22 July 2020

KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: Mr. Bowen, thanks so much for your time. 484 cases in Victoria, a record not just for that state, but in fact, that's a national record in Victoria alone with that number, what's your assessment of what we're seeing where we're at now, in terms of the second wave?

CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH: Well, thanks, Kieran. And certainly Victoria deeply concerning as we all know, and the Premier's message today was a very important one about making sure people are tested as soon as they can, after they feel symptoms, isolating until they get the results and isolating in between feeling symptoms and the test. It's a very, very important message, just as the Premier of New South Wales in a very different context in a more reassuring but still troublesome situation had a message for people of New South Wales today, which we also support.

GILBERT: Are you surprised by the amount of people that weren't isolating in the circumstances under which Premier Andrews outlined there?

BOWEN: Sure, certainly very concerning and the Premier has had a very, very clear message today. And regardless of what jurisdiction you're in, the premiers who are giving the best advice available based on the health advice to them, that's an important message and nobody wants to see further restrictions in place, whether it be Victoria or New South Wales. And if that advice from the respective premiers is followed, that's our best chance of getting this disease under control and avoiding further restrictions being put in place which nobody wants to see if it can possibly be avoided.

GILBERT: Indeed, because it doesn't matter how good your testing is, your tracing is, nothing can manage a situation if people aren't adopting, what they're being told aren't listening.

BOWEN: That's right, testing, tracing, mask wearing all those requirements and suggestions won't cut the mustard if we are not following the guidance in relation to isolation, social distancing and other necessary precautions across our society, even for those of us who don't have symptoms, even for those of us not in hotspots, we have to abide by that social distancing. Because, for example, on the south coast of New South Wales, which was an unknown hotspot, all it takes is one person inadvertently, not symptomatic. But spreading the virus, unbeknownst to them and those around them and it can get out of control very, very quickly.

GILBERT: A well placed federal source has told my colleague, Andrew Clennell, that the Victorian Government might end up within days in a situation comparable to New Zealand, the Premier didn't want to get into specifics about comparisons with other countries. But if they can't get a lid on those numbers, further restrictions seemed like the only option aren't they?

BOWEN: I'm not going to comment on speculation. The Premier himself has said that unless things improve, they'll have to consider further measures. The Premier of New South Wales has said something similar in a different context. I'm not going to second guess what that is, the fundamental message is please, please comply with the current restrictions and guidelines. And then if it is possible to avoid further lockdowns, they can be avoided, but the Premier will do what is necessary. We know, of course there's a lag. We're not yet seeing the full implications of the previous restrictions. It takes a good solid fortnight to see that. He'll be weighing and his government will be weighing all that up. And I know, just as I think Premier Berejiklian and Premier Andrews are in a similar situation in that neither of them will put on further restrictions if they think it can be avoided safely and successfully in their jurisdiction.

GILBERT: Well, when you, and you use the term jurisdiction, which is so appropriate right now, in terms of looking at New South Wales versus Victoria, it really is the only jurisdiction, the only state where we've got a massive problem. Is it fair to say it's on the precipice right now?

BOWEN: Well, I think both states both jurisdictions are at a difficult period in a very different environment. The figures out of New South Wales today are encouraging but I wouldn't put it higher than that. We still have a long way to go, there would still be virus in the community that hasn't been detected. That's why we need to be vigilant. And listen to the Premier. In Victoria obviously, it's a much more difficult situation but the same principle applies, follow the health advice. Yes, the situation in Victoria is deeply troubling. They are at a crossroads. And I would say New South Wales is also at a crossroads a different set of circumstances, but the same principles apply. If we all do what is necessary, then it can be avoided. But if we don't, then we'll be in this for some time to come.

GILBERT: Is it fair to say, though, that the New South Wales Government has, and its medical system has moved much more quickly, say on this outbreak that we've seen at the Crossroads hotel, not far from your electorate in Casula. As opposed to some of the outbreaks we've seen in Victoria where we've seen them get out of control.

BOWEN: No, I wouldn't share that characterisation I think both jurisdictions have responded in different ways to different circumstances. As you say in Western Sydney, I'm a resident of Western Sydney it's very close to home for me. The Thai Rock restaurant is one that me and my family have been to, not in the relevant time period where the virus has been there. It's a very popular restaurant in my electorate, in my community. Crossroads is not far away. But yes, there has been a response, there has been testing clinics at Fairfield hospital and Fairfield Showground but likewise in Victoria, they had local government by local government lockdowns that was their first response to give that a go, they've responded as best they can in a fast moving circumstance. So I made a point of supporting all state governments I don't care whether they're Liberal, Labor, or what stripe they are, I have given support to all state governments doing their best in difficult circumstances and they will respond differently to different circumstances. I'll make this point. You know, other states are dealing with this by their border restrictions, Queensland has border restrictions in place, Annastacia Palaszczuk copped a lot of criticism including from the Prime Minister and Treasurer, which was deeply inappropriate, Mark McGowan has border restrictions in place and as we stand, the Federal Government still supporting a court action by Clive Palmer, to overturn those which I mean, which is deeply inappropriate behaviour. So we should be providing support to those jurisdictions regardless of whether they are frontline like New South Wales or Victoria, or engaging in a cautious approach likeAnnastacia Palaszczuk, Steven Marshall, Mark McGowan, Peter Gutwein, they're all responding in different ways, and they should be supported as they do so. The Federal Government taking pot-shots at Western Australia and Queensland about their border restrictions was, always was and remains deeply inappropriate.

GILBERT: And just finally, before we go, we are, you know, parallel to the health crisis have got the economic recession, the economic crisis. Tomorrow, the Treasurer to deliver the largest deficit since World War Two. What are you expecting on that?

BOWEN: Well, I mean, I know the public speculation, as Jim Chalmers has laid out the test for the statement tomorrow. It needs to support jobs. We know that the Federal Government has made some mistakes as they go, with over payments to people, etc. But the key test is that they have to support jobs in this very difficult environment, support businesses. They are the tests that Jim Chalmers and the team have outlined. And that's the test which Josh Frydenberg has to meet tomorrow. And of course, we'll all wait and say the details. The Federal Government's talked a big talk in the past about their economic management, but they'll be judged by the tests that Australian people expect them to comply with.

GILBERT: Indeed they will. Chris Bowen, I appreciate that. We'll talk to you soon.

BOWEN: Good on you Kieran, nice to talk.