Opinion pieces, speeches & transcripts

Afternoon Briefing 25 June 2020

June 25, 2020


SUBJECTS: Victorian COVID-19 case spike; COVID-19 CaLD Communication; Qantas job losses.

PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: Which brings me to my political panel, Andrew Giles joins me and Trent Zimmerman. Welcome to both of you. Andrew, I have to start with you, it is breaking news but it's a rescinded request from the Andrews Government. You're a Federal Labor politician but the Andrews Government are on your side of the team if you like. What's going on in Victoria?

ANDREW GILES, MEMBER FOR SCULLIN: Look I think what we're seeing is a very dynamic situation. And a dynamic and adaptive response from the Andrews Government. I think the focus on mass testing in areas where there does appear to have been clusters of outbreak has been a very decisive response to the issue. In terms of the details of the engagement with the ADF, as you said, it's breaking news and what appears to be the case, though, are the formalities of the engagement between the two levels of government, being made appropriate to the evolving circumstances. As I understood it initially, what we were thinking about was some form of engagement that was more directly connected to hotel quarantine. That doesn't appear to be what's

So that's what I think we are seeing today.

KARVELAS: And Andrew Giles still staying with you on this, should Victoria consider rolling back to stage 3 restrictions?

GILES: Well, look, as with all of these things, we should be looking at the evidence as it develops. As I said this is a very dynamic environment we're in at the moment and then rely on the best public health advice that's available. I don't have that before me now. But what we are seeing from the Victorian Government, I think, is a very, very significant response to challenging circumstances, and that appears to be early days of course, but bearing fruit in terms of engagement.

KARVELAS: Trent Zimmerman, has the Victorian Government moved too slow on this? Are you concerned about the response or the potential for it to spread across the country?

ZIMMERMAN: Well, I think there's always been concern about there being a resurgence and potentially a second wave. But I think what this is, is a salutary lesson for everybody that we can't let our guard down. In my own electorate today, I've seen a school close because of a young child that's been diagnosed. And what concerns me is that I think many of us have got a little bit confident over the last two weeks because we've done so well. And I suppose my strong message to the community is that we just need to keep following that advice about what we can do ourselves, be it downloading the COVIDSafe app, the social distancing, getting tested, making sure we're not going to work if we're feeling ill. All those things that will give us victory in this battle.

KARVELAS: Staying with you again, Trent Zimmerman, there was a message from the New South Wales Premier, there is no hard border closure at this stage, but Victorians are not welcome. Are we not welcome to New South Wales, do you think that should be the policy?

ZIMMERMAN: It's probably been the policy for the last 120 years! KARVELAS: Well, let's not go there! ZIMMERMAN: Look, I think at the moment when we do have an outbreak in

Victoria; it's obviously sensible for people to reconsider their travel, particularly if they're coming from one of those hotspot municipalities that have been identified. What we don't want to see is something that is relatively contained in Melbourne at the moment spread throughout the rest of the country.

KARVELAS: Andrew, I want to return to you and talk about some of the messaging around this. You're also the Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs. What are your thoughts on the health messaging to new migrant groups during the pandemic? I know there are people saying today that Islamic groups are worried about a rise in Islamophobia perhaps, in relation to some of this. Do you share those concerns?

GILES: Look, I am concerned about this. I am concerned that some of the reporting we've seen has focused on issues of race or religious identity and I don't think that's helpful. I think what every political leader and every significant public figure has got to try and do, is to try and build this message: that we are all in this together. I think one of the challenges which have been emerging through this and I've seen this as a local member too, is making sure that we're getting the right information, out in the right form, to the right people. Back in March, I wrote along with Chris Bowen to Minister Hunt and Minister Tudge, expressing our concern there weren't enough materials appropriately tailored, particularly to some emerging communities. And part of that's about translation of material, but part of it's also understanding that different community often absorb information differently. There are different networks that effectively convey information. And I just don't think in a modern multicultural nation we've done everything that we can to make sure that everyone who is here, has everything opportunity to do the rights thing by themselves, and the people around them.

KARVELAS: Trent Zimmerman, has that been a flaw in the strategy?

ZIMMERMAN: Look, I don't think it's been a flaw and I think there are firstly two elements to the question. One is about whether communities have been unfairly targeted. Obviously we have seen, particularly in my experience, some pretty awful attacks against members of the Asian Australian community. And that type of racial intolerance is never acceptable. Not ever, not now. I'm pleased everyone in the political system has been calling that out for the Prime Minister down. But in relation to communication with ethnic groups, there's

divided responsibilities between state health departments and the Federal Government. But what I have seen is material from the Federal Government being produced in a range of languages, delivered in a range of mechanisms, not to give an undue plug to one of your other broadcasting rivals, but SBS has obviously been doing a particularly outstanding job in communicating messages about coronavirus to our multicultural community.

KARVELAS: Yes. Rivals, it's not quite rivals. It's good to have a broad range of broadcasters..

ZIMMERMAN: Siblings.

KARVELAS: I'm pro journalism and broadcast, as you know. Let's move to the last big story of the day before we sign off. Qantas will shed 6,000 jobs and stand down 15,000 workers. I'll stay with you, Trent and come to you, Andrew Giles. Does this mean there should be an extension of JobKeeper?

Alan Joyce says there needs to be given what's happening with his workforce?

ZIMMERMAN: Well, I think the decision today reflects a longer-term assessment by Alan Joyce and Qantas about what the market is going to be like. But I'm very concerned about the fate of those people that are likely to lose their jobs. Like a lot of us in the community we know and have friends who work for Qantas, I've been sharing some of their angst today. The Deputy Prime Minister has made it very clear we're continuing to talk to Alan Joyce and to Qantas about what additional support can be provided. I think I've said on this program before the Government will have to look at keeping available support arrangements for those sectors and tourism is a very obvious one, where the economic recovery is going to be a lot slower than it might be for other parts of the economy.

KARVELAS: Andrew Giles, I know Labor has been arguing it should be extended. The Government is reviewing it, they say they have to make a decision based on the economic circumstances at the time, rather than this early. Isn't that a sort of valid argument that you have to sort of see where things are at?

GILES: It's not a valid argument for 6,000 people who are about to lose their jobs Patricia.

KARVELAS: Can you keep their jobs forever though? I mean the airline industry is under unprecedented pressure not just right now, and this is going to be a long-term issue?

GILES: That is true and that's why we argued at the very start of this, that there needed to be a sectoral plan for aviation. Instead, what we've seen is a series of ad hoc responses, particularly support for Rex but not support for Virgin. What we're seeing now is the prospect of 6,000 people losing their jobs.

That decision has been made presumably in the full knowledge by Alan Joyce and Qantas that the review of JobKeeper is on 23 July. I don't know what discussions have gone on between them and the Government, but I'd urge the Deputy Prime Minister to try a bit harder, to offer the sort of reassurance that is required to keep this industry that's so vital to our recovery and so vital to our long-term prospects of a trading nation.

KARVELAS: Trent Zimmerman, the Prime Minister has flagged more support for the airline industry. Is there anything the Government offers now too late?

ZIMMERMAN: No, I think it's getting to be very important going forward, because firstly it's supporting those that have been stood down and can't work simply because of the travel shutdown. But I think the sad reality that we're going to see over the months ahead is that as time elapses, there will be parts of the economy that we do see have not just short-term damage, but medium term and possibly longer-term damage. If you look at Qantas' decision, my understanding is a lot of the job losses are planned for their international operations and that's based on the facts they don't think there will be a rebound in international travel for many years to come. And government can provide short-term support but obviously it can't be paying JobKeeper for years and years and years. That's the challenge that we're going to face.

KARVELAS: Thanks to both of you for joining us this afternoon.

GILES: Great to be with you.

ZIMMERMAN: Thanks Patricia.