Today Show 04/01/22

04 January 2022

SUBJECTS: Australians at their most vulnerable and most contagious abandoned by Scott Morrison; Australians either unable to find rapid antigen tests or being ripped off when they do; Queensland COVID restrictions; Words to avoid in 2022.  




SUBJECTS: Australians at their most vulnerable and most contagious abandoned by Scott Morrison; Australians either unable to find rapid antigen tests or being ripped off when they do; Queensland COVID restrictions; Words to avoid in 2022.  

SARAH ABO, HOST: Pressure is growing on the Prime Minister this morning to make rapid antigen tests free even as supply dwindles. At the same time our health system is buckling under pressure, testing centres shutting their doors in New South Wales as Queenslanders are asked to stay home and Victorian hospitals tell patients to stay away. Well for more we're joined by Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers and writer for The Guardian Australia Van Madam - Badham - Van Badham.  Gee, I knew I'd stuff that up. Van, I'm sorry!


VAN BADHAM, GUARDIAN AUSTRALIA: That's OK. Happens all the time, all the time.

ABO: Good morning to you both. Jim, let's start with you shall we. Some places have begun offering payment for these tests through Afterpay. I mean, innovation just continues in this pandemic?

JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: I think it's getting to a pretty mad stage now. People are either going without or they're getting absolutely ripped off, and the only alternative is to stand in lines for half a day, or for the best part of a day. I think what's making people absolutely filthy about this is they know that they've got a Prime Minister who's prepared to spray tens of billions of dollars around wasting it on marginal seat rorts but says that he can't afford to make tests accessible and affordable for people.

We can't have a situation where people at their most vulnerable and their most contagious are wandering around shopping centres looking for tests that don't exist, and if they do they're getting ripped off. And if they don't they're being left undiagnosed, which is leaving their co-workers and their loved ones more vulnerable.

I think the question for Scott Morrison today is how many people have to go undiagnosed or how many people have to get ripped off or faint in testing queues before this bloke will actually do his job and take responsibility and fix this mess that he's made of rapid testing.

ABO: I mean, rapid antigen tests are available to some in the community but of course the majority of us do have to pay. Now the boss of Chemist Warehouse wants the GST dropped on those tests. What impact do you think that will have? Do you think that will make them more available, people more likely to buy them?

CHALMERS: Obviously, price is one of the big issues here. People are getting absolutely smashed. There's story after story of people paying $30 and $40 and $50 for tests that should be in the single digits. People are getting smashed. That's because the Government won't let the ACCC, or won't empower the ACCC, to do its work here, they're just sitting on their hands while Australians are getting comprehensively ripped off.

The GST is an issue here, on the face of it it's something that should be explored. The Government needs to explain why these tests are treated differently to some of the other essential aspects of our health system. But the primary issues here are access and affordability. Those are Scott Morrison's responsibility. He likes to talk about taking personal responsibility. It's time he took personal responsibility for this mess that he's made of rapid antigen tests.

Too many people either going undiagnosed or being ripped off, wandering through our shops and chemists when they're contagious and vulnerable and this must end.

ABO: That's right Van, as Jim pointed out there, obviously we have seen the price gouging happening everywhere. There's a Sydney service station that's been charging $30 for a single test. I mean this didn't happen with toilet paper, it's getting out of control isn't it?

BADHAM: Yeah. Well, the Liberal Government abandoned the anti-price gouging legislation Australia used to have back in 2018. They said they were cutting red tape. So this is another thing that's on them. There was an excellent thread by Wendy Harmer about this on Twitter the other day, talking about how we used to have protections in place to stop this from happening. I'm very excited to hear there are rapid antigen tests going for $30, because I've heard of places that are charging $45 or $50. On Boxing Day, I paid $50 for a pack of five. They're now $180 for a pack of five online. It's outrageous. And if you can't afford it, you can't afford it. And Scott Morrison seems to think that that's acceptable. Well, it's not. And how out of touch does he seem with ordinary Australian families to think that we've all got that kind of money to just spend on these tests. We don't. So why are we facing this terrifying crisis. People are dropping like flies. I know so many people who are sick now and yet it's become a haves and have nots issue. I just can't believe this is happening in Australia. You know, in Ireland you phone a government hotline and they deliver rapid antigen tests free to your house. You know, in Britain they're free. In America, they're free. But we're not good enough for free rapid antigen tests in this country. How on earth do we have a Prime Minister still in office who has that attitude? It's self-righteous.

ABO: Well, I guess the situation is getting out of hand now. Jim, the Queensland Premier is urging people to stay home amid rising cases. As a Queenslander, you must be worried about that?

CHALMERS: I think the point that Annastacia Palaszczuk was making was a common sense point, which is that if you don't need to go somewhere - and especially if you're not boosted or you're vulnerable in some other way - then be smart about the choices that you make, where you subject yourself to big crowds or venues that you don't need to be in. Make a good judgement and a good decision based on common sense and I think people, largely, will accept that from the Premier. Whether it's those views on going to big venue or the rest of it, the most important thing is we get boosted. The booster arrangements are changing. People need to stay across when those boosters are available. Again, we've had some issues with supply. We don't want to see a repeat of the debacle of the original vaccines rollout. Being boosted is the key and the point that Annastacia was making is if you're not boosted or you're vulnerable in some other way and also for the broader communities, make smart choices about where you go and when.

ABO: But it is tough, isn't it? I mean, we're supposed to be open when in reality, as you say, people are really kind of putting restrictions upon themselves. Meaning, ultimately, we're closed. I mean, these are businesses that have been hurting throughout the pandemic who are now seeing people stay home and not come to, you know, there's no patronage, I mean that's going to have an impact?

CHALMERS: Obviously, all of it’s tough but Annastacia Palaszczuk is not saying avoid small businesses. She's not saying stay home entirely, she's saying make smart decisions about where you go. My advice to people is to do that. There's a way to do that and still support small businesses in your local community as many people still are, just be smart about it, just exercise common sense.

ABO: Indeed, and I think a lot of people are doing that as you say. Finally today guys, a university in the US has released a list of overused and therefore banished words in 2022, in an attempt to protect language they say. They include 'you're on mute', 'wait, what?', 'no worries', and 'new normal'. Van, I'd get your response but I think you might be on mute?

BADHAM: No, I'm never on mute!


BADHAM: As many people know to their peril! I hate lists like this, I just find them the absolute hype of snobbery and it's putting down the way that ordinary people talk. I don't want to go into a shop where Australians don't say 'no worries'. I feel very comfortable using that in my conversations. And I've got to say, as a journalist, there are a lot of rules around writing and the whole point is to make yourself clear. And the thing is, that if people understand you and they understand your meaning, it's acceptable. Like, grammar Nazis and these people who want to impose, like, codes. Basically, what this gets down to, is a list of very hoity toity, status-obsessed individuals, who like to judge the way that ordinary people talk. And I just think that's not on. I like the way I talk. I like the fact that I have a bogan accent that goes through my nose, and I want to say 'no worries' I will say no worries.


ABO: 'No worries' is one of my catchphrases too Van, I'm with you. I mean, some terms I could do without are things like 'pivot'. I mean, have we not heard the end of that?

BADHAM: We have a right to know if we're dealing with a person who we don't like. And if somebody's, like, 'let's circle back', let's take it as read, let's put that on the table, these are important codes for knowing that you're dealing with a genuinely unpleasant person.


ABO: Jim, what would you get rid off?

CHALMERS: I saw that article and I had the same reaction to you guys. The one that jagged with me was 'no worries'. If you took out 'no worries' from the Australian vocabulary there would be a big hole there, so I'm a bit with Van on this, whatever works for you.

My line of work is probably guilty of relying on phrases and slogans that end up jagging with people, and if I never had to hear the Prime Minister talking about 'shaking and baking' the economy again, that'd be a good outcome. But on the whole, whatever works for you works for us.

ABO: Let's throw a few more on that barbie!


ABO: OK, thanks so much Van and Jim, appreciate your time.

BADHAM: Take care darling – ‘no worries’!