SUBJECTS: Jenkins report; Omicron; Booster Shots.
JOURNALIST: How would you describe the culture here at Parliament House?
RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, my reaction to the Jenkins report is one of disappointment and sadness. And clearly the culture in Parliament House is one which needs fixing. And what the Jenkins report asks of us is to take pause for thought and to make sure that this is a change moment where we all are responsible for changing the culture in this building forever. And that’s what we have to do.
JOURNALIST: What’s something that for example, offices right now could do to change the culture instead of waiting for recommendations that will take some time?
MARLES: Well, I think what’s really important is that respect is the- I think what’s really important is that we look to respect being our guiding light in terms of how we relate to each other in this building. And that’s everyone. But it’s particularly in terms of how we deal with and relate with staff and obviously, female staff. And it’s really important that everyone feels a sense of safety in working in Parliament, this needs to be a safe workplace. And that’s particularly the case for women. And, and really Parliament House – it’s a privilege to be working here, it’s not a leave pass for bad behaviour. In fact, it should be the opposite. Parliament House should be the exemplar workplace in the country. And we should be setting the example for the rest of Australia. Clearly, that’s not what’s happened. That’s what we need to be doing now, going forward.
JOURNALIST: There are a number of recommendations in this report. When are you hoping that they should be in place by? Like, should there be a timeline set out to ensure this isn’t just kicked down the road?
MARLES: Well, it’s important that we consider these recommendations thoroughly and properly. And from Labor’s point of view, we’re going to want to talk to our staff about that in terms of framing our response. But equally, it’s important that we respond to these promptly. This cannot be kicked down the road, this has to be a moment where we really do change the culture of this building forever. So that this is a place that people feel safe to work in, it’s a place where men and women want to come and work in. And it’s a place which sets the example for the rest of the country, which sadly, we’ve not been doing up until this point.
JOURNALIST: Just turning to the nation and Omicron re COVID. Are you hopeful that states will keep their borders open for Christmas?
MARLES: I’m hopeful. What matters here is that we’re taking the medical advice and that we’re acting properly, and that’s what’s occurred here. I think the decision of national cabinet will give a sense of comfort, particularly to those Australians who have spent a lot of the last two years in lockdown environments. It’s early days, and we need to be looking at this very cautiously and carefully, but it’s also really important that we are reacting appropriately. And I think the decision that was taken by national cabinet yesterday reflects that.
JOURNALIST: And just finally on booster shots; we’re all getting a letter to remind us to get them but obviously it depends on when you got your second shot when your third one comes. Do you think there should be some sort of national program where we actually get alerted once our time is good to go? Because people are busy, people forget, and we keep being told vaccines are really important.
MARLES: I mean, a large part of why so many Australians spent so much time in lockdown this year was because of Scott Morrison’s failure to roll the vaccine out on time. And we all lived that experience. What matters now is that with the booster, which is going to be really important in terms of protecting Australians from COVID-19 going forward, is that the government gets ahead of the curve here and actually make sure that Australians get their booster shots on time. Scott Morrison has to take responsibility for this. He’s not good at doing that. And this is a critical moment. We’re not through the pandemic yet. The booster is a critical part of it. And Scott Morrison needs to make sure that Australians get that booster in a timely manner.