19 April 2021

Subjects: New Zealand travel bubble; vaccine rollout; use of the Defence Force; Morrison proposal for home quarantine after overseas travel; Malarndirri’s birthday


ALLY LANGDON, HOST: Welcome back, and we are very excited because we're getting a tantalising glimpse this morning of what our post pandemic lives could be like. Aussies finally allowed back into the skies for quarantine-free international travel as our much awaited travel bubble with New Zealand opens today. It comes as the first bi-weekly national cabinet meets this morning to try to kick start the rest of our COVID recovery. So there is plenty to discuss, and I'm joined by Northern Territory Senator Malarndirri McCarthy in Darwin and Scott Emerson from 4BC in Brisbane. Good morning to both of you guys.


LANGDON: So Malarndirri; New Zealand, you beauty! Are you excited?

MCCARTHY: Look, I think it's it's really heartening, Ally, to see this relationship really blossom with New Zealand. Clearly, that's a place that many people call home here in Australia and vice versa. So, look, it just brings optimism at a time when we clearly need to start feeling a little bit better about ourselves and our country and those around us

LANGDON: Too right, optimism, Scott. It's exactly what we need right now, isn't it?

SCOTT EMERSON, 4BC: We do indeed. Look, we've got more Kiwis living in Queensland than any other state in Australia. So we're hoping, of course, for our tourism industry, a lot of those Kiwis going to come flooding into Queensland.

LANGDON: Well, that's it, isn't it? I mean, we're already hearing that bookings in North Queensland are going through the roof. That's got to be good news.

EMERSON: Yeah, look, very positive news. And look, obviously, the hope is that this is a start not just in New Zealand, but maybe other parts of the world. But we want some good news this year and we want our borders to open up. I think everyone is desperate for to get back to some normality in our lives.

LANGDON: Malarndirri, would you like to see it go further, see other countries included? Are we getting a little too far ahead of ourselves?

MCCARTHY: Look, of course, that's the ultimate goal, isn't it, Ally, that people can travel wherever around the world. But, you know, we don't want to go too quickly. We're still trying to work out the just vaccinating people here in Australia. And I know we'll talk about that. So I think we have to still be careful. What I can say, though, is that with Howard Springs facility here in Darwin, we've obviously been able to show that there is capability here in the Northern Territory through the Howard Springs expertise of those who run it. You know, we've been able to take in people and we'll continue to do that. And I'm sure the Chief Minister will probably put that forward at the national cabinet, again.

LANGDON: Malarndirri, what did you think of the Prime Minister's suggestion yesterday? He flagged this idea that vaccinated Australians might be allowed to quarantine at home in the second part of this year?

MCCARTHY: Look, I think that gives the country something to discuss and debate. Again, we're still at that moment of working out just the vaccination issue itself, Ally. And I just feel with travelling across just the Gulf country last week and just got it back into Darwin, there's a great deal of loss of confidence. So I think we just have to make sure that if we're getting people from overseas coming, either coming back home or people who are travelling overseas and coming back, that we still have a really thorough regime around the protection of our country and the citizens in it.

LANGDON: Well, we had Dr. Margaret Harris from the World Health Organisation on the show a little earlier, and it was grim what she was talking about, because I think we do live in a bubble to a certain extent because we don't have any COVID community transmission. But three million deaths now from COVID internationally, the numbers are pretty grim. Scott, what do you think your Premier or how your Premier would stand in regards to home quarantining perhaps later in the year?

EMERSON: Oh, look, Annastacia Palaszczuk clearly has politically won very well in terms of having strong stance in terms of border closures, lockdowns. She won an election convincingly on the back of that. I think she's going to be very cautious. But, of course, I think all all the leaders are desperate to get their economies back up and running again. They want people to come in. But I think they'll play and listen very carefully to what the political soundings are. If they're seeing that there's political risk allowing people in and potentially lockdowns again, they'll be very cautious. In terms of Scott Morrison proposing this, I think he's got to start selling a message of positivity. Obviously, a lot of people being disappointed with the vaccine rollout. He's got an election probably this time next year. So he's got to have a plan in terms of saying we're going to get back to some normality.

LANGDON: Well, look, home quarantine, it is not going to be on the agenda when when they meet today. Malarndirri, what they will discuss is this idea of the army being brought in and mass vaccination hubs being set up. But look, we still have these health concerns over the AstraZeneca jab and not enough of the Pfizer jab. This is not going to be an easy fix, is it?

MCCARTHY: Not at all. Ally and I had my AstraZeneca jab just before the announcement came out, just because of my health conditions, as well as a First Nations woman and and certainly around that number of, you know, half a century. But I just think that as I was travelling through the communities and that was part of my reasoning was just to see what the people doing in regional and remote Australia, and the lack of confidence, the loss of confidence has been quite immense over the last fortnight. So I think there's going to be an even greater challenge now just to bring people to those hubs, even if you did roll them out with the Defence Force or anyone else, for that matter.

LANGDON: Well, I'll tell you what, there must be plenty going on behind the scenes at the moment. We're also hearing, Scott, this suggestion today that that we look at setting up a hub to manufacture more vaccines like the Pfizer one on home soil. But that, again, it's not something that’s going to happen overnight, is it?

EMERSON: Now, you just can't wave a magic wand, and suddenly we start producing vaccines. We see how long it took to get the AstraZeneca vaccine up and running here. We're still not seeing mass numbers of that coming out at the moment. The idea we get Pfizer and Moderna or Novavax coming out here, I think that's a long way off. I think that the the idea of putting that out, that we might be able to do that, that's a good idea. It'd be great if we could do it, but it's not going to happen the next week or the next month. So it could be maybe towards the end of the year, but that's not necessarily going to help in terms of getting that vaccine rollout as quickly as possible.

LANGDON: Yeah, but look, you know, we've decided that today, Mondays, Karl has decided that Mondays are the new fun day. So we're going to focus on the good news. And when are you guys booking your tickets to New Zealand? Malarndirri?

MCCARTHY: Oh, look, I think that's just awesome. Seriously, I've not been to New Zealand, Ally, so I'm pretty keen to have a look at that one. I don't know when, but it's in between, got to be in between parliamentary sittings time. So let's see how we go.

LANGDON: I've got a good idea. What about you go for your birthday? Because--.

MCCARTHY: How did you know Ally? Aw you guys.

LANGDON: It's your birthday!

MCCARTHY: That was Martha, wasn't it?

LANGDON: Singing: [Happy Birthday to you]. Malarndirri! Happy Birthday!

MCCARTHY: Thank you.

LANGDON: And your prize, we're sending you to New Zealand for your birthday! How's that sound? Once again, Karl’s paying!

MCCARTHY: Love yous.

LANGDON: Do you have something lovely planned for your day today?

MCCARTHY: Oh, look, I'm actually back at work for the first day after being around the Territory, so I'll be catching up on some paperwork, Ally, and you know, I have to get back to the desk and just see what's going on, but maybe a nice lunch.

LANGDON: Nah, call in sick. No one will know.

MCCARTHY: Oh, yeah, yeah. Look, I'll do that now. Yeah, no worries. Shhh, don't tell anyone alright.

LANGDON: Just a little cough; oh you can't cough now can you? Can't cough these days. Scott, Malarndirri, thanks for joining us and have a beautiful birthday, Malarndirri.

STEFANOVIC: Here here.

MCCARTHY: Thank you.