SUBJECT: Scott Morrison bungling the vaccine rollout.
TONY JONES, HOST: All right, let’s straighten up for a moment though. And I think it is fair to say that the vaccine roll out here in Australia has become almost- I don’t know if it’s a laughing stock because it’s gone beyond that, but it is an embarrassment I think on the global stage. There’s a great chart in the Australian this morning. And it really does show just where we compare to some of the other countries around the world. The UK, for example, fully vaccinated 50% of its population, partially vaccinated 70%. The US close to 50%, fully vaccinated. Canada 25%, Australia 4.6%. I tell you who we’re ahead of Malaysia, Indonesia, India and Iran. Now, I guess the easiest thing to do is to lay the boots in and say; oh, it’s shocking the way it’s done. But what is the alternative? Well, to tell us we’re joined by the Deputy Leader of the Federal Labor Party, Richard Marles. Good morning.
RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning, Tony. How are you?
JONES: Yeah, I’m going well, thanks. Thanks for coming on. Look, it’s I mean, it’s not acceptable, is it? I mean, we know that.
MARLES: Oh well it’s definitely not acceptable. And the reason why we have less than 5% of our population vaccinated is very simple. It’s the Prime Minister going out there and saying, it’s not a race. And that was their attitude from the start that we had all the time in the world. And it turns out, we don’t. In fact, a race is precisely what it is. It’s a race against the virus. And I think everyone who’s in lockdown around the country today, and all of us, of course, in Victoria, who’ve experienced that in the last month, know that we’re in a race against the virus. And we don’t get to the other side of this until we have a proper rate of vaccination. I mean, that’s, that’s the way we get beyond the land of the lockdown. But until then, that’s where we’re going to be stuck.
JONES: Alright, so what’s the alternative?
MARLES: Well, I think we – there are a few things. Firstly, we’ve got to get the advice straight on AstraZeneca. That, that is – the government bet the house on AstraZeneca last year that rather than putting us in all the queues of the various vaccine projects around the world by bet the house on AstraZeneca. And it’s really the only vaccine that we have in quantity right now.
JONES: But wasn’t the government acting on advice?
MARLES: Well, we’ve got to get the advice straight. I mean, the advice has been – well, the government has been all over the place, with its advice. I mean, we’re all going to get it, then it was only if you’re over 50, now it’s over 60. Now the Prime Minister seems to be doubling back on that in the last 24 hours. So there’s just a whole lot of confusion about AstraZeneca. We need to get proper supplies of Pfizer and Moderna. We need to actually embrace mass vaccination centers. There’s been a whole lot of confusion, or dithering really about that, like, you know, pharmacists should be doing it.
JONES: Well, that is happening now, isn’t it?
MARLES: It’s going to happen now, it should have happened a while back. I mean, the idea at the start, that this was all going to be done by GPs, that was laughable. But we need to embrace mass vaccination. And I think the other thing is, we’ve got to have a public awareness campaign. I mean, in, in the UK, and in the US, you’ve got, you know, celebrities out there on – in paid campaigns, explaining that they’re getting it, building confidence in the process.
JONES: Does that work though Richard? Does it work? Because I see these – I mean, seriously, if I see one more person on social media, showing that they’ve had a jab, you know, I’ll sort of get off it entirely. But what what I mean, is it really going to make a difference if you see a pop singer or a TV celebrity sort of getting the jab?
MARLES: Well, the, the advice is that when you see people who are leaders in the community, I don’t mean political leaders, I mean, you know, sort of popular leaders in that sense.
JONES: Like who?
MARLES: Oh well, I think in – I think, in the US, Dolly Parton has has done it. Don’t quote me on this, but I think in the – in the UK, Michael Caine has been doing it. So you know, there’s been a range of figures who there is confidence in, but the the public health advice from those who are specialists in that say that when those people demonstrate that they’re willing to have the vaccine, it builds confidence. But right now, we don’t have any real significant campaign going on at all.
JONES: But we did have, we did have.
MARLES: Not, not a significant campaign like that. And all the countries in the world which are leading the vaccine race, the ones that you just mentioned earlier, have embraced the public awareness campaign. I’m not saying it’s the whole story here, but it is a part of the story. And then the part that’s missing here. In a more – in a longer term sense we’ve got to be manufacturing mRNA vaccines here as well. But but in the – in the sort of short to medium term, which is what we need to be focusing on so that we actually do get vaccinated, they’re the measures that need to be embraced. But I think there is one other thing. We’ve got to have the right posture here, like it is a race. It’s a race. It’s a race against the virus. And we’ve got to apply ourselves with a sense of urgency. And complacency and self-congratulation, which we’ve seen a lot of from this government, is not going to get us vaccinated and people have got to understand that if you don’t want to live in the land of the lockdown, if you want to get to the other side of this, then the only way of doing it is if we get vaccinated.
JONES: Well, Daniel Andrews, who as you know is back on deck now – he was talking not 70-80% of a vaccination rate before we can start talking about no lockdowns? Well, I’ll tell you what, we’re a long way from that.
MARLES: We are a long way from that. And you know that that number is obviously being debated around the world as to exactly what it is, but it’s something like that. And Gladys Berejiklian was talking about 80%. We are a long way from that. And the thing I think about Tony is we’ve now got Wimbledon on the TV. You look there and there are crowds there. People get to go to Wimbledon if they’ve tested negative and if they’ve been vaccinated. Are we going to be doing the Australian Open in January? Are we gonna have the Grand Prix in November, when the rest of the world is opening up? I think there are real questions about, you know, whether we’re going to be able to take our place in the world in the way that we’re used to, in the way that we have. And until we get vaccinated like, can we – can we really imagine the Australian Open happening here in the situation that we’re in right now?
JONES: Well it did happen. Last January.
MARLES: It happened last January. But but that’s, that’s – I think that’s going to be the thing that amazes people – it happened last January, but will we be able to do it next January? And it says everything about the fact that we did well in stopping the spread of Coronavirus over the last 12 months, but it’s how we get out of this which is actually going to tell the story really about our – of how we’ve dealt with COVID. And -and the Australian Open happened last year in circumstances where I think there was one major – I think the US – the US Open happened last year, but players were desperate to play in it. They will have played all four majors this year. I don’t think you’re going to see all those superstars come down here if the requirement is to quarantine for 14 days.
JONES: Yeah but by the same token, we’re not going to take shortcuts just to line their pockets.
MARLES: We should not. No, no, we should not take shortcuts to line their pockets. But my point is this, the rest of the world is moving on. And that’s because they’ve got vaccinated and we haven’t. And it goes back to your – your point before, 70/80%, whatever the number is, we are a long way off that. And until we get somewhere near it, we are not going to get on the other side of COVID-19. And we are watching other parts of the world do just that.
JONES: Just – just before we let you go, I just worry about the argument about you know, the, the, the government chopping and changing its narrative. But if you – if you are following advice, if you guys were in power, would you not follow that advice?
MARLES: No, of course you follow the advice, I think you’ve got to have the ability to interrogate the advice and make sure that you have consistent advice. But at the end of the day, the government is responsible for the decisions that it makes. And they have been all over the place.
JONES: Yeah but no government, no government, no government, no government, Richard would actually go against the advice of health authorities, the actual experts in that field.
MARLES: There is a process where you interrogate the advice, and you make sure that you – that you can rely on it, and that you are confident in it and that it’s consistent. And you have to, you know, for governments to say that, okay, we just follow the advice is, I mean, of course, they need to follow the advice, but there is a process of engaging in the advice. What we’ve seen here is a government that has been all over the place when it comes to AstraZeneca. And the issue there is that AstraZeneca is exactly what they bet the house on last year. That’s what they thought was going to get the job done. And they are all over the shop with it now, and they do take – they must take responsibility for it. And this is a prime minister who struggles to take responsibility for anything. I mean right now, you know, we see reports last night where they’re busily throwing advisors under the bus. You know, so in terms of, you know, taking that advice, they need to take responsibility.
JONES: Absolutely, just as any – anyone that walks into that House needs to take responsibility. So anyway, we’ll leave it there, Richard. It’s a – it’s a debate worth having. But unfortunately, at the end of the day, we’re still in a real jam when it comes to rolling out these vaccines. And I’ll tell you what I’ve left, I’ve left, I’ve let you off the hook here too Richard. So I hope you appreciate this because, you know when you start talking about rolling out Dolly Parton and the like in America, I was gonna ask you, who’s our equivalent of Dolly Parton here? But I haven’t asked you that. So I’ve let you off the hook.
MARLES: Well I’ll take that on notice.
JONES: Could’ve got yourself in all sorts of strife. Nice to talk to you Richard.
MARLES: Good to talk to you, Tony.
JONES: Thank you. The Deputy Leader of the Federal Labor Party there – the member for Corio in Richard Marles.