By Tanya Plibersek

21 December 2020


SUBJECTS: Sydney COVID-19 Christmas Outbreak; Quarantine Exemptions; Hugh Jackman’s gift to RM Williams workers
BELINDA RUSSELL, HOST: Joining me is the Daily Telegraph Political Editor Anna Caldwell and Shadow Minister for Education and Training Tanya Plibersek. Welcome to both of you ladies.
RUSSELL: Tanya first of all to you as we said, a tough end to 2020. Just when we thought things were looking a bit brighter. But what do you think, did states and territories have any other choice but to close their borders to New South Wales?
PLIBERSEK: I'm not surprised that states are acting this way. The most important thing we can do is to contain this outbreak of the virus. We need to get to the bottom of how this has happened, given how much people have sacrificed already this year. Christmas is a time that we show people we love them and if the best way we can do that is to stay home over the next few days, have as little contact with strangers as possible, then that's something we ought to do. Fingers crossed we'll still be able to have Christmas, fingers crossed. 
RUSSELL: Well, you just don't know do you? From history, we know that things can change rapidly, but as we know also, lockdown, hard, soon, fast?  
PLIBERSEK: Yes, and the very best chance we have of having something like a normal Christmas is to follow the medical advice now. Do only the essentials right now. 
RUSSELL: Yeah, and thankfully everyone on the Northern Beaches are doing a great job and doing that. Anna over to you, so many families affected by this. How do you think people are going to cope? How are they going to cope with another blow from COVID? I mean how resilient are we? You're self-isolating right now in Brisbane, is that correct?
ANNA CALDWELL: Yeah, that's right. So I came up from Sydney late last week. I got here before any of the border restrictions came into place. I was quite worried about them. So I was on a work trip in Northern New South Wales on Friday and just decided to come straight across the border basically. You know, I think you know Tanya is right. We all have to play our part, you know at the moment. I think the risk of this virus spreading over Christmas when families are coming together, you’re coming together with your grandparents. All that sort of thing, the risk is huge. One thing that I am concerned about though that I think warrants some more discussion, is the resources being put into the testing regime. We're seeing these stories of hours long wait come out of New South Wales, you know people saying they're waiting up to 5 hours for a test. I know here in Brisbane last night when I was trying to get a test. I went to one location, I was sent to a second location lined up there for an hour and then was told: “sorry we're closing, come back tomorrow”. I think if Premiers are asking so many people to get tested – which we need to do, it is such a critical element in our fight against this virus – I think some more resources need to be put into that testing regime. 
RUSSELL: As you say five hours it is a long wait, it's good results though. I mean 28,000 tests, I think, were done in the previous 24 hours and it will be interesting to see what the numbers are today. Ladies, I want to ask you about another disturbing story uncovered by the Daily Telegraph, reporting that thousands of international flight crew and hundreds of foreign diplomats have avoided going into mandatory hotel quarantine since March. Anna, millions of Aussies have all made sacrifices, funerals, family gatherings, weddings. You can understand why Aussies are going to be outraged by this. 
CALDWELL: I agree people will really have their noses out of joint with this information. I mean, I am of the view that we do need a nuanced approach to decisions that are made. For example Brad Hazzard said yesterday, in cases where people have a disability they should be should be able to isolate at a different location if that's necessary for them. But the key here is for authorities to be transparent about that, so that we know exactly who is getting these exemptions. But more importantly to make sure that when they are isolating in a different location that they do just that. You know, it's not like, “oh go isolate” and then secretly they're catching up with their friends on the weekend. That's where we get into big trouble. So if they're giving exemptions we need to make sure we have the resources to properly monitor those people in the same way that people in hotel quarantine are held to account. 
RUSSELL: Yeah, I mean Tanya, 900 foreign diplomats entering Australia without going into hotel quarantine. This loophole it really needs to be shut. 
PLIBERSEK: I really think we need national leadership here. The Federal Government's responsible for our borders, they're responsible for getting Australians home who are stuck overseas and they're responsible for keeping the virus out. It is pretty extraordinary to hear these numbers. We know that the Prime Minister's been briefed three times by Jane Halton – you had her on the show just a little earlier – about how to keep our borders strong against the virus, and I think it's really important that we have we have that national leadership.
RUSSELL: I think that's confusing too, because every state has different rules. Do you think that needs to be fixed? 
PLIBERSEK: That's why you actually need leadership from the Prime Minister right?  You need to have one system, and Anna's quite right, if there are exemptions we need to know where and why those exemptions are happening.
RUSSELL: Let's not forget amid all of this doom and gloom it is only four days until Christmas ladies. So let's end on something positive. Hugh Jackman has dipped into his own pocket to the tune of 1.2 million bucks to give every single worker at the iconic bootmaker RM Williams a $1,300 Christmas cash bonus. Anna, I wish I worked at RM Williams!
CALDWELL: What a dream. Oh my goodness. I've always thought Hugh Jackman must be one of the nicest guys in show business and he has just proven it. I was trying to think of the best present I've ever gotten from a boss and honestly this morning I couldn't think of anything that even comes close. What a great story, feel-good story, exactly what we need at this time of year. 
RUSSELL: Tanya, I mean, how good is Hugh? 
PLIBERSEK: How good is Hugh? Isn't he adorable? He's just the best isn't he? Anna's right, it just proves that he is one of the nicest guys in Australia. But it does also give us the opportunity to think a little bit about those 2.4 million Australians who are unemployed or want more hours of work. And also those people who looked after us this year. Obviously the health staff, but also the shelf stackers, the drivers, the cleaners, the people who kept us safe in what has turned out to be a pretty crazy year. 
RUSSELL: We're heading into it again. Everyone deserves a cash bonus this year. Ladies, thank you so much for your time.