ABC CAPITAL HILL WITH JADE MACMILLAN
MONDAY, 15 FEBRUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: Safety of women in the workplace; Vaccine rollout.
JADE MACMILLAN, HOST: Time now for our political panel. With us today we have
Nationals Whip in the Senate Perin Davey and Shadow Minister for Defence Industry Matt
Keogh. Thank you both for joining us, Senator Davey to you first. Does Linda Reynolds
need to provide a further explanation here, either publicly or in the Parliament?
SENATOR PERIN DAVEY, NATIONALS SENATE WHIP: Firstly, I just want to say how
serious the allegations are and that we need to listen to Miss Higgins and what she wants.
At the time my understanding, which is only based on media reports, and it’s come out in
the media, she was offered support, she was offered her options, she did speak to the
police, it was her decision to not proceed with a formal complaint that’s got to be respected
as well. I think we really need to give Miss Higgins the benefit of choosing her own future
but that is not to belittle in any way the allegations, they are absolutely serious. This should
not happen, it should not happen in a workplace, whether it’s in hours or out of hours, that’s
beside the point, it absolutely shouldn’t happen. I think Minister Reynolds tried to deal with
it in the best way she could moving forward. The location of the meeting, unfortunate, but
normally, in these circumstances if it’s not in that particular office, it is quite normal for a
Minister to take you into their office for a meeting so unfortunate in that respect but I think
we should let the process now proceed. There are now reports that the Federal Police will
be looking at it further so we should let the process take its course.
MACMILLAN: The Minister says she regrets the location of that meeting, should she
apologise for that?
DAVEY: I think in saying she regrets the location of the meeting I don’t know how far this
needs to go beyond that, I think we need to let the process take its course and look at our
procedures and take every step to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
MACMILLAN: Matt Keogh, unfortunately this isn’t the first time that allegations have
surfaced about the treatment of female staffers at Parliament House. Is Parliament a safe
workplace for women?
MATT KEOGH MP, SHADOW MINISTER FOR DEFENCE INDUSTRY: Well this is yet
another allegation that’s come up in recent months and we’ve seen a whole new level –
this is an allegation of criminality. All workplaces whether it be here in Parliament or across
the country, criminal behaviour, little own any other sexual misconduct can’t be tolerated
obviously, but it is important we respect the wishes of the complainant and in this case her
welfare is paramount in all of this. It is concerning that she had to go through a process of
being retraumatised, to be brought into a meeting in that office. It is appropriate that regret
has been expressed about that, there hasn’t been any suggestion of an actual apology
from the Minister and it probably is appropriate that the Minister apologises for that, even if
it was inadvertent and there was no malice intended there. I have seen some quotes
suggesting there was some sort of suggestion that women will come across these sorts of
issues. I don’t think anything should be said that suggests this should be normalised. If this
is what has occurred it’s a crime, and all workplaces obviously need to be against crime
being committed in them, especially of this nature so it is concerning and I just hope that
Miss Higgins is looked after and supported through all of this to be able to make the
appropriate decisions about whether she wants to take action or not.
MACMILLAN: Kristina Keneally spoke about Labor developing a new code of practice in
this area to handle complaints. When will that be finalised and does that go far enough? Or
does Labor also need to make improvements in this area?
KEOGH: We already have a code of conduct and that’s a good thing we have that in place
and we are making updates and refinements on that and that’s a process that’s undergoing
consultation with members of the party and staffers and is being run by our National
Secretariat. I’m not sure on the timeline of when they’re intending to finalise that, but I think
its appropriate we have, as political parties, appropriate processes to deal with these
matters so they can be properly responded to and authorities brought in when that’s
MACMILLAN: Let’s move to the vaccine rollout now. As Greg Hunt said we have reached
a major milestone here with the first doses arriving in Australia, Perin Davey, Labor argues
that millions of people around the world have already been vaccinated. Has Australia
moved too slowly here?
DAVEY: There are people that say we’ve moved too slowly, I say we’ve moved with
caution and we’ve moved within proportion as well. The countries around the world who
have seen millions of people vaccinated have also seen hundreds of thousands of people
dying so we don’t have, thankfully, we haven’t had the same level of deaths in Australia
we’ve actually had very low incidences of COVID comparatively speaking as well, and it
could have been considered, we could have been seen as jumping the queue, had we as a
wealthy western nation gone ahead and demanded to be at the front of the queue when
we’ve got people around the world in serious need of more prevention and proportion than
we do proportionately speaking. I think we’ve done well, we’ve got the vaccination coming,
we’re batch testing it now because we’re still proceeding with caution. We want to be safe
our government is focused on making sure that every Australian who wants the vaccination
can be assured that they’re going to get a safe and effective vaccination over the next 12
MACMILLAN: Matt Keogh, Australia has had the benefit of seeing how the vaccination has
rolled out in other countries like the UK, is it fair given that for Labor to criticise the speed
of this rollout? Hasn’t the government just listened to the medical advice here?
KEOGH: Well the key thing is obviously we want to make sure the vaccine gets a TGA
approval, but then we should be ready to go to roll out these vaccines and what we’ve
seen in other countries is they have waited for approvals appropriately, then they’ve been
able to roll out very quickly. For the Phiser vaccine in particular approval has been around
for quite a while and we’ve still had to wait all this time. Prime Minister Morrison promised
that Australia was at the front of the queue and we’re still waiting and we’ll see those
vaccinations rolling out next week. While we understand what the phases are, we don’t
actually know what the plan is? When will each phase start? In the UK for example you can
type in your parameters and you can get an estimate on when you’ll receive the vaccine.
People can find out, it gives them security and certainty about when its going to roll out.
We don’t have that in Australia and the reality is if we’d been at the front of the queue and
we’d been able to get phase one started, vaccinating quarantine workers, vaccinating
border workers, the recent outbreaks we’ve had across multiple states in Australia wouldn’t
have occurred because those workers would have been vaccinated.
MACMILLAN: Alright, Matt Keogh and Perin Davey, thank you very much for your time.