E&OE TRANSCRIPT | SUBJECTS: Victoria’s snap lockdown; Hotel Quarantine; ending of Jobkeeper; rate of Jobseeker.

PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Richard Marles joining us this morning, Richard Marles good to see you. You heard from the Treasurer this morning saying New South Wales is the gold standard, David Littleproud has also been out saying that the Premier is panicking. What’s your view on how the Premier is doing at the moment?

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: I think the Premier is dealing with a difficult situation in a very good way and one thing about Daniel Andrews is that when the going gets tough, he is there and he stands up and he faces the music and he makes the decisions that are required for our State. His leadership, but also the efforts of every Victorian got us through the second wave, which was a remarkable achievement by global standards. It’s, you know, had a huge impact on the State, no doubt, but it was an incredible achievement. And I think, you know, I understand that the feelings that are being had around Victoria, today, I understand coming from regional Victoria myself the points that are being made, but I think we’ve got to remember, this is a very short lockdown. It’s in that sense, not dissimilar from what we’ve seen in Queensland, Western Australia in the last month. It is, of course, a bit different because of what happened last year, but it’s against that backdrop and so I think, yeah, all Victorians are feeling kind of triggered at this moment. But we’ve just got to take it a day at a time and I think there’s cause for hope. And you know, with any luck, this comes to an end on Wednesday.

STEFANOVIC: There has been another failure in hotel quarantine, do you believe contact tracing is up to scratch?

MARLES: I think there’s been huge improvements in contact tracing in Victoria since the middle of last year. So I do have a sense of confidence about this and I, you know, again, we’ve got to take this at a day at a time. But so far, you know that the cases that have come, three over the weekend came from those group of people that were being contact traced. So, you know, I think there have been improvements, I do have a sense of confidence in that and, you know –

STEFANOVIC: We’re still a long way short, there has been improvements, but still a long way short of where it needs to be.

MARLES: Well, I’m not sure about that. I mean, I think we’ve got to let this play out, I mean, the actions of the authorities in the last few days appear to be very thorough, and, you know, we’ve got cause for hope in terms of this not going for a prolonged period of time, we need to see whether that’s what transpires, but I think it’s too early to make a judgement that this isn’t, this isn’t working. You know, we’re right in the middle of it. I think the other point to make about quarantine is that there have been issues with hotel quarantine around the nation is the truth and we’ve got to remember, quarantining is a function of the Federal Government. I mean, the real thing here is the Federal Government have gone completely missing on the question of quarantine. It’s like it’s right there in the Constitution, it’s their job and they’re not out there doing it. And last year, the Halton review, said that the Federal Government needed to be more involved –  it needed to find facilities outside of our major population centres. And I’m still waiting to hear what the plan is from the Federal Government about that.

STEFANOVIC: Well, the Premier Daniel Andrews wants to have a conversation about the number of travellers now coming, returning home and going into hotel quarantine, that kind of clashes with your pitch to get more and more Australians home. Do you support his message, his point of view about this conversation that’s needed about a lesser number of people coming home?

MARLES: Well ultimately the Federal Government through the course of last year was effectively asking the States to do their job? Well, that’s what – that was what was going on. Quarantine belongs to the Federal Government. So it’s not surprising to me, you know, that States, where were the burden has been placed upon them, are making the points that they are. We do have a lot of stranded Australians overseas. It is the Federal Government’s job to get them back home. It is the Federal Government’s job to ensure that when they come home, there are appropriate quarantine facilities put in place and arrangements put in place. Ultimately, this is a question for the Federal Government. And when you hear, you know, government MPs just going out there saying well ultimately quarantines matter for the States – It absolutely is not. I mean, it’s there in black and white in the Constitution, this is a federal responsibility.

STEFANOVIC: What about this facility near Geelong? Do you – would you support that happening?

MARLES: Look, I think it’s a it’s a very good idea and one that should be worked through. I know Avalon well, and I know the management there well, and it’s something that they’ve been considering for some time, actually. I mean it isn’t in a major population centre, it’s isolated. They’ve got a lot of facilities there and they’ve got a lot of land. So I hope this is an idea which is being taken seriously. It says  – the Victorian Government is reported to be considering it. Again, you know, I want to know what the Federal Government’s plan is here. But it seems to me that that would be an option for them to consider as well.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, so new JobKeeper numbers have come out today showing the amount of people who have dropped off the programme. There’s only a 44 per cent drop in Victoria, though, do you believe that more financial help will be needed just for the State of Victoria alone post March?

MARLES: I think there are various parts of the economy and Victoria is an obvious one, given what’s played out over the last six months. But it’s not just Victoria –  it’s sectors like tourism, anything really to do with aviation, where business is not back to normal. When COVID-19 hit a line was drawn through the business models of a whole lot of businesses around this country and Jobkeeper is very important. Remember, the government were’nt going to do it to begin with, but having a wage subsidy in place was fundamentally critical to enabling those businesses to survive. Now, when we’re at the point of transitioning back to some sense of normality, there’s got to be a sense of realism from the government about whether or not life is back to some semblance of normality.  For large parts of Victoria, it isn’t. For large sectors across the country it isn’t and tourism is an obvious one and Jobkeeper is scheduled to come to an end in about six weeks. So we really need to be hearing from the government right now. What is, what is the plan for tourism or for aviation? Are they going to do anything? Or are they going to let those places like Cairns, like the Gold Coast, fall off a cliff?

STEFANOVIC: Okay and just finally, Richard, there is a report in the paper this morning, and the Treasurer wouldn’t confirm whether this is going to happen or not. But the suggestion is that there will be one payment when it comes to Jobseeker. It’ll be one payment, so all of the supplements, etc, will be rolled into one. What do you make of that?

MARLES: Well, I think we need to see the detail. We, for a long time, been saying that Jobseeker or Newstart before COVID started was not sufficient. That for people being expected to survive on $40 a day was simply completely unrealistic. You know, we were making that point well before COVID struck. As we come out of COVID-19 and then we go back to a new normal in relation to Newstart, it’s really important that there be an increase from that $40 a day. Now if what we’re hearing from the government is some consideration about how that might happen, that’s great. But ultimately, what we need to be hearing from the government, given that this is being planned in the next six weeks, is what is their plan? And are they really going to have Newstart in effect continue at $40 a day, because that is ridiculously low.

STEFANOVIC: Okay. Richard Marles, good to have you on as always, we’ll talk to you again soon.

MARLES: Thanks Pete.


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