SUBJECTS: Victoria; Federal Parliament; ADF; Hotel Quarantine; Aged Care.
TOM CONNELL, HOST: Let's go to my first guests of the day, though, from the Liberal Party MP Tim Wilson, from Labor we've got Peta Murphy along. Thanks both for your time. I suppose it's always a little bit of a battle sometimes as politicians to appear like normal members of society, if I can put it that way, and you've both been out there experiencing what everyone else is out there in isolation. Tim, we've got some pictures of you, I know setting up an exercise bike, doing a bit to make sure people aren't out and about in Melbourne at the moment. And for you, Peta Murphy, I guess the trickiest part about lockdown has been all those dogs running around your house.
CONNELL: We did see the video.
MURPHY: My husband is going to kill me now.
CONNELL: So what's it been like, Peta? You're isolating in Canberra, in Melbourne sorry, before heading to Canberra. So what's life been like there?
MURPHY: Yeah, I'm in Frankston. Look, obviously we were in stage four before I went into self-quarantine, so there was only an hour a day exercise that each of us could take outside. I think the hardest hit has been the two puppies that you just saw on the video, they’re seven months old, Bert and Ernie and they don't get their two hours of walking a day between myself and Rod.
But I'm really keen to make it clear, whilst it's a little bit difficult for me to do my job, other people obviously have it so much harder than either Tim or I do right now, getting through isolation, home schooling, having lost a job, dealing with mental health and disabilities. So I wouldn't want anyone to think that we're putting out any great complaints about what we have to do in order to represent our communities.
CONNELL: Tim, for people that don't follow you on social media, in particular on Facebook, your favourite hashtag or saying is ‘the future is going to be awesome’, I'm just wondering, surely it's not all that futuristic to be having to isolate and come physically to Parliament. Does this get your mind ticking about online capabilities for our federal parliament?
TIM WILSON, MEMBER FOR GOLDSTEIN: Well, of course, we can always have online capability. I am a bit of a traditionalist. (Poor audio). We should be coming to parliament, It's important for the institution and I think it's kind of the lifeblood of it. But I just want to stress, as Peta, there are so many people out there doing it tough for so many people, as Peta rightly outlined, have lost jobs or are dealing with home schooling while trying to work and they face enormous challenges at these times (Poor audio).
CONNELL: It certainly is, and, you know, I’ll add to that, we’re certainly not complaining about our situation right now in Canberra, that's for sure. Peta, some pretty explosive testimony yesterday, a claim from Daniel Andrews around hotel quarantine, and this is such a huge part of the outbreak right now - that there was no formal offer from the ADF in terms of assistance with hotel quarantine. Linda Reynolds, the defence minister, has given details of multiple occasions when there was an offer and they were told there was no need for public facing roles in quarantine in terms of ADF assistance. This isn't a great look for the premier. He seems to be sort of trying to play semantics here. What did you think of this?
MURPHY: I think this is absolutely the wrong time for political tit for tat and point scoring. I think we've got a premier who is working clearly day and night. How many days in a row has he stood up now and done press conferences? It's got to be at least 40. And we've got a federal government that's also working hard. But we've got a premier and a state government that trying to get us through this current wave. There will be a time, just like there will be a time to deal with the Ruby Princess, the failures in aged care, the under performance of the COVID Safe App, there will be time to deal with what happened with hotel quarantine.
But my community don't want to see a political tit for tat. They absolutely don't. They just want to see me out there or in here working as hard as I can to help them get through the current crisis.
CONNELL: But doesn't that all fold into, when he was giving answers yesterday to say, well, you know, there wasn't a formal offer and then clarification coming from someone in the Victorian government, well perhaps it went through the department instead of straight to the premier, that allows this whole political football game to continue?
MURPHY: Look, I think there's clearly been some mistakes made. And the premier has said that a number of times. He accepts that there's been mistakes made. And I'm sure that this inquiry, the parliamentary inquiry, the independent judicial inquiry that's been set up, the federal government deciding to do a review of quarantine across the country. I'm sure that there'll be answers that will come out of that. But I know that people in my community are sitting there every day waiting to hear about the numbers and tragically the deaths and trying to get through day to day and that they don't I don't want to see politicians taking potshots at each other. They really don't.
CONNELL: What do you think of that, Tim? A few of your colleagues in Victoria have, I suppose, taken off the kid gloves in the past few days and wanted to call out the Andrews government a bit more? Is that something you agree with?
WILSON: Well, nobody is engaging in tit for tat. (Poor audio) These are not minor errors, it led to an outbreak, brought the State to a standstill and is now a drag on the nation, and what people want, including myself, is accountability and actual accountability and to make sure that the mistakes aren't repeated because they're very serious. It's not just the hotel quarantine in terms of whether the ADF was invited, they were, offers were made by the federal government consistently. It’s easy to go back and look at the premier’s own press release, he clearly says that the ADF will be involved in and then they chose not to take up those options. (Poor audio) Nobody can really come to terms or tell the public what happened, why it happened, we have the Department of Health and Human Services commissioning and setting up our hotel quarantine but they don't seem to even know who’s been running it. We have the premier saying one thing to the parliamentary committee, we have the federal government clearly with evidence turning around and exposing that to be untrue. It’s starting to look like a cover up and that corrodes public confidence. And that's the critical thing. We need public confidence to achieve the outcomes for the people of Victoria.
CONNELL: What about the Ruby Princess inquiry? I just want to ask this of you, Tim Wilson. So two public officials, Commonwealth officials, are being shielded from answering questions at this inquiry. The inquiry's read their submissions, they want to ask them questions, the Commonwealth is saying no. How can that be justified?
WILSON: (Poor audio) The critical thing is to make sure that there is proper evidence provided that has been provided in the same way that parliamentary committees should be able to hear evidence of ministers and getting information on the public record for exactly the same purpose as is the case in Victoria
MURPHY: I think Tim should be careful talking about cover ups.
CONNELL: The two public officials have made the submissions. Crucial to this as well, one of them from the federal Agriculture Department, for example, that seems to be crucial to this whole issue. Submission's made the inquiry said, we want to ask you questions on the stand and the answer is no. Surely you'd want more, you're talking about cover ups on one side, Tim Wilson, shouldn't these people be giving evidence in person?
WILSON: That the evidence should be provided, that's exactly what I believe in Victoria and that's exactly what I believe in the case of New South Wales. Now, it's not actually that common that state and federal governments investigate each other. What we know in this case, this was a Victorian government program run by the Victorian government, they refused to accept assistance from the federal government. And the focus on, in the Victorian case is on the conduct of the Victorian Department of Human Services and the other government departments that have responsibility for this in the same way, that in the case of the Ruby Princess in New South Wales. The New South Wales government has then been brought before an inquiry in a similar way.
CONNELL: All right, I'm still not quite sure why the people can't give evidence, but anyway. Peta, if I can ask you about a pretty disturbing report this morning, the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services refusing to take some people with COVID-19 at nursing homes that test positive to hospital. What's happening here? I mean, one of the accounts here is they're saying, what are they saving the beds for? This is what the beds are for. What do you make of this?
MURPHY: We are seeing so many disturbing reports coming out of the aged care system. And of course, we have to remember that we were seeing so many disturbing reports coming out of the aged care system before COVID. That’s why there’s a Royal Commission. And we’re also hearing, of course, that at the Royal Commission that the federal government had no plan for how to deal with aged care and COVID, notwithstanding, that we had seen other countries and from Newmarch how terribly devastating it can be. The first thing is, obviously, to say to those people who have lost loved ones or whose loved ones are sick - we are all thinking of them and our hearts go out to them, but obviously there are dire problems in the aged care system and they have to be addressed.
Tim talks about transparency and answering questions, well there’s a senate COVID inquiry happening and there’s some serious answers to be given about St Basil’s and what the government knew and when they knew it. We have to keep on top of this issue.
CONNELL: To put that to Tim on aged care, we’re hearing advice to the federal government in April from an expert to deploy defence personnel as part of a rapid response plans, so advice given in April and not taken up. Would that have been better in hindsight?
WILSON: (Poor audio) The tragedy is that the aged care outbreak that has occurred in Victoria has come as a result of community transmission which can be linked back to the hotel quarantine incident but also the transmission that occurred in our public hospitals. In particular in the case of aged care, we’re talking about the most vulnerable Australians who aren’t necessarily in the position to take care of themselves. And every time there has been an issue, the Commonwealth has stepped and provided assistance as required. Including, things like access to PPE and other measures to make sure we can help those providers care to the most vulnerable Australians.
CONNELL: We’ve run out of time, Tim Wilson, Peta Murphy, thanks for your time today, we’ll see you in Canberra soon.





Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.