the situation even more. 

JONES: Big point. They don't understand the message. Tanya, how can the public have any confidence when a government is imposing decisions of unprecedented emotional, financial, psychological damage? All the metrics prove - and I'm worried about kids - and basically, they don't know what they're doing and the bloke, who is the Deputy Leader said,' oh, we don't know whether it'll work, whether it won't'. Your thoughts, Tanya? 

TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN: Alan I'm worried about the kids, too. We know that the young people in Year 12 are facing going into the HSC, but this has been hard on all students. Our teachers are doing an amazing job, and the parents who are supervising that education from a home are doing an amazing job too. But Alan we needed to get more deals, for more vaccines, with more companies, so we could get more jabs in people's arms. We needed to get hotel quarantine right. We actually need purpose-built quarantine facilities, we've seen now 27 breeches - 

JONES: Each of these is a failure, Tanya. Each of these has failed. 

PLIBERSEK: They are failures Alan, and we should be able to make these mRNA style vaccines like Pfizer here in Australia. No wonder people are frustrated. And now we're in this problem, we have to get through it. We can't cut and run now. 

JONES: How can you have a 90 year old passing away at Liverpool Hospital unvaccinated? A man in his 80s Royal North Shore unvaccinated. And the Prime Minister said on the 15th of March last year, “we will protect the vulnerable”. Well plainly we are not.

PLIBERSEK: No, he's failed. And whenever the going gets tough, the Prime Minister gets going. He has sought to duck responsibility for the two most important jobs: the vaccine rollout and quarantine. He wants to take credit when there is credit to be had, but he doesn't want to take responsibility. He said that all the aged care workers would be vaccinated by Easter, about a quarter of them are vaccinated now. 

JONES: I know.

PLIBERSEK: We know what happens when this virus gets into a nursing home, it is bad news, very bad news.

JONES: See Concetta, I don't understand. I mean when you've got the Deputy Leader of the Government saying he doesn't know what is working, and yet on the other hand say eight LGAs areas with further punishments. I mean there are so many people, this Colin Axon, a member of the British government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, called masks “a comfort blanket”. I just don’t know. What are people - I don't know how they're going to live on 750 bucks. I don't know how a  single mum with two kids can try and manage in a house locked up, she's got to educate the kids. She's got to try and put food on the table, and she hasn't got a job. And they’re giving her 750 bucks? Concetta give them some hope! How?

FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Well, Alan two things. As I said, it's very clear from the feedback that I'm receiving that there is a dire situation from our perspective. Yes, of course we need as many people as possible vaccinated. Unfortunately the vaccination hesitancy has meant now that there are older people, especially in the community, who are either scared to take the AstraZeneca, or waiting for the Pfizer, or they don't want to get vaccinated because they're scared of the side effects. So we do have to overcome those hurdles. And the way we're going to overcome those hurdles is with a clear, concise message that will encourage those who want to be vaccinated, to get vaccinated. So we can then start planning the road out of here. Because that's the only way, we have to learn to live with the virus.

JONES: Ring your doctor up and talk to your doctor. Look as always run out of time, Tanya last call to you. Just, I mean, you're a mother, you're a wife, you're a politician, 23 years. Can you just say something that will give these poor people hope? They’re writing to me in absolute desperation. 

PLIBERSEK: I'm talking to people every single day, local businesses and workers. All I can say to them is if we are disciplined, if we follow the advice, if we look after each other, we will get through this. Australia will get through this.

JONES: Okay there we are, two ladies who are doing their best here. It's tough stuff out there so hang in there. You'll get a voice here, the voice of the voiceless. Thank you both. Concetta and Tanya.