4BC with Scott Emerson - 17 August 2021

SUBJECTS: Situation in Afghanistan, Covid-19 & the Vaccination Rollout

EMERSON:  We're joined by the Federal member for Oxley and of course the former ALP State Secretary, Milton Dick, how are you?

DICK:  G'day Scott, g'day to all your listeners this week.

EMERSON:  Now let me just check, you, you were down in Federal Parliament last week, what's your status now? Are you, um, down there still in, in isolation for 14 days or what?

DICK:  Yeah, look, I'm currently in Canberra, we're hopeful that the Parliament will resume next week. There are some obviously some serious issues that the Opposition want to raise but I think all Australians want the Parliament to be operating, you know COVID's taken a lot out of the Economy and taken a lot out of people's lives at the moment, but I certainly am arguing that Parliament should sit. It sat during World War Two.

There are very serious issues, Scott, that the nation are facing at the moment. And I think our nation's capital, no matter what your politics, needs to meet, to make sure we can deal with these issues in a methodical and orderly way, and from my point of view and Anthony Albanese's his point of view, as the opposition, we've got a job to do to hold the government to account, and listening to some of your show today and some of your call-ins. I think it's more important that the Parliament sits and we start asking some of those questions.

EMERSON:  We just had Peter Dutton on 4BC drive. Well, explaining what the situation is at the moment in terms of getting people out of Afghanistan, he makes the point of course that we're not going to put our lives at risk in terms of those missions back into Afghanistan and those horrific scenes we're seeing out of Kabul, but I think most people would be shocked by how quickly Kabul has fallen to the Taliban and the chaos. And we're seeing there on the ground, and including those horrific images of people plunging from the Globemaster planes as they left the tarmac.

DICK:  It's something like out of a movie, except it's real life. Now Scott, I was privileged to be in Afghanistan in 2017 as part of the Australian Defence Force Parliamentary Program, and got to meet firsthand some of the brave men and women - just like listener Pete was talking about before I came on here - to thank them personally. But also to get an understanding of exactly what was happening on the ground in Afghanistan and also got to meet some of those people who are Afghan nationals who were working alongside the Australians.

So, I have been thinking a lot about those people over the last 24 hours we're now seeing the tragic, and I think just terrible things that we're seeing. People desperate to flee, such a brutal and murderous regime. And I think all Australians are touched by that and also deeply moved. You know, whether you agree the mission was a success or not, you know, I think there are a lot of questions now about whether it has been an orderly transition out by the United States and its allied partners. I think these are the sorts of issues that we've got to confront but in the meantime, the short term, we've got a whole range of people that we need to get out of the country but also Australians in nearby host countries that have been trapped due to COVID.

I've been talking to some residents that have had family members, trapped nearby, and they're concerned about these are Australian citizens in nearby countries and now that the Taliban are on the move, they are very fearful for their families. So whether it be those tragic scenes that we're seeing, but also Afghan-Australians, I know in my community, are terrified about what's going to happen to their family members, but also some of the Australians that are trapped nearby as well, it's just a devastating situation all around.

EMERSON:  I think one of the criticisms we've been hearing last 24 hours of the Federal Government, is whether they acted too slowly in terms of how they've been dealing with the situation there in Afghanistan, and the risk to those on the ground, what's your view about that?

DICK:  Look, I don't want to be too political with this situation because I want to support what the National Government is doing, but you know the feedback I've been getting from emails from residents who are genuinely concerned about the scenes there. I mean the warnings have been in place by the veterans community and by even members of the government and also former Liberal Prime Ministers and Labor Prime Ministers that have been saying, what is the plan to make sure when these troops are removed? What happens?

I guess they're the questions that a lot of Australians are asking, I want to play a constructive role today Scott and say that whatever the Government needs to do, I want to play my role in helping them evacuate as quickly as possible and I'm pleased the Defense Minister came on the show and outlined the position. We've all now got to work together to make sure that, clearly, the lives of many people as possible, can be saved. And that also we think about the veterans that have served, and also think about the families that are watching the scenes for the people who have served overseas and just the trauma that that's bringing them, and encouraging them and all Australians to get help if they need that through Open Arms, the Federal Government support network, so that we do everything we can to not only honor the 41 brave people that gave their lives in service for our nation, but also think about some 30 or 40 thousand veterans that did serve, are ADF personnel in that field, you know we're going to carry this for a long time as a nation, and I want to do my bit to support them in every way that I can.

EMERSON:  We can only hope that those, those things we're seeing at Kabul airport today, there is some sort of salvation for so many people there but I see that, unfortunately, with the Taliban now very much in control, that the situation may even get worse over the next couple of days. Let's just turn to COVID now, Milton Dick, and that breaking news this afternoon of New Zealand is going into a - the entire country is going to do a three day lockdown, Auckland into a seven day lockdown. That was after just one case, in, in Auckland. Obviously, we now have four city capitals in lockdown here in Australia. The situation, it is not getting better and obviously in Sydney we are worried I think here in Queensland. About that massive numbers of cases again overnight in, uh, South of the Tweed.

[Connection Interrupted}

EMERSON:  I seem to have lost Milton Dick, I don't know what's happened to him there.

[Connection Restored]

DICK:  Sorry Scott.

EMERSON:  I just lost you there for some reason there.

DICK:  Sorry about that mate, what was that question?

EMERSON:  We've got you back here again, I was just reading that breaking news regarding New Zealand, that New Zealand's going into, the entire country is going into a seven day lockdown, Auckland two or three day lockdown off just one case, we've got four capital cities here in Australia in lockdown situation. It goes from bad to worse at the moment here as well, particularly South of the Tweed.

DICK:  It sure does. And, you know the cost to the community just seems to be growing on a daily basis, it used to be on a weekly basis but with these further outbreaks and Delta. It just goes to show just the critical time that our nation is in at the moment. And obviously encouraging that those new doses that have arrived from overseas, you know, they should have arrived earlier, we should have been on top of this beforehand. And sadly, because we don't have the vaccines as much as we need and as quickly as we need. We're seeing these terrible outbreaks occurring, and, you know, I'm hopeful that quick lock downs we saw in Queensland, so far so good, but you know I don't think we're out of the worst of this just yet. Northern Territory and now our Kiwi Neighbours are going through the same thing again, so you know Scott, we keep talking about this but you know we've got to make sure that people are getting the vaccines, and we've got to make sure that supply is ongoing, to make sure that we end these lockdowns and then we get our economy back humming as quickly as we can.

EMERSON:  In terms of ending the lockdowns, a lot of the debate has been about the vaccination rates 70%, 80%. Annastacia Palaszczuk here in Queensland today said even with an 80% vaccination rate here in Queensland, she doesn't know if that will mean the end of lockdowns, if we still have delta in the community, what's your view about that?

DICK:  Well, I mean I've seen the Doherty sort of report, which has indicated a roadmap of dealing with that. So far the Prime Minister hasn't really outlined exactly how that's going to happen, obviously if he's talking to Queenslanders, we don't want to go into lockdown like we're seeing in our southern states, you know. I want to reserve my right to see exactly what happens with the rest of the country. You know this is a state by state, kind of proposition at the moment, the whole country needs to be locked down, but I gotta tell you, you know, hearing the cases in the ACT where now schoolchildren need to be vaccinated, that hasn't been factored into as well. I think these are some serious issues and I'm calling on the government to make sure our supply, but also our supplies of boosters - and that's the other issue that we haven't properly addressed yet - I mean, we're still dealing with phase one of this, of actually getting the vaccine into people's arms, but where does this lead in the next couple of years, in terms of how are we ensuring if we need it and if it's required, we have enough booster shots as well, to make sure that the other variants - that I'm sure no doubt will be coming down the line - you know we've got South American issues and Australians over there. So, this is a big question Scott but I'm hopeful that the economy and the community will get vaccinated as soon as possible. That's the simplest way to end a lockdown, then moving forward I’m hopeful that'll be the case.

EMERSON:  Alright Milton Dick, good to speak to you, catch you again next week.

DICK:  Thanks, Scott.