TOPICS: COVID contact tracing in Victoria and NSW; Australian Ms Cheng Lei charged by Chinese Government with endangering national security; TikTok and social media regulations; fairy bread.
KARL STEFANOVIC, TODAY: You are watching Today right across the country. Good to see you. It's his first big admission that they got it wrong. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews sending a special public health team to Sydney to learn the lessons of contact tracing from New South Wales and to try and fix the failures. To discuss, I'm joined by Northern Territory Senator Malarndirri McCarthy and Anna Caldwell, political editor at The Daily Telegraph. Ladies, good morning. Malarndirri to you first of all, the numbers, they're finally coming down in Victoria, which is a good thing. It's good news. The only way through this, though, seems to be testing and good contact tracing. Maybe it's something the AMA is pushing for, nationalising this part of the pandemic with the Army, national database, national funding. Is that something you'd support?
MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY: Look, clearly anything that can be done to assist Victoria in trying to get on top of this is critically important. And whatever is happening now in terms of even the relationship with New South Wales is also important. But I'd still caution against people's criticism of what's going on there. I mean, we only have to recall the COVID app. I mean, I've still got on my phone. Maybe I should delete that as well, Karl. so we've just got to be careful. There's so many things here that we're learning as we go.
STEFANOVIC: Well, that COVID app, I mean, how would you describe that?
MCCARTHY: Well, it's just useless, really, isn't it?
STEFANOVIC: Anna, Victorian authorities, they're expected to be in New South Wales by the end of the week, we understand. I think I think Malarndirri is right in one sense that there's no point too much in going back now, we've all done that. But if they're moving in the right direction, this is a good thing. We've got to get to the point where we can open the borders again. Is a national approach the best way of doing that, do you think moving forward?
ANNA CALDWELL, DAILY TELEGRAPH: Well, look, I think there's so much merit in working together in a national approach, learning things from each other, moving in the right direction. You know, that's so much more important, working together, picking up tips and tricks from other States than being too proud to do that and trying to compete with each other. You know, New South Wales does have success in contact tracing. That's been evident from the beginning of this pandemic. And that doesn't, that doesn't throw shade on any other State. I just think that there's lessons to be learnt. And as you say, we can kind of go forward together.
STEFANOVIC: Yeah. And we have to, we have to try and be unified on this eventually. I mean, the States that continue to keep their borders up, it just doesn't it doesn't make any sense to me economically moving forward. Let's move on though, a disturbing development overnight from China. Australian journalist and TV presenter Cheng Lei charged with endangering national security. It comes just a day after two Australian journalists fled Beijing for fear of arrest. All Australia is now being warned: don't travel to China. Malarndirri, these are disturbing developments aren't they?
MCCARTHY: Absolutely disturbing, Karl, I mean, you know, on two levels: one, of course, free press. It's so critical in terms of journalists being able to do their work wherever they are in Australia or around the world. But also, if we just reflect to just a couple of weeks ago, the Deputy Head of Mission from China gave a press conference in the press gallery or in to all journalists down in Canberra a couple of weeks ago talking about mutual respect. So it kind of sends a very confusing message. But as you say, a very disturbing one. And we certainly are also very, very concerned about Ms Cheng.
STEFANOVIC: We just have different ways of approaching things. I mean, are you comfortable with Chinese journalists being in Australia?
MCCARTHY: Well, I think any journalist I mean, it's the same thing if you look at First Nations journalists trying to cover stories about First Nations issues. That's their job. It's the job of Chinese journalists to try and do the same. We're an open democratic country. You know, we try to rise above any intolerance and racist issues. I mean, it's still a challenge for us, but I think we have to hold the fundamental values of democracy.
STEFANOVIC: Anna, what are your thoughts on that?
CALDWELL: Well, look, I think the real shame here is that Australia stuck its neck out and took a diplomatic risk, I suppose, in demanding this independent inquiry into the origins of Coronavirus. And that upset China. Since that happened, we've seen, you know, repeated kind of clap back at Australia. You know, there's been limitations on trade, barley, wine, you know, the China – China saying to Chinese students: don't come to Australia. And now this. You know, we certainly have upset China and we're seeing that play out. And that is very concerning to me.
STEFANOVIC: I think-- who cares? I mean I mean, asking for the origins of a worldwide pandemic is not an, is not an unusual request.
CALDWELL: Exactly. We did the right thing.
STEFANOVIC: Now to a very worrying development and the use of social media. The Prime Minister has ordered our e-Safety Commissioner to investigate the social media app, TikTok, after a disturbing video targeted children. We won't go into it. But, Malarndirri, all parents being advised to monitor their children's social media feeds. TikTok's's come under enormous pressure in the last couple of weeks. Is enough being done?
MCCARTHY: All I can say, Karl, is they've just got to move quicker. This is just incredible to know that this kind of vision is out there. And it's scary. It's just reprehensible to think that that kind of vision is allowed to be looked at by anyone, let alone our children. So I would say move faster.
STEFANOVIC: And you going to ban TikTok, though. I mean, is that something you'd push for?
MCCARTHY: Oh, look, I think there's certainly a debate that has to occur in in relation to a lot of the social media, Karl, I think there's lots of things that happen on Facebook and even Instagram that need to be questioned as well. And these are things that the Federal Parliament will be looking at at some point. But I think that for now, the issue is this particular video. And it just needs to be removed.
STEFANOVIC: Look, I hate the idea of banning things. And TikTok, the horse has bolted. I mean, almost every kid in the country has got it, Anna. What would you do in this case?
CALDWELL: I'd prefer to see stronger regulations. I agree with you. I don't like the idea of banning something, but I would like to see it managed better. I mean, this video was appearing in the middle of puppy videos and kitten videos to shock people. I mean, if you were a parent, that would be so horrifying to think your child could just stumble across something like that. So we need that action from the tech giants.
STEFANOVIC: I agree. And also, we've got our tech expert coming in a little later to show parents how to do that. And just quickly, it's the debate that is igniting the nation today. How to prepare the perfect fairy bread. Take a look. Take a look at this photo on reddit. Getting absolutely slammed. Breaking every rule of fairy bread production that I know because the crust has been left on. And it's not even being cut into triangles. I mean, this is a disgrace. Malarndirri, are you thinking about bringing this up in Parliament?
MCCARTHY: You mean making it in Parliament, Karl? Then I'd really get in trouble trying to make it on the floor of the Senate. You know, that would be seen as what we call a prop, if I try to make that.
CALDWELL: We need more props like that.
MCCARTHY: But it's a nice prop, maybe I could share it around with everyone.
STEFANOVIC: You cut the crust off don't you?
MCCARTHY: Well, otherwise, if I had crust, my hair would go really curly.
STEFANOVIC: Anna, I just can't believe it. You?
CALDWELL: Well, the real disgrace there, I think, is the spread of the sprinkles. They're too concentrated in the middle. I expect better from my fairy bread.
STEFANOVIC: Oh, my goodness. Anyway, just before we go, because I just want to finish this. Malarndirri you've become quite the celebrity on the Today Show. And every time you're on our viewers, they greatly look forward to seeing your signature, which is now the hoop earrings. And so here's a song for you this morning.
[SONG PLAYS: "Whoomp there is it"]
STEFANOVIC: That's your signature on air. There you go. Thank you ladies.