SUBJECTS: Labour force figures; Labor at the next election; Vaccine rollout.
RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: We welcome today’s labour force figures which have seen a reduction in both the unemployment and the underemployment rate. There’s still a long way to go. 1.8 million Australians remain looking for work in one form or another. So, there’s still a way to go before this job is done. What is of critical importance as well is how we’re building back and what we’re building back. We need an economy which is generating secure, well paid jobs. And yesterday’s wages number confirms the story which has been in place for most of the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government that in this country we are seeing record wage stagnation. The Morrison Government has now made clear that it’s urging a wage freeze on our lowest paid workers. Last week, the budget baked in real wage decline over the next four years. So it’s difficult to feel positive about an economic recovery, when people actually end up being worse off. What the country is crying out for is a plan to build an economy coming out of COVID, which generates secure, well-paid jobs. Australia needs a plan to climb the technological ladder. Australia needs a plan to properly turn science into jobs. Australia needs a plan to have the most modern economy that it can have, because that’s where secure well-paid prosperous jobs lie. And that is a plan which this government has patently failed to deliver to the Australian people. And the entry ticket to all of that is to get to the other side of COVID. And to do that we need a swift vaccination rollout across this country.
The vaccination rollout has been botched by this government from day one. This time last year, the government was complacent in its failure to properly place Australia in the various queues of the various vaccines around the world. And since then, we’ve seen a whole lot of mixed messages from this government, which have undermined public confidence in the vaccine rollout. And that needs to change because we’re watching North America and Western Europe vaccinate at a much faster rate than us. We’re watching them open up and we’re real risk of North America and Western Europe moving on, and Australia being left behind. This government has one job this year and that’s to vaccinate the country and right now that’s not happening.
We also need to see fit for purpose quarantine facilities in this country, the situation that has played out in India has made that clear. And we’ve seen thousands of Australians placed in appalling circumstances because this government has failed to properly develop and construct, fit for purpose quarantine facilities in this country. So what we need from this government is a plan to build the economy of the future. What we need is a plan to get this country to the other side of COVID. And right now, this government is failing on both counts.
JOURNALIST: Mr Marles, thank you very much for your time. First of all, in a sentence, can you say what the Labor Party’s selling to the Australian public at the next election, as its view of being the alternative government?
MARLES: We’re about building the economy of the future and an economy which generates well paid, secure jobs. It’s all about jobs and jobs that pay well. The real question is; whether or not- as people consider their vote at the next election- whether they’re in a better position now than they were eight years ago. We’ve had record low wage growth. And that speaks to an economy which is not delivering for the Australian people. And what Labor stands for is to have a plan to actually build that economy so that people see their circumstances getting better.
JOURNALIST: Can I ask you; it seemed as though the Health Minister, on the vaccine issue, the Health Minister seemed to suggest in a roundabout way yesterday that people, if they wanted to wait for AstraZeneca should consider Pfizer and Moderna later in the year, what sort of message and comments like that, are saying to the Australian people?
MARLES: I think the Health Minister has got this profoundly wrong. I mean, I thought the message was that people over the age of 50 should get the AstraZeneca vaccination now. I went and got my first jab a couple of days ago. Not wait until the end of the year. Not wait for another vaccine. What we need to see is the country get vaccinated and we actually need to see that happen swiftly. Instead, we’ve got the Health Minister appealing and seeming to dog whistle to the Australian public, that you can wait until the end of the year. That seems to me to send exactly the wrong message. But we’re not going to get to the other side of COVID until the country is vaccinated. And we are literally going to sit by and watch North American and Western Europe get on with life and start the business of the global economy again, while we’re being left behind. We need to get vaccinated. If that means we get AstraZeneca now than that’s what should happen. That’s where the government placed its bets this time last year. And it’s really important that people over the age of 50 get vaccinated with AstraZeneca right now and I would have thought that that’s an unequivocal message. No ifs, no buts, that the Health Minister should be giving to the Australian public.
JOURNALIST: Can I ask you Mr. Marles, do you think that state leaders who are eligible to be vaccinated should be getting vaccinated to show confidence to the Australian public and the system?
MARLES: I think, that people who are over 50 should be getting vaccinated with AstraZeneca as soon as they can. That has to be the message to the Australian public. Now, you know, you’ve got a time that with your flu vaccine, and you know, I’ve had to make sure that there’s a 14 day gap, but basically, if you’re over 50, you should be getting the AstraZeneca vaccine right now. That’s what should be happening, not waiting until the end of the year because we need to get the population vaccinated.
JOURNALIST: Thanks very much for your time Mr Marles.