ABC NEWS BREAKFAST WITH MICHAEL ROWLAND

E&OE TRANSCRIPT | SUBJECTS: Victoria’s snap lockdown; Hotel Quarantine; Housing Affordability; Federal Election.

MICHAEL ROWLAND, HOST: Let’s get more on Victoria’s snap lockdown and bring in Victorian Federal MP and the Deputy Labor leader, Richard Marles, he’s in Canberra. Richard Marles, good morning.

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning Michael, how are you?

ROWLAND: Here we are again, the third lockdown for Victorians. Was it foolish of Daniel Andrews, the Premier, to boast, as he did, about a week ago, of Victoria having gold standard hotel quarantine programs?

MARLES: Look, I think the work that’s been done by the State Government has been very good and we do have great agencies that are looking after us.

ROWLAND: It’s not great, if I can just butt in, here we are, a third lockdown, compared to other States, other Territories, we’re not doing great.

MARLES: Well, we have seen this sort of thing play out in other States over the last month. I mean, really what we’re going through now, at one level is the same as what we have seen in Brisbane and in Perth. It’s obviously different though in another sense, which is that it’s happening against the backdrop of what occurred last year. I think a lot of lessons were learned last year and Victorians obviously did a magnificent job in getting over that second wave and bringing into check something which was really unprecedented anywhere in the world in terms of an ability to get on top of that and I think  where we’re at now, is that we do have, you know, practices in place which are top notch. What we’ve seen in terms of hotel quarantine, we’ve seen around the country, and we’ve seen this kind of reaction. There’s cause for hope that this is only a few days.

ROWLAND: But it’s not top notch, clearly, is it? If we’re back in lockdown again.

MARLES: Well, I think what we’re going to see around the country is versions of this. We’ve seen it happen in Brisbane, we’ve seen it happen in Perth, in the last month, you know, since November we have basically seen it in every State around the country other than Tasmania and the Territories. So, this – I suspect, is the sort of normal that we are going to be living with around Australia. What matters is that we’re able to deal with it efficiently and quickly and at this point in time there’s hope that that is what we have in store for us.

ROWLAND: OK, the big threat, as everyone agrees, is hotel quarantine, otherwise Australia would be pretty much virus free. To help tackle that threat, Daniel Andrews has raised a matter for serious conversation, he wants a drastic cut in the number of Australians allowed back in the country and only allowed back in for compassionate reasons. Do you support him on that?

MARLES: Well, there are a large number of stranded Australians who need to come home if they’re seeking to come home and that’s ultimately an obligation of the Federal Government here. I can understand where Daniel Andrews is coming from, as I can understand the position of all States because actually, they have been asked to look after the whole issue of quarantine when actually it is a Federal responsibility. But, ultimately, the Federal Government needs to explain what its plan is to bring stranded Australians home and what its plan is to deal with the quarantine aspects of that. Last August, Jane Halton, in her review, recommended the Federal Government be more involved, that it put online more resources, that they be away from the major population centres in Australia – that’s last August. We haven’t seen any of that play out. So, there is criticism that, you know, that people are making of various States, Daniel Andrews is the one who is facing the music right now. The States have been put on the front-line here, but it’s actually the Federal Government’s responsibility and they’re the ones who have gone completely missing.

ROWLAND: Are you happy we’re about to get the first batch of that Pfizer vaccine.

MARLES: That’s good, but you know, it’s 80,000 in this batch. We need to again get a sense from the Federal Government about what its plan is to actually see this rolled out. The Prime Minister said four million of us would be vaccinated in March. We very much hope that that is what occurs, and we wait to see from the Prime Minister how that is going to occur. We have questions of the Federal Government about the pace with which it has put Australia in the queue in respect of these various vaccines and whether they’re coming online in a way which will enable a rapid rollout. I mean, this obviously needs to be done safely and that’s what has got to happen first. But we should also bear in mind 100 million people around the world have been vaccinated. Thirty million people in the United States and we haven’t started here yet. So, we are really hoping the government is able to fulfil its commitment of four million by March. And we want to hear what the government’s plan is for that.

ROWLAND: Ok, we’re heading to an election possibly this year, or possibly next. Reports over the weekend that the Labor Party is going to drop its negative gearing and capital gains tax policies it took to the last election. Is that the case?

MARLES: Well, we will take our time in announcing that. What Anthony Albanese said at the end of the – after the last election was that all our policies are under review. We’ve made it very clear we are not going to go to this next election with the same extent of policies as we did at the last. It will be a much more narrow proposition, but exactly what that will be is a matter that we are going to  work through and we are going to take our time to make sure we get that right. But Australians will be under no illusions as to what we’ll be putting forward come the next election. We are going to make sure that we are giving Australians the alternative which they are crying out for at the next election.

ROWLAND: Ok, housing affordability though continues to be a massive problem for so many Australians, particularly young Australians wanting to get into the market. Given you supported it last time around, do you still support in principle the concept of winding back negative gearing concessions?

MARLES: Well again, I’m not going to get into that, we’ve said all of those policies are under review. Housing affordability is obviously a very important question which needs to be dealt with and we’ll be having a good look at that. But all our policies are under review and we’ll be making sure that they’re released in good time before the next election.

ROWLAND: And speaking of the next election, the Prime Minister has told the Herald Sun this morning that he intends to serve his full term. He says the people elected him to serve a full term. He’s got a full plate this year so he intends to go next year. Do you believe him?

MARLES: Well, we will see. I actually think that Australians do elect their governments for three years, they expect them to serve those three years. I think if there’s an early election that that would be something that would be a surprise to most Australians. They wouldn’t be expecting it. So, I think the starting point here is, actually as the Prime Minister said, that governments are elected for three years and they should serve that term.

ROWLAND: Richard Marles in Canberra, thanks for joining us this morning.

MARLES: Thanks Michael.

ENDS

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