First Edition – COVID border restrictions, migration

Wednesday, 15 December 2021

PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Well, let’s go off now to Labor MP, Amanda Rishworth, also the Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education. Amanda, good to see you as always. I do want to ask you about our top story this morning, this flight from New South Wales to Queensland. Because of one case, all passengers are now close contacts and have got a quarantine for 14 days. That basically ruins Christmas, if that proceeds. That’s not exactly living with the virus, is it?

AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT:  Unfortunately, there has been this circumstance and the Queensland Government has made a decision about that. I’m not going to pretend to be able to give advice. Here in South Australia there’s been a school assembly and the children have all been put into isolation for 14 days. I’m not going to play politics with this. We’ve got to follow the health advice. Obviously, this is very concerning and frustrating for families and people on that plane. There’s no doubt about it, incredibly frustrating. And I guess, health authorities, I hope, will continue to review the situation and make sure that their directions are in line with the health advice.

STEFANOVIC: Hasn’t there got to be some leniency now, some more forward thinking, not just 2020 thinking? Bearing in mind that our vaccination levels are amongst the highest in the world. And on planes, you’ve got to be double vaccinated anyway to get on them.

RISHWORTH: Well there’s no doubt that, as we move forward, we do have to work out how we live with the virus. That certainly is something we need to do. But in the national plan that Scott Morrison released, it still requires the contact tracing and isolation. And so State Premiers have to implement that the best way they can. But we do have to have a plan going forward, we do have to. You know this is very disruptive for people. We need to make sure people aren’t left out of pocket as a result of some of these directions. I know certainly when it comes to staff shortages, those sorts of things, it is difficult. That’s been certainly the experience in South Australia, where near my electorate a whole town has almost gone into isolation. That’s difficult as well. So we do need to work out how we manage this in the best way going forward following the health advice. State Premiers have been responsible for this and need to carefully review these things as they move forward.

STEFANOVIC: But I guess if you follow the health advice, in some areas anyway, it’ll be back to lockdowns.

RISHWORTH: Look it’s hard. CMOs have been working with their Premiers and with their other State coordinators – in South Australia, it’s the Police Commissioner – to work out how we move forward. We need to do that, but we need to do it in a safe way. So that’s the balance, and that’s the juggle.

STEFANOVIC: You did mention the shortage of workers there in your own electorate. Are you expecting that to be filled now that you’ve got the international arrivals back? The international students, the skilled migrants that are on their way back, there will have to be some passage out of New South Wales as well, too. But do you expect a quick return, or is there going to be some kind of lag?

RISHWORTH: I think there’s certainly a need for some skilled migrants coming back to this country. I think some of those jobs will be filled very quickly, others may take some time. But of course, we’ve got to make sure we don’t forget Australian citizens as well. We’ve got 2 million Australians either looking for work or looking for more work, and we need to make sure that they are properly skilled to take up some of these jobs shortages as well. And so moving forward, we can’t just look at the short term when it comes to this. We need to look at the long term and what our long term plan is, and that involves both skilled migrants, and of course making sure that Australians are trained up to take these skilled jobs.

STEFANOVIC: Amanda Rishworth, appreciate it. Thank you.


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