SATURDAY, 17 JULY 2021
MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER HEALTH AND AGEING: Scott Morrison had two jobs this year: a speedy effective rollout of the vaccines and safe national quarantine arrangements and he has failed on both of those jobs. Yesterday, Scott Morrison proudly boasted that his pandemic recovery was “on track.” Well, 18 months into the pandemic and only 10 per cent of the Australian population is fully vaccinated - the worst result in the developed world. Half of the country is living in lockdown this weekend, and the other half are under severe restrictions. Lives are being massively disrupted, livelihoods are being smashed, children aren’t able to go to school, workers aren't able to go to work and the economic losses are running to billions and billions of dollars. Now for a Prime Minister who famously said that the vaccine rollout was “not a race,” perhaps he feels that things are on track. For 12 million Australians who begin another weekend languishing in lock down, it’s just a cruel reminder of Scott Morrison’s failures on vaccines and quarantine, while we watch life starting to returned to normal in other countries around the world.
JOURNALIST: Do you think the latest lockdown restrictions in Sydney go far enough?
BUTLER: What we've seen is state premiers take advice and put in place restrictions for which they are answerable. Now we've seen cases stay at a pretty stubborn level of about 100 per day in New South Wales and I don’t think it would surprise many people that the New South Wales Government have seen fit to tighten those restrictions.
JOURNALIST: Do you think the Premier’s delay in announcing these extra restrictions has left Sydney worse off?
BUTLER: I don’t think it is right for a politician to second guess the health advice that has been received by individual state governments. We've been very disciplined in this country over the last 18 months respected the health advice. So I’m not going to criticise Gladys Berejiklian, she and her Government have taken advice and they are answerable to their community. We all hope that New South Wales is able to get on top of the outbreak.
JOURNALIST: Do you think the SA Government is being too heavy handed with the latest restrictions?
BUTLER: Look again, what I would say is all state governments are answerable for the health advice that they receive and the decisions they make on that basis. I’m not going to criticise any state government, Liberal or Labor alike, that are taking decisions in good faith on the base of the health advice they are receiving.
JOURNALIST: How concerning is it that National Cabinet wasn’t able to agree to consistent terms on financial support payments yesterday?
BUTLER: What this reflects is Scott Morrison treating different parts of the country differently. No wonder people around the country see him as the Prime Minister for New South Wales. The Victorians were subject to such harsh arrangements, compared to the financial support that he was willing to give people in New South Wales. Finally I think state governments have been able to start to pressure the Prime Minister to take an equitable approach to citizens of the whole country no matter where they live so we don't get in a situation where we have a Prime Minister for New South Wales.
JOURNALIST: Isn’t it up to the states and territories to agree how much responsibility they take for holding up that situation?
BUTLER: At the end of the day it is Scott Morrison who held out providing proper financial support to Victorian when they were under a short lockdown for a couple of weeks, only six or seven weeks ago, and then putting very different, much more generous levels of support in place for the people of New South Wales. The Prime Minister is supposed to be the Prime Minister for the whole country, not just for one particular state. I think it's good that the National Cabinet forced Scott Morrison's hand over the last couple of days in putting in place arrangements that would apply equitably across the nation. Thanks, everyone.