Sky News First Edition – Australians stranded in India, child care

Wednesday, 05 May 2021

PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Let’s stay with the Opposition now and joining us live is Amanda Rishworth, the Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education. Amanda, I will ask you about child care in just a moment, but there appears to have been a notable shift in the government’s language when it comes to returning Australians from India. The Deputy Prime Minister on our show about half an hour ago said no one’s going to be jailed, cricketers aren’t going to be jailed, anyone returning from India is not going to be jailed. Which I suppose prompts the question, why have it in the Biosecurity Act in the first place?

AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Well, I think that’s the question on everyone’s lips is why the government came out so hard, threatening jail time, and now is within a couple of days backing away from it. I mean the truth of it is, I think it could be because they wanted to distract people from actually questioning why we don’t have quarantine facilities that could deal with large numbers coming back from difficult countries, and why we were not ready for this. I think that is the question on everyone’s lips. There was a report that came down last year suggesting that purpose facilities be built, that they be nationally run so that we could deal with these sorts of circumstances and not put the community at risk. So my only conclusion can be that this announcement about jail time was about distracting from the government’s failures when it comes to quarantine.

STEFANOVIC: When it comes to the cricketers they’ve been just told to ride it out now, just as the 9,000 Australians have been. Do you have any sympathy for those cricketers?

RISHWORTH: I have sympathy for all Australian citizens in India at the moment. All Australian citizens deserve to have the Australian Government having their back. And ultimately, that is what citizenship is all about, wherever you are in the world, that you’ve got the Australian Government looking out for your interests. And so I have sympathy for all those Australians who are citizens in India, the situation is dire. And that’s why I am really disappointed that the government had not planned for a scenario such as this, in order to help our citizens at a time when any country quite frankly around the world could have seen such an explosion of COVID cases.

STEFANOVIC: We have handled it quite well, though. I mean, as the Prime Minister mentioned a couple of weeks ago 99.99 per cent of cases have been stopped. So hotel quarantine, for the most part, barring less than 0.1 of a percent has worked. Wouldn’t that suggest that what we’ve got in place is, in fact, pretty solid?

RISHWORTH: Hotel quarantine in the cities, in non-purpose built facilities, was only really meant to be a temporary measure, not a long term measure. And I think the consequences of not being able to bring Australians back, to have to cancel flights, repatriation flights, commercial flights, by having to bring in jail time as a consequence of coming back from one particular country, shows that the quarantine system isn’t fit for purpose, and that is to bring Australians home. I think that’s quite clear, the quarantine system is not fit for purpose, and as a result has left Australians in a place that is very dangerous. So I think while the Prime Minister can get up and talk about the work that the States have done, he has failed to respond to the exact report that laid out some ways that we could make quarantine have more capacity, and indeed safer.

STEFANOVIC: Just finally, Alan Tudge says if they can bring forward increased child care subsidies before July next year, that they will do that. Are you convinced by those words?

RISHWORTH: Well of course they could bring in child better child care subsidies, there’s a budget right now. What they’ve done is to delay it to 2022, July 2022, which is really, I think, an accounting trick when it comes to the budget. We’ll see what happens, but the government has been dragged kicking and screaming to more relief for child care. But if you compare that with Labor’s plan, we will help four times as many families. So, you know, I think that the government isn’t serious about it, and I think Alan Tudge is probably saying that just to get through an interview.

STEFANOVIC: Okay Amanda Rishworth, appreciate your time, talk to you soon.


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