The people of Christmas Island deserve to know what's going on

03 February 2020


SUBJECT: Coronavirus and Christmas Island evacuation; bushfire aid not reaching people

KARL STEFANOVIC, TODAY SHOW: Well the rescue mission is underway to evacuate Australians from Wuhan, the Chinese epicentre of the Corona virus outbreak while in Queensland, authorities are hunting passengers who were on a Tiger Airways flight from Melbourne to the Gold Coast who may have been effected by the virus. For more were joined by Stellar magazines Sarrah Le Marquand, Sarah good morning to you, and Senator Malarndirri McCarthy. Senator good morning to you, lovely to see you both.



STEFANOVIC: Ok Senator, Christmas Island is in your neck of the woods, in your electorate. Are you happy with the outcome, with those people potentially going to the island?

MCCARTHY: Look Karl, certainly the residents on Christmas Island, and yes they do come under the electorate of Lingiari here in the Northern Territory, have expressed real concern. Theyre asking lots of questions. And thats certainly something that Warren Snowdon as member for Lingiari and myself are asking the Government, is to ensure what kind of information is getting to the residents who live there and theres quite a lot of people who live in Christmas Island Karl.

STEFANOVIC: Not much you can do about it if the Federal Government says theyre coming, theyre coming arent they?

MCCARTHY: Well thats right, they are coming but I think too we still need to remember the people on Christmas Island are citizens of Australia and they deserve to be treated with the respect and dignity of knowing whats actually happening and I certainly will be encouraging the Federal Government to make sure that those conversations are happening with the people who always live on Christmas Island.

STEFANOVIC: Were you spoken to about it, did you hear about it before everyone else did?

MCCARTHY: No, no, like everyone else, we heard it through social media, on the news screens. Its not the best way certainly when youre representatives federally for the members on Christmas Island. We also have to remember Karl theres also a young family thats still waiting for their future with the Biloela family who are there, just so many questions, and going back to Parliament next week, Ill certainly be asking a lot of those.

STEFANOVIC: Well were just hearing some news now Senator, just trying to get it up but the World Health Organisation has just declared an international emergency so well try to get to the bottom of what that will mean in terms of ramifications for the world, but Sarah it has been in some ways poorly handled by the various Governments, the miscommunication, the confusion among parents, has been very present.

LA MARQUAND: It has, I mean the lack of consultation among parents. Obviously families have come out and they have commended the Government for acting so quickly and for taking things so seriously and for offering to evacuate affected citizens back home but theres clearly been a terrible lack of consultation with the residents of Christmas Island as weve just heard there but also with these families, a lot of them are really concerned about the medical facilities. And the child friendly facilities that are available on Christmas Island. As you are saying Karl a lot of families are saying that they actually think they would prefer their children stay in Wuhan than be repatriated to Christmas Island. They also have to contribute towards the cost of the evacuation as much as $1000 per child.

STEFANOVIC: Well effectively the Federal Government is saying if you want to get out well get you out but its not going to be pleasant and youre going to have to pay for it.

LA MARQUAND: Thats right and I would also make the point that the Australian Medical Association have also said that they have concerns and that they feel that the children should be repatriated to the mainland of Australia so I think if the AMA are saying that the Government may need to rethink their decision.

STEFANOVIC: That is such a big story and its only going to get bigger. Peter Dutton is coming up after 7 o clock. Theres all sorts of ramifications for businesses and travel and look its going to change the world a little bit. Moving on, its the case for too little too late for many communities impacted by bushfires but while the threat has subsided for now locals are still working at rebuilding their lives and this morning there are new fears aid to fire ravaged communities is taking too long. Senator, we visited East Gippsland, Ally and I other the other day, these people are just pleading for people to visit. But there are also communities that are crying out for money why hasnt the aid got through?

MCCARTHY: Good question Karl and you would have heard that first hand from people there, those complaints, and I think that what were seeing here in Australia and in fact theres probably a crossover of all these issues. Were facing major crisis nationally and internationally and the question is how are we coping as a nation in trying to deal with all that and for those people on the ground, those families who desperately need something right now, clearly there has to be something else going on. Even if theres just a coordinator straight away whos trying to assist with the basic needs of food, of paying for fuel, how are things going with Centrelink? And trying to get money thats required for people to get them back on their feet. Clearly there needs to be something right now happening for those people.