TUESDAY 5 OCTOBER 2021
Subjects: Melbourne lockdown; mandatory vaccination; Ashes
PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Joining us live now is Victorian Labor MP Peter Khalil. Peter, good to see you. Thanks for your time as always. So the world’s longest lockdown. That’s now the unenviable title. Yeah, that’s the facial expression that’s pretty common coming from Victorians at the moment. So was it all worth it in the end, when at the moment Peter cases are almost as high as they’ve ever been.
PETER KHALIL, MEMBER FOR WILLS: Look, good morning Pete. It’s been obviously incredibly difficult, draining, distressing for Victorians. It’s been a really difficult 18 months with the way that we’ve had, as you just mentioned, the longest number of days in lockdown. I mean, it has prevented obviously more serious illness and more deaths. The numbers are still climbing and I think that’s partly because the fatigue that you’re seeing amongst Victorians, there’s a fair bit of non-compliance, and the Delta variant is much more infectious. Once it got out, it was very difficult to keep it suppressed, but I’m really looking forward to the opening up. And as you have pointed out and people have pointed out, vaccination or high vaccination rates are clearly the way out of these lockdowns in New South Wales, in Victoria and elsewhere. It’s absolutely everyone’s choice to get vaccinated, but I encourage everyone to get vaccinated because that is how we get out of these restrictions and these lockdowns. And we start to go to that new normal in this country.
STEFANOVIC: I mean worksites will be busy this morning is the item we just spoke about. You’ve got tens of thousands of tradies who who’ve gone out and received that first jab. Does it make you wonder what the point of those protests were in the first place?
KHALIL: Yeah, it’s a welcome announcement to have workers back on site. And I want to see other sectors opening up over the next month and a couple of months as well, obviously. We want opening up as we get those high vaccination rates. Look, it’s important that the workers on the site are safe, and you slow down the spread of the virus. You know, it was disappointing obviously for all of those workers who did the right thing and the vast majority did you know, they were sitting at home doing the right thing and they were punished from the actions of a few. So it’s good to see that the industry is opening up again and I want to see other industries as well.
STEFANOVIC: Now, conversely, I mean, just earlier, we were speaking to our reporter Melissa Christidis in Melbourne and she’s reporting that teachers are now taking legal action against the Victorian government over the COVID vaccine mandate. So it seems as though when you have one step forward, it’s another step or even two steps back.
KHALIL: Well, it’s interesting Pete. This is going to be obviously tested in the courts. I think my first principle, starting principle on this and I’ve been very consistent on it, is that vaccination should be voluntary. People should have the choice to get vaccinated, but of course I encourage everyone to get vaccinated because as we’ve said, high vaccination rates is our way out of lockdowns. And of course there are some people that would have reasonable exemptions, medical exemptions for vaccination and so on. Then we got into the next part of this, we’re looking at almost 90% of Australians getting vaccinated in another month and a half. It will be about 90% first dosage. So, those who are saying, with the exception of those with medical exemptions, who are testing this, this will get tested in the courts.
And it’s an interesting situation because there are industries where you would, it seems to be common sense. Most punters would say yeah, you know what, if you’re working at a hospital, if you’re working front line with the disabled or vulnerable people, if you’re working in aged care, if you’re working with children who are yet vaccinated, because we don’t have a vaccination approved for kids under 12, then it kind of makes sense that, to do those jobs you should have vaccination. That’s going to get tested in the courts. There are some state governments that will be probably enforcing those rules like we’re seeing happening in Victoria and other states. The Federal Government has been pretty silent on this. In fact, Scott Morrison hasn’t really wanted to weigh in at all, but again, an absence of national leadership on this, we need the Prime Minister to actually stake out exactly where he stands on these issues, because there are issues around indemnity, liability, insurance. If you’re a pub owner, we’ve mentioned this, you can stop someone coming in wearing thongs and a t-shirt or shorts. What’s the rights around a pub owner, you know, saying people have got to be vaccinated to come into their pub.
STEFANOVIC: Well, okay. Just on that point Pete, I mean, the Health Minister up here on the weekend mentioned that there’s $5,000 fines for businesses in New South Wales who flout those laws, who may inadvertently serve someone who hasn’t been vaccinated, is that fair?
KHALIL: Well, I’m a Victorian Pete. The last thing I want to do is comment about New South Wales, except I watched my one rugby league game of the year, which was the NRL Grand Final. But you know, that’s what I’m saying. It’s a matter for each state and territory, and they’re making decisions about these rules and the rights that business owners have, or don’t have, with respect to attendance of their patrons and their clients and so on. Where is the national standard on this, I guess is my question? We need to have some consistency. How people know, you know, if we do start travelling again, if I go up to Sydney, the rules are going to be different in Sydney as they are in Melbourne. I understand that, but where’s the national leadership on this? And I think we, I think Australians deserve better.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, just finally Peter. I know you’re a sporting fan. There’s some suggestions that England might pull the pin on the Ashes tour this year because of quarantine arrangements that they’re not happy that it’s too unclear. What’s your read on that?
KHALIL: Here’s a good chance for the Prime Minister of Australia to step in and clarify the quarantine arrangements for the cricketers. We did it for the Australian Open in Melbourne, as you remember earlier this year, it was a pretty strict regime. It was all worked out with Tennis Australia. Let’s get this happening, it’s not rocket science, let’s make it work. I would hate to see the Ashes cancelled, that would be tragic. Australians are deprived of these types of great sporting events. We saw the NRL Grand Final the other day, I’m not a league fan but I watched it and it was great to see the crowd there in Brisbane. I would hate to see the Ashes cancelled. I hope the Prime Minister gets his act together and sorts the quarantine out.
STEFANOVIC: It would have to be a state thing too.
KHALIL: Absolutely. Absolutely. They should all get together. Isn’t there something called a National Cabinet, Pete? They should talk about it there, it should be on the agenda.
STEFANOVIC: Peter Khalil, appreciate that. We’ll talk to you soon.