E&OE TRANSCRIPT | SUBJECTS: Regional quarantine facilities; the right to feel safe working at Parliament House; Vaccine rollout.
JOURNALIST: Richard, just with regional- well hotel quarantine, there is a suggestion today that people like Lindsay Fox and John Wagner are proposing to the federal government to set up quarantine facilities around regional airports that they own. What would happen with the Fox situation is that people would be quarantined around your electorate in Geelong. How do you feel about that?
RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, I actually think it’s an idea that is worthy of consideration. I know Avalon particularly well, and there’s a lot of land there, it is isolated, there would be the ability for people to come directly off a plane and go into a facility. But ultimately, you know, what this highlights is the need for the federal government to grab hold of this situation, quarantine is their responsibility. And we do need to have a situation where the federal government acts on the recommendations of the Halton Review last year, which said that more resources needed to be brought on board, that we do need to look at ways of getting quarantining out of our major population centres. But most importantly, the federal government needs to play the role that it’s constitutionally asked to do.
JOURNALIST: But it is a bit of a difficult one for the federal government in the sense that it does need to work in conjunction with the states because they control health facilities and it was the states at National Cabinet that did seem to want to – want to control the quarantine situation in the first place.
MARLES: We live in a federation, and a federation which shares powers between the state and the federal government. Quarantine and quarantining belongs to the federal government, as does issues around the national border. And the extent to which the federal government has sought to duck-shove this and put it in the purview of the states beggars belief. I mean, the federal government needs to grab hold of this issue. We do need to be looking at ways of extending the capacity of our quarantine facilities, particularly when there are tens of thousands of Australians abroad who are seeking to come back to this country. And we do need to be looking at ways in which those quarantine facilities can be in centres other than our major population centres.
JOURNALIST: Does Daniel Andrews need to take some responsibility in the way the Victorian Government has run hotel quarantine, given that the other states do not seem to have the same problems that Victoria has had?
MARLES: Well, I think the one thing Daniel Andrews has done over the course of COVID-19 is take responsibility. No one could criticise Daniel Andrews for not standing up. I’m not about to criticise Daniel Andrews or the Victorian Government in their handling of quarantining in the most recent case. What we’ve seen over the last few days is really not dissimilar to what we’ve seen happen in respect of all the mainland states at one point or another since about last November. Now, obviously, it happens against a different backdrop. You know, Victoria did have a very severe lockdown last year, and that changes the way people are feeling about this in Victoria right now, I think. But we’ve got to take this at a day at a time and so far the news is good and I think this government is managing- the Victorian Government is managing the situation well, with a view to keeping Victorians safe.
JOURNALIST: The interview with Brittany Higgins last night, she noted that when she reported her case, it became less of a human case or a HR case and became more of a political case. In terms of changing things around Parliament House and its culture, what would you think needs to happen?
MARLES: That’s a good question. Look, Brittany Higgins’ interview last night, the reporting around this issue has been difficult reading and difficult watching. All of us are thinking about her today. I mean, the first point is that she deserved all the support that could be provided for her, given the appalling allegations she makes. And it’s really important that support is provided to her going forward. This isn’t a partisan issue. This is I think about, the workplace around the political environment, and particularly here, in this building. It’s really important, as fantastic as this building is, as exciting as it is to work here, that this place is safe. And as long as there are people and as long as there are women who feel unsafe to work in Parliament House, well, then that is a terrible indictment upon all of us, and all of us need to do better. And on this day, on this day, I think it’s really important that the leaders of all political parties are standing up and fulsomely answering questions and making their statements about the importance of fixing this because there is a problem.
JOURNALIST: So, so what does need to happen because there was another lady that came on the ABC this morning, that also said that she wasn’t treated well when she was here in Parliament. So what does need to change here in the in the general parliamentary workplace compared to corporate Australia, which seems to be dealing with these issues?
MARLES: Well, firstly, this building and politics and the political environment does not have a leave pass on this, obviously. In fact, it ought to be quite the opposite. This is a very privileged place to work and what ought to come with that is the various highest standards of workplace behaviour that there is in the country. This is the building and this is the workplace, which should be setting the example. I think we need to be calling it out. I think we need to make sure the appropriate policies and codes of conduct are in place. But beyond that, it’s really important that this is a conversation that’s had so that the culture within this building and within politics changes. There are many women who obviously make a huge contribution to politics, there need to be more. But so long as there are women who feel unsafe coming to work here, not only is that an indictment of this building, but it’s an enormous disincentive for other women to be involved in politics, and that is appalling.
JOURNALIST: Just on just on the vaccine, we’re standing by for the rollout of that commencing next Monday. Gladys Berejiklian, is still pushing for her state to receive the bulk of vaccines, or at least an extra supply compared to other states because they’re taking almost weekly arrivals internationally. Do you think there’s a place for that? And would, you know, is that appropriate for NSW to take the bulk?
MARLES: Well, firstly, it’s obviously good news that we are seeing vaccines come to the country. That the government has said that they will have four million Australians vaccinated in March. We want the government to succeed in that, we certainly hope that that’s what occurs because we are around the world seeing vaccines being rolled out. More than 100 million people in the world right now have been vaccinated and the process hasn’t yet started in Australia. And in a place like Israel, we’re actually seeing the disease start to retreat on the basis of the vaccine being rolled out in that country. So we need to see it happen here. In terms of the priority as to who is vaccinated first, that ultimately needs to be a call that’s made by the medical authorities based on, you know, those that need it most and those who are most exposed and most vulnerable to the disease.