10 September 2020

CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH: Thanks for coming. Today, eight Australians will take their own life. Eight of our brothers and sisters, our friends our family members. And the same will happen tomorrow and the day after. And then the phone calls will begin, phone calls to family members breaking the news. In some cases the phone call that they've been dreading, in other cases the phone call they never expected.

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day and it's R U OK? day as well. A reminder that we have to check on our fellow Australians and there's more to say after R U OK? There is follow-up. These are tough times, these tough times will be with us for some time to come but what has to remain with us is looking after all Australians, checking on our family members and our friends and making sure they're okay, and that is the responsibility for all of us, for all of us to drive those numbers down.

On a related matter over recent days we have seen the terrible matter of a self-harm video on Tik-Tok. Now after the Christchurch massacre there was legislation there was international action to see violent videos taken down off social media immediately. That did not cover matters of self-harm.

We stand ready to work very constructively with the Government to see that action that was taken post Christchurch extended to self-harm videos on any social media platform. Social media companies should be taking these videos down instantaneously. But if it needs Government legislation, we stand ready to work very constructively with the Government to ensure that that can happen as a matter of urgency.

The second matter I'll deal with is aged care. Scott Morrison is good at announcements, but not good at delivering. They make constant announcements about improvements to home care packages but evidence before the Royal Commission tells us there will only be 300 new home care packages by 2024, the waiting list is 103,000 people. 300 is a sick joke. Scott Morrison and his hapless Minister need to deal with this as a matter of extreme urgency. One of the keys to improving aged care is reducing that waiting list for home care and reducing it urgently and 300 places by 2024 is a sick joke.

And the final matter is this; there's been further developments in relation to the vaccine. I know there's been some comments by the Chief Executive of CSL today. I reiterate we support the Government working with AstraZeneca and CSL and the University of Queensland to progress those vaccines. We all hope that the delay in the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine is just a blip, just a bump in the road, that it's sorted out very quickly. It remains a vaccine with great promise. However, it is a reminder that Australia should have more than just a couple of irons in the fire. We should be doing more deals, more advanced supply agreements for vaccines.

United States has six of these agreements. They entered their first agreement in March. The United Kingdom has five agreements. They into their first agreement in May. Japan and India have three agreements each. These are just a few examples. If we're just relying on the AstraZeneca or the University of Queensland vaccine, we're taking a great risk.

We all hope the AstraZeneca vaccine works soon. We all hope the University of Queensland vaccine continues to be promising but we need more options. We shouldn't be putting all our eggs in one basket. I'm happy to take questions from the phone.

JOURNALIST: You're pretty reasonable sort of bloke, theres been someall I can say it is very strange that a 26 year old is stuck in hotel quarantine in Brisbane, her fathers funeral is on. Shes come from Canberra and the Palaszczuk Government is refusing to let her go to the funeral. Shes 26, shes got an 11 year old sister and her mumstheyre all beside themselves. I know shes on your side of politics but what are we doing here in Australia if a 26 year old cant go and farewell her father at a funeral?

BOWEN: Thanks Chris. This is a gut-wrenching situation and there are others. And of course, we are going to see those-- these types of gut-wrenching situations. I've had occasions over recent weeks to make representations to State Ministers for Health on compassionate grounds in relation to borders. I found every single State Minister responsive and helpful and understanding of those compassionate situations regardless of partisanship. I've made representations to Liberal Ministers as well as Labor Ministers. I haven't spoken about any of those in the media because it's not helpful. These matters can be progressed with common sense and with compassion and I would just-- that would be-- continue to be the approach that I would take, to make those representations obviously I haven't received representations in this particular matter, but I have received them on other matters and other cases.

JOURNALIST: Im not asking about the process, Im just asking--

BOWEN: And I'm making the point Chris, and I'm making the point in reply to this gut-wrenching matter and I've made representations on similar matters. I've done so privately. I've found all Ministers responsive and media commentary---

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible).

BOWEN: I've made representations to various Ministers including Brad Hazzard, Ive found him very responsive and very understanding of compassionate cases when I've raised them. Not everyone has been successful but everyone has had a good hearing and I would trust every State to be applying the same approach.

JOURNALIST: Have you made any representations to Steven Miles?

BOWEN: Not to Steven in particular, no. I haven't had occasion to.

JOURNALIST: Chris, in your response there, the implicit undertone is that youve got issues with this, this case has reached the media. The woman herself actually bought it to the media herself such was her level of distress. Is it really fair for you to avoid commenting on the specifics of the case when it was--

BOWEN: No, no to be clear Clare, to be clear Clare I have noI am not commenting on the specifics of this case. And I completely understand why its in the media. To be very clear, dont misunderstand me. I'm simply making the point that there have been many instances I'm sure and I'm not alone where Members of Parliament had to raise issues and in my experience States have been responsive and understanding. As I said, not in every case has been successful but every case has had a hearing. Now, I don't know about this case. I've seen it in the media, that's all I know about it. I agree with you, it's gut-wrenching. It's very difficult and I would imagine everybody is doing their best in the circumstances but I don't find that further commentary on me on the specific case I know the Prime Minister and the Premier have commented on it and their comments can stand on behalf of each of them.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask about the broader issue [inaudible]. Sorry can I just follow up on that can I just follow up on that [Inaudible]. The ACT hasnt had a case in 62 days. If for any reason someone travelling [inaudible] was to be refused an exemption, would you expect that the health authorities in question then made public their health reasoning for a decision like that in any case from any State. Would you like to see more public transparency of those health decisions?

BOWEN: Certainly, the more information that can be shared the better. I know that I think basically every Premier certainly every east coast Premier is holding daily press conferences at the moment. That's appropriate and theyre answering questions as appropriate and as are Chief Health Officers of the States. The more information they can provide the better of course.

JOURNALIST: Chris, whats your reaction to the Queensland Premiers comments in Parliament today that she was bullied and intimidated by the Prime Minister?

BOWEN: Well as I said the Prime Minister and the Premier can speak for themselves. They've both made public comments on this and as I said in my experience I found when I've had to make representations sometimes on behalf of constituents, sometimes on behalf of other Members of Parliament on very compassionate grounds, they've received good hearings from a State authorities across the board.

JOURNALIST: Whats your take on the Queensland border closure as a whole especially when youre hearing plights of families [inaudible]?

BOWEN: Well, my comments on the Queensland border closure are the same as my comments on the Western Australian border closure, the South Australian border closure, the Tasmanian border closure and the New South Wales restrictions. I understand why the restrictions are in place and we support the efforts of every State Premier in ensuring the ongoing health of their jurisdiction. They are accountable to their States and they have withstood considerable pressure. I mean, it wasn't that long ago Scott Morrison was calling on Annastacia Palaszczuk to open her borders to Victoria and it wasn't that long ago that the Federal Government was supporting Clive Palmer's court case in Western Australia. Now in every case there will be compassionate exemptions in every case exemptions that are put in place for various reasons. They will be and should be worked through as cooperatively and carefully and compassionately as possible. We have to say we're all in it together, we have to mean it. And while the border restrictions are very important and we continue to support all Premiers regardless of partisanship in those decisions that they've taken based on health advice, of course, there will need to be exemptions made and exemptions are made.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] Youve made the point [inaudible] has been told by the Queensland Government that she cant go to the funeral but she can be taken under police escort a 26 year old woman taken under police escort to a private viewing of her dads body at the morgue. Has Annastacia Palaszczuk got this wrong?

BOWEN: Well all I can do, Chris, is say that I would encourage everybody to take as compassionate approach as possible based on the health advice available to them.

JOURNALIST: Yeah but Chris, forget the health advice. Have you or Mr Albanese picked the phone up like the Prime Minister did and tell Annastacia Palaszczuk please can you just sort this out [inaudible]?

BOWEN: Chris, I understand the Prime Minister has done that. I've heard that radio interview on 2GB this morning. He said he was the case was raised with him. He's taken that action. I have as I said I've said a couple of times in this press conference. I have from time to time had occasion to make representations to various State Ministers. On every occasion, I found them responsive and have had a good hearing. This case hasn't been raised to me. I've seen it in the media and of course when cases are raised would take appropriate action.

JOURNALIST: If its heartbreaking would you consider picking the phone up to Annastacia Palaszczuk this afternoon?

BOWEN: Well Chris, I will continue to make representations to State authorities on matters that are raised to me on compassionate grounds, absolutely.

JOURNALIST: Thank you, mate.

BOWEN: Thank you. Do we have any other questions?

JOURNALIST: Yes just on our relations with China. [Inaudible] Do you think [inaudible] Australian security services was a reasonable thing?

BOWEN: Well, I will certainly support the activities of our security agencies. Now they obviously, I almost self-evidently, I'm not privy to their reasons or their approach but we should support our security agencies in the efforts that they undertake and they should have bipartisan support and they do have bipartisan support. This is obviously a very difficult situation. We're deeply concerned about the fate of Cheng Lai in China for example an Australian citizen and my understanding is not even a dual citizen. An Australian citizen under arrest in China and that's deeply concerning to us and we continue to be concerned about her fate and we support the efforts of the security agencies in Australia. As I said, I'm not privy to the details of their activities or their reasons for it but they deserved by partisan support as they go about it.

JOURNALIST: Thank you.

BOWEN: Thank you. Any other questions? All in all done? Okay, thanks very much guys. Thank you.