SUBJECTS: Vaccine; Hotel Quarantine; University Reforms. 

TOM CONNELL, HOST: Welcome back, joining me now is my Pollie Panel - Nationals member, David Gillespie and from the Labor Party, Peta Murphy, thanks both for your time. Let's begin, of course, with the big news on this vaccine, I'm sure it's welcomed by everyone as a good hope. The caveat here being, of course, David, we don't know if this will work.
DAVID GILLESPIE, MEMBER FOR LYNE: Yeah, well, it is great news, Tom, it's so wise of Australia to be ahead of the curve in getting the architecture in place to roll out a vaccine. As the health minister and the prime minister outlined, we're open to hearing about vaccines from anywhere, whether it's in Australia or from overseas. But we do have manufacturing capability in this country. So it's good to be analysing and ahead of the game so that when one does meet standards, we can roll it out as rapidly as possible.
CONNELL: Labor was critical of the government, Peta, being behind the game. They've got the deal, they've got the doses as well. And I guess the later you go in this, the more chance you do pick the winner, if you like. So, you'd welcome this news?
PETA MURPHY, MEMBER FOR DUNKLEY: Look, I welcome the news, there's no doubt about that. It's not accurate to say that Australia is ahead of the curve though, there are ten other countries that already have supply agreements in place. So it's welcome that there's been an Intent to Agree letter signed there's no doubt about that, but we also have to make sure that Australia doesn't put all its eggs in the one basket. There's some 160 candidates as vaccines around the world with a 96 per cent failure rate. This one seems like it's got the best chances, but we're still talking about chances, aren’t we? And CSL also have to confirm they have the manufacturing capacity. So while it's welcome, let's just be a bit cautious and let's not also suggest that Australia is ahead of any curve. There's a lot of work to be done here. 
CONNELL: It doesn't matter who signs anything first, if you can get the agreement to get the full dosage, which Australia is saying it will have, it doesn't matter when you sign it, right? It is about making sure you've got the best possible chance.
MURPHY: Well, let's make sure we've got that in place. And as I said, it's welcomed the suggestion that we do. And but that's just a start, isn't it? We also have to have a proper plan for the rollout of the vaccination. And as I understand it, the COVID-19 vaccination advisory group only met this week. Now, we've known since January really that there was going to be the need for a vaccine and it would need to be rolled out.
And I would have liked to have seen that having been done earlier. I've had the privilege of having Dr John Clements in my electorate, who’s a world renowned epidemiologist, worked at the WHO, Australia Day honours, and he's certainly been talking to me and emailing the government for months to say we need to have a plan for how this will then be rolled out. Decisions need to be made about who gets it first, how it's delivered and we've seen in aged care that perhaps the government has a different idea about what an actual COVID plan is than most other people.
CONNELL: I want to ask you, David, then, when we talk about the rollout of this and concerns that conspiracy theorists are getting their way out through the community talking about the supposed perils of any future vaccine, is there a role here for the government to look at incentives or disincentives? We had no jab, no play for example. You might tie getting the vaccine to welfare payments, even being able to turn up to public workplaces. Is that an avenue that should be explored?
GILLESPIE: Look, I'm sure they will consider everything related to COVID. The main thing to be considering now is does the vaccine or any candidate vaccine work and is it safe? And we have advanced research happening here in Australia, whether it's in Queensland Uni or in Flinders Uni. We are blessed with really smart scientists, with great capability. What the committee has been formed is a really good idea. There was already an architecture in place assessing everything COVID but this is just a specific vaccine roll out committee. And with professor Brendan Murphy running it, you know that the minister will get fearless and frank advice about what's the best way forward for the government. The good thing about our response is it's being led by advice from academics and scientists who are in the various fields that the government can call on.
CONNELL: Just on that question, to jump in there. This virus has ground the economy to a halt in some parts. So should the government, what’s your view, should it be considering tying it to being able to go to work or get welfare payments, getting the vaccine if and when it's proven safe? 
GILLESPIE: Well, look, that would be a sensible initiative, but we don't want to get ahead of ourselves, we've got to get a vaccine first and then we'll consider that as well. But I think most people want to get back to work. And the obvious response to that is I think that would be the vast majority of people. Some people are very anti vax, but I think no jab, no pay is a pretty good principle.
CONNELL: Where do you sit on that, Peta? 
MURPHY: I agree with David, no jab, no pay is an important principle. I do think the government needs to start thinking now very seriously about what the rollout program looks like and the educational program looks like, because, as you said, there is a cohort of people who are anti vaxers. There's also a lot of people who are just scared. And there's a lot of misinformation out there on Facebook and other places. And we need to make sure that if there is a vaccine that works and is safe, there’s a really good public education campaign to make sure that people are confident to use it.
CONNELL: It is a concern and I know there's been some, you know, as usual, interesting things out there on Facebook. But I do want to ask you about another aspect of this Peta, evidence yesterday in the Victorian hotel quarantine that the second wave in your state is basically all down to the errors made here. The ADF as well could not have been more emphatic that there was the offer made for assistance in hotel quarantine, at least to supervise the security guards. Political leaders have gone for a lot less, haven't they? 
MURPHY: Political leaders have gone for various things and some ministers have hung on when they shouldn't. I think that Daniel Andrews is doing a terrific job in the middle of the second wave. And whilst there will be questions to answer and people have to take responsibility for what happened in that hotel quarantine, you know, we are looking at containing the wave that's happening at the moment. And that's what most people want the government to focus on.
And they also want the government at state and federal levels to focus on making sure that vulnerable people in aged care and disability residential services are properly looked after and aren't exposed to further waves.
CONNELL: David, speaking of errors being made, this hotel quarantine situation in Sydney, I mean, it beggars belief that security guards were allowed to, if this is the case, work other shifts after working hotel quarantine. Surely the government should have said, if you’re on quarantine duties, that's it. You know, we'll pay you a weekly wage no matter how many shifts and avoid the possible spread this way.
GILLESPIE: Yeah, look, it's so difficult with virus control measures, you have to be really assiduous and limiting and keeping people in their own little bubble, including a workplace bubble, is a really sensible idea. Everyone has great ideas in retrospect. 
CONNELL: But this is a pretty simple one isn’t it? It can’t be that difficult to think that workers in hotel quarantine don’t have shifts at multiple other venues. That wasn’t hard to foresee was it?
GILLESPIE: No, we'll, we saw that in the nursing home phenomenon where, look, the virus got into most of the nursing homes through community transfer, but that includes staff and keeping people working in their own one area is a bit like keeping people in their own home. It limits the possibility of spread. It doesn't mean it will spread. All the procedures that are being done, though, in New South Wales seem to have worked far better than in Victoria.
MURPHY: It's really important to point out, that's just insecure work. We can talk about it another time, but it's really important to point out that what David is saying is that people should have jobs at one location, and we know that in this situation it’s insecure work?
CONNELL: Yeah, the solution is at this particular moment, I get that is give people a weekly wage if they're in these particular circumstances. University reforms, according to Andrew Gee, your colleague in the Nationals, David, there's got to be reform here to make sure health care workers, social workers, these people training in these areas won't have a hike in fees when they're studying. How was this ever a good idea?
GILLESPIE: Well, look, we are trying to reform, it includes 34,000 new places around universities. So universities and people running a course will know that they can potentially have many more students. What Andrew has pointed out is we need to tweak it, we need to grandfather a few of the payments that they are making now so that half way through their course, all of a sudden their fee payment doesn’t jump up to the new regime. But we do want to encourage the skills that the community and the economy needs and we also want to expand opportunities in regional Australia. We just announced another round of regional universities centre funding. As I mentioned, 34,000 new spots, so Andrew’s made some sensible comments. The Minister asked for comments, he has received it and I think we will get good outcomes out of it all.
CONNELL: Peta, Labor has been talking about opposing these changes, do you agree on the need for reform? I mean, there seems to be an issue out there with the number of people studying things and never really likely ending up being employed in, it’s not exactly helping the country?
MURPHY: I agree that we need to have a federal government that supports universities and David can’t possibly be in support of a package that no one else, apart from possibly Dan Tehan, supports. Psychologists, social workers, doubling the fees for that, and we also have to remember that going to university and studying and contributing to the academic work in this country is fundamentally important. It wouldn’t have been the case in the 1980’s that we probably would have known that we needed all of these scientists with these expertise in how to deal with pandemics and what if a government had of decided, well let’s just double the fees for those courses, well all of these scientists who are being lauded at the moment wouldn’t exist. We have to support universities and everyone should be able to go and study at university if they want to.
CONNELL: We’ll have to leave it there. Peta Murphy and David Gillespie thanks for your time.