SUBJECT: Melbourne Protests. 

LAURA JAYES, HOST: I want to bring in Deputy Labor Leader Richard Marles, who’s not in Melbourne, he is some way away in Geelong. Thanks so much for your time, Richard, you would have heard Michael Sukkar there yesterday. I think anyone from Victoria who’s lived through more than 200 days of lockdown is not sympathetic to this protest. But on a more broader scale, do you – can you explain the environment in which these protests are happening? Is there now, you know, a boiling over of frustration about leadership and the decisions being made?

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, I don’t think you can excuse violence in any form at all. And I don’t think these protests help. I mean, at the end of the day, governments need to be able to make health orders in the interests of the community to keep us safe. And that’s what the Victorian Government has done. I mean, this is a really difficult situation that the whole state, indeed, you know, large parts of the country are facing with trying to get through the pandemic. You know, I listen to what Michael Sukkar has to say, and to be honest it feels a bit rich, coming from a Minister of the Morrison government where the fundamental condition which has meant that we’re in lockdowns now, was the failure to have a timely vaccine rollout in this nation such that, you know, we hopefully would have been in a position where we were opening up months ago. But we’re in the position we’re in now, because we’re languishing at the bottom of the OECD table in terms of vaccination rollouts. And we’re, you know, we’re chasing the 70, the 80 per cent targets. They should have been met a long time ago. They haven’t been because of the failure to place Australia in the various vaccine queues of the various vaccine projects around the world this time last year. The complacency of the Morrison government is fundamentally why we’re here right now. That means that the state governments, they’re having to navigate a very difficult path. They need to do that on the basis of the best medical advice. It’s frustrating, obviously, for everyone. But I trust that advice. And we’ve just got to make sure that we’re following that. And governments need to have an ability to make public health orders in the interests of our community.

JAYES: Well, I’ll ask that-  ask you about that health advice in just a moment. But this morning, we heard from John Setka, Sally McManus who essentially said, you know, some of these people that we saw yesterday that saw these protests turn violent were quote, ‘morons’. Sally McManus said they’re ‘overwhelmingly bad actors’. How do we know that? I mean, are these really, you know, anti-vaxxers, or are these members of the union that are just fed up?

MARLES: Well, ultimately, you know, I suppose that’s a question that needs to be asked of the protesters. But I think there are a few things we can say; there is no excuse for violence. I mean, in any circumstance, there is no excuse for violence. We need to be getting vaccinated as a society. That’s how we get to the other side. And so, if their message is around vaccine hesitancy, I completely reject that message, we need to be getting vaccinated. We need to be getting shots into people’s arms so that we can get to the other side of this. And in terms of the various protests around opening up, I mean, sure, we all want to open up, but you know, this is a really difficult road that the state government, and indeed governments around the country are having to walk, to balance public safety with the question of opening up, and these aren’t easy decisions. But they need to be acting on the best medical advice. I think they’re doing that. And we need to have faith in that. I mean, if we want to look at why we’re not open up now though, the answer is because of the complacency of Scott Morrison and his government in failing to get us the vaccine required to have done this a lot earlier.

JAYES: How do you feel seeing these scenes, not just yesterday, but today? I mean, we’re looking at thousands of protesters stopping the streets of Melbourne, you know, there wasn’t a lot of traffic anyway, because you’re in lockdown. But I’m looking now, we’re all looking at hundreds of police in riot gear, with shields, Mounted Police. I mean, this is Australia 2021.

MARLES: Yes. I completely agree with that sentiment, Laura. I mean, these are difficult images to look at. And you know, this is a very difficult moment that we are living through. But I don’t think that the messages that are coming forth in these protests, really are the answer in terms of getting us to the other side. There’s one thing we need to be doing and that’s getting vaccinated. And I think it is important to acknowledge, that in this case, the Victorian Government needs to be able to make public order decisions – public health decisions – in the interests of our community.

JAYES: Just on that, I mean, can you give us an idea- I’m in New South Wales, you’re in Victoria- about just the fatigue in Melbourne? Is there something that’s happened with that social contract between leaders and society more broadly and the community, where they’re just – they just think that leaders have got the risk appetite wrong or something? Is there something that we’re missing?

MARLES: We’re living through one of the most trying phenomena in decades, that’s what’s happening. None of this was created by Daniel Andrews, there’s a global pandemic, and we’re having to deal with it. I mean, in answer your question, it’s obviously been very trying to-

JAYES: I mean, why do you still have a curfew, for example, is there a health benefit to that now?

MARLES: Well, I think that we have to trust the health advice, and that is what the health advice is suggesting. And I think it is, you know, we’ve got to have faith in the decisions that the Victorian Government are making, and I do. And they guided us this time last year through to a place of completely suppressing the disease. The challenge ahead of us is slightly different now. But we need to be managing this in a way where the health cost associated with opening up is minimised. I mean, essentially what the challenge that is facing the country actually, but Victoria, in this instance, is how we shape the way in which we –  the terms on which we meet COVID, and how we shape those in a way, which means that we’re paying the least health price, with a view, as a consequence the least economic impact. And I think that’s what’s happening here. And Victorians by and large, have been magnificent in the way in which they have abided by the decisions that have been made by the state government. And really, all that we’ve done in curbing the spread of this disease is first and foremost an achievement of the Victorian people. But I would be the first to acknowledge there is fatigue, of course there is fatigue, after all that has happened. I don’t think any of us want to see an extra day of lockdown than we have to. I absolutely think that we are looking forward to an opening up, as gradual as that may be, but to a road where we get back to some normality. And that’s what we need to try and pursue, but the way we get there is by getting vaccinated, and that’s the ultimate point here.

JAYES: Yes, it is. Richard Marles, thanks so much for your time, I really appreciate it this morning.


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