SUBJECTS: COVID-19 and schools in Victoria, Queensland election
Chris Smith: Now the Minister, as you know, has shaken up tertiary education in the last week. He’s working on special visas for overseas students. And, has his views on what’s ahead for child care too, after that major announcement from the Opposition. The Minister joins us from Canberra. Minister Tehan, thank you very much for your time.
Dan Tehan: Pleasure to be with you, Chris.
Smith: Many Melbourne children have returned to school. How confident are you that those school precincts have lifted the bar on their health protocols and we won’t have to close them down quickly?
Tehan: Look, very confident. They’ve had a lot of time to prepare for the students coming back. I think it’s wonderful that the students are back. And, you have to remember, the medical experts have said all along that it’s safe for children to be at school and, as has been demonstrated in states like New South Wales and other places where we have had a COVID outbreak at a school, you’re able to shut it down, clean it, make sure that the students effected quarantine, and then get the school reopened in two or three days. So, I’ve got to say, I’m looking forward to every student being back in Victorian schools right across the state in the near future, and it’s a very welcome development what’s happened today.
Smith: Before we talk about the changes to tertiary education which, I must say, are major, I want to ask you about what you thought occurred today with the Prime Minister. I want you to get to look at this tape. This is the Prime Minister today copping a rough time from protesters. Now, Minister, is that your fault, or is it just an election in the air?
Tehan: Well, look, I think the most important point to make here is that the PM was at The University of Queensland looking at the outstanding work they’re doing towards a vaccine for COVID-19. And, that’s what we should be, basically, focusing on. People have the right to demonstrate, they have the right to protest. But, I must say, ill-advised what they’re doing, when the PM is there trying to back up and support those scientists who are doing outstanding work. And, it’s incredibly humbling to hear about it and see it, trying to get a COVID-19 vaccine, and make us one of the leaders when it comes to getting a vaccine. So, I just think it’s an incredible shame that those people there are trying to detract from what is incredible work that’s being done on behalf of, behalf of our nation. And, I think, the more we focus on all the good that was done at the university by those who were trying to do, find this vaccine, rather than those students who, I’ve got to say, would be better advised either focusing on their study or protesting when, you know, at a different time.
Smith: Yeah. Are you prepared to start campaigning for the Queensland Government, or the Queensland Opposition, I should say, on campus? It may become a little bit volatile.
Tehan: Well, it could become a little bit volatile. I must say, universities have always been a little bit volatile. But, the thing at the moment is, when it comes to Queensland, obviously, the PM’s up there promoting the Budget. He’s had some things to say about the Queensland Health Minister who tried to put him off the work that he’s doing. And, I thought it was incredibly ill-advised, and I thought the PM was quite correct in putting him back in his box. I’m glad to see the PM out there promoting the Budget. It’s an incredible Budget. We gave additional money for research so that we can do that outstanding work when it comes to vaccines or other work. And, he’s absolutely right to be there and doing what he’s doing.
Smith: Okay, I’ve got to run. Dan Tehan, thank you very much for your time.
Tehan: Pleasure Chris.