Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for South Australia
Senator the Hon. Penny Wong
Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs
Leader of the Opposition in the Senate
Senator for South Australia
Date: Monday, 6 September 2021
Simon Birmingham: Good morning David Bevan and listeners.
David Bevan: Good morning, Senator Penny Wong.
Penny Wong: G'Day, how are we?
David Bevan: I'd like to ask both of you, perhaps you can respond first Simon Birmingham because you're actually in government. Do South Australians just need to brace themselves for a surge in COVID cases? It's coming. It's just a matter of time. And I say that with the news that in Victoria, and we know Daniel Andrews locks down hard, he locks down fast. They've confirmed today 246 new COVID-19 cases. They can't contain it. It's only a matter of time before we have it.
Simon Birmingham: David, there is a certain inevitability. COVID-19 is endemic throughout the world, and the Delta variant has only presented new challenges to everyone. And so, of course, it's the right thing to do to try to keep it out for as long as is possible while we try to reach those vaccination targets of 70 and 80 per cent across the population and give as many people as possible the opportunity to be vaccinated. It's the right thing to do to keep applying suppression strategies. And the Doherty Institute modelling the national plan that the Prime Minister has been taking through the premiers is one built upon not just having a point at which we say, OK, let it rip. It's about careful, planned, informed steps that still apply safety measures so that we manage the impact on our health system so that we give everybody that opportunity to be vaccinated. But to your question, it's not possible to say that COVID-19 can be kept at bay forever. And so everyone needs, as people are doing in such record and pleasing numbers, to keep turning out, keep getting vaccinated, because the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to make sure those vaccine levels are as high as possible when we do face those challenges in the future.
David Bevan: Penny Wong, it's just a matter of time, so let's get used to it. And comments from Annastacia Palaszczuk, the Queensland premier. I mean, she seems to want to keep borders closed until children are vaccinated. They're all- they look like modern day King Canuets, don't they?
Penny Wong: Well, look, I think Annastacia is doing absolutely the right thing, which is to focus on how we keep our people safe and our children safe. Look, I mean, the numbers in Victoria and the numbers in New South Wales are just a tragic reminder of why Mr Morrison's failure to have the vaccine rolled out swiftly and early has had real life tragic consequences for Australians. And it is unsurprising that people are questioning this man's capacity to lead us out of lockdown safely, because that is actually the question, how do we get out of this as safely as possible and not simply casually expect- accept more people dying? And one of the things we do have to do is to make sure that our hospital systems are fit for purpose and are capable of dealing with the increased level of hospitalisation that we are already seeing in New South Wales with the number of cases. And I think it is very important that instead of having the political fights that Mr Morrison and Simon and others seem to want to have with state premiers that we focus on, what is it that we need to do to ensure that Australians are protected both from vaccination? You know, it is much later than it should be, but get vaccinated. But of course, also how we open up safely.
David Bevan: Jo has called ABC Radio Adelaide. Good morning, Jo.
Caller Jo: Oh, hi. I'm actually over 60. And I had my second AstraZeneca shot yesterday, so nobody's allowed to call me stubborn. But we do have a serious problem with the over 60s who have not had one shot. On the 27th of August of ATAGI advised the federal government to seriously consider allowing the over 60s access to Pfizer, Moderna the mRNA, you know, vaccines. Okay. The federal government decided not to take that advice and has basically banned over 60s from Moderna and Pfizer and continued to do that. I know people who are refusing to go and get it no matter what, we are facing a massive catastrophe. I'd like to ask Senator Birmingham why the government has ignored ATAGI's advice. Because we are looking at particularly the 60 to 69s, unvaccinated in massive numbers, and there's going to be a national disaster.
David Bevan: Simon Birmingham, do you think Jo's right?
Simon Birmingham: No, not entirely, David. So of those aged over 50 across Australia, 81.1 per cent have had a first dose of vaccination. So that's a really strong turn out by the most, by the senior Australians and those groups who were first opened to get vaccinated, for those over 70 its 88.9 per cent. If we go back eight weeks ago, only a quarter of those over 70 have had double vaccination. Now that is fully two thirds. Some 66.6 per cent have had the double vaccination. And as I said, 88.9 per cent over 70s have had their first dose and more than 80 per cent over 50s have had the first dose. And a couple of messages on I'd really encourage Australians and South Australians there. I saw the comments by Professor Nicola Spurrier over the weekend that there is a cohort of South Australians have had the first dose and haven't yet had the second dose and are overdue for it. If you're due for that second dose, please go out and get it. The health advice, if you had AstraZeneca, has never changed in relation to people who've had the first dose, had it safely, should absolutely go back and get that second dose of AstraZeneca and get that done to make sure they're as fully protected as they possibly can be.
Of course, at some stage, as we see now, the first shipment of the four million extra Pfizer doses coming from the UK, in addition to the extra one million that we got from Poland and the extra half a million that we got from Singapore, at some point we will be able to open up choice of vaccine to everyone. But right now, we want to make sure that those aged over 16 and indeed over 12 who are getting their first chance at a vaccine, get that first chance, that first opportunity, and for the older South Australians, encourage them to keep getting the vaccines that are available to them. There's plenty of people have been saying of late and responding to the best vaccine for anyone is that's available to them, and everyone should follow through and do that.
David Bevan: The big news coming out of Canberra today will be this National Women's Safety Summit. Senator Penny Wong, I imagine there'll be bipartisan support for the summit. It's just a matter of surely just getting a practical list coming out of the summit. So it's just a talkfest. And then both sides turning up and saying, yeah, we'll do it.
Penny Wong: Oh, look, I'm happy to come to that. I'm just going to have a very quick response to the many words that Simon just uttered in response to I think it was Jo's question, and it took him a long time to get to the point of answering, which is essentially the reason they haven't taken the advice is because they didn't arrange enough supply. And we said this last year. Chris Bowen, Anthony Albanese said last year, you haven't got enough deals. As always, Mr Morrison said that's not correct. You know, said it wasn't the case. And now we are Australians are paying the price and the price is lockdowns and more people who are getting COVID. Now, I absolutely encourage people to get vaccinated, but the federal government should take responsibility where it lands.
On the women's summit. Of course, you know, we want to see something real out of this. We want to see something that isn't a to-do list for the states. We want to see, you know, resources committed. We want to see government actually acting. I think that the thing that many women and men are concerned about is that this government does not demonstrate that this is a priority for them. And we saw that with the respect at work report, which, you know, lay on Christian Porter's desk for a year. Mr Morrison said we're going to accept every recommendation, and they didn't. And they voted against seven, at least seven of the recommendations in the Senate last week. I hope this summit does have an outcome which is constructive and real. Where we have resources, for example, on something like housing, and the numbers on housing are extraordinary. We've got in 2019-20, I think 39,000 people sought long term housing from specialist homeless services. Only 12 hundred of them got long term housing. And yet today we had Anne Ruston, Minister Ruston on Fran Kelly saying, admitting the federal government has no plan to do anything about housing supply for all these people fleeing domestic and family violence.
David Bevan: The front page of the weekend, Australian David Penberthy wrote 'aspiring Labor women face stand over tactics, threats and intimidation when they dare to seek office against factionally backed male candidates. A damning report prepared for the ALP's Emily's List has found.' Is there trouble within your own party, Penny Wong?
Penny Wong: Look, you know, I have for 30 years or more worked inside my party to try and improve our culture, to promote more women, to make sure our rules ensure that more women come into parliament. And of course, that we're a party where women feel safe. Now, in terms of getting more women into parliament, we've been very successful in that we have achieved more women across all factions, in all levels of parliaments, state and federal. And that's a good thing. Of course, we've got more to do. You know, the Emily's List report is an important report, and I think we should consider it and make sure we learn from it. But I would say we've made a lot of progress over the last decades, more work to do and we'll keep doing it.
David Bevan: Well, supporters of Alice Dawkins maintain the boys club is still running your party in South Australia.
Penny Wong: So, you know, I'm in- you know, I have seen some of those reports, and I just make this point. We had two candidates in that pre-selection battle. And, you know, they're transparent, open preselections. They are run with a rank and file ballot and a central ballot. That's the way that pre-selection was on. I did know- I was very concerned about Alice's public comments that she didn't feel safe and I raised them, I think I've expressed to you on this program, I raised those with the state secretary, and he made clear that if anybody, first, that everyone has a right to feel safe. Secondly, if there are any complaints about anyone's behaviour that has caused someone to feel unsafe, we do have a complaints mechanism internally and people are open to make a complaint through that mechanism.
David Bevan: But of course, what they would say is you're going to the very people who are running the party, who are part of the boys club. Everybody's going to look after them. So do you see, you know, that's what they're going to say.
Penny Wong: Well, what I'd say to them is, you know, a lot of us, a lot of women and, you know, I'm a founding member of Emily's List. Have worked over many decades to try and ensure we have a party that promotes all women. That puts more women into parliament and enables women to participate. And if there are things that are happening that cause people to feel they can't participate. No one's guaranteed of an outcome, but if people feel that they can't safely participate, then they should make a complaint. And there are many of us inside the party, women across this party, and decent men who don't want a situation where people don't feel safe.
David Bevan: Simon Birmingham. Your own party's got issues. The right on the weekend didn't win as many seats on the state executive as they were expecting. That now leaves the question of Sam Duluk's preselection unresolved because the right can't force his return. What do you think should be done with Sam Duluk?
Simon Birmingham: David, nothing on that particular score has changed since we last spoke a week or so ago. My view is that we should see the outcome of the work that the House of Assembly, the parliament is had in place, and then we ought to see that concluded.
David Bevan: Oh, you think do you think I should resume that you think they should resume that investigation? The parliamentary investigation?
Simon Birmingham: Well, it certainly needs to be concluded one way or the other. Doubt hangs over whether or not it will resume. If it's going to resume, then it should get on with it and get on with it quickly.
David Bevan: Yeah, but do you think it should continue? That's the question. Do you think it should continue?
Simon Birmingham: David, I think it would be preferable to have all of the information available. And that means that ideally there'd be clarity around what that looked at and that if it needs additional work to finish off, its investigation, that additional work is undertaken so that there's some finality attached to it. For Sam's sake, as well as for everybody else's sake.
David Bevan: Well you're not doing it for Sam's sake. You think there should be a continuation of that investigation because you don't think you should be in the party?
Simon Birmingham: David, I think the party needs to make sure we stand clear on principles of respect, behaviour, and that Sam's behaviour as outlined in the court proceedings recently, you know, it wasn't up to the type of standards we'd want to see. Ultimately, all the cards should be there on the table, fully informed by the facts when state executive considered it. I was thrilled on the weekend to stand beside four new candidates, all women running for us, preselected for the next federal election in Boothby, the Senate, Mayo, Adelaide. And that's in addition to a legislative council ticket Steven Marshall has got for the next election, where six out of seven candidates are women, women preselected in traditional liberal strongholds around Schubert and Frome. These are all good progress that we're seeing making, and I want to see more of that.
David Bevan: Okay, so you're not backing Sam. Penny Wong, how could Labor preference. An independent Sam Duluk over a liberal candidate?
Penny Wong: Well, hang on, as I've just heard both in that conversation, but also what Mr. Marshall has said is not even clear that this guy won't return as a Liberal.
David Bevan: Well, I think well, I think Sam Duluk's chances of getting back into the Liberal Party are pretty slim.
Penny Wong: Mr. Marshall has left open Mr. Duluk returning to the party, pending a parliamentary investigation. Which, as I understand, was on hold while the police investigated these matters. So I think let's deal with first things first and see what the Liberal Party does with Mr. Duluk and then you can we can you can talk to me about what the Labor Party's response might be to what Mr. Marshall does.
David Bevan: Well, what I'm saying to you is that his chances of getting back into the Liberal Party have been reduced. So if he stands as an independent, could Labor back an independent Sam Duluk rather than an liberal endorsed candidate, because it'll get down to preferences.
Penny Wong: Hang on. David, really? I mean, look, you're asking me to deal with an issue which may or may not happen. And, you know, I have a very clear view about preferences. For example, unlike the coalition, we have consistently put One Nation last.
David Bevan: Yeah, well should you put Duluk last?
Penny Wong: Those are, you know, who you're preferences does matter. And people wouldn't-
David Bevan: Well, that's why I'm asking you.
Penny Wong: Just let me finish. My view about and Labor's view about Sam Duluk's behaviour. But I think the bigger public issue right now is to be very clear for Steven Marshall to be very clear about what Mr Duluk's status is, because as I read the public comments from the premier is he wanted the parliamentary investigation finalised. Is that- does that mean he is leaving open Mr Duluk returning? And I think that is the more pressing question.
David Bevan: And then it'll be a pressing question whether you give him your preferences.
Penny Wong: If he runs. If he runs as an independent, obviously will have to deal with that. And you know, my view is someone like Mr. Duluk doesn't belong in our parliament, that is my view.
David Bevan: Penny Wong, thanks for your time.
Penny Wong: Good to speak with you.
David Bevan: Senator Simon Birmingham, thank you for your time as well. The minister for finance and leader of the government in the Senate, and Penny Wong as the shadow minister for foreign affairs and the leader of the Labour Party in the Senate.