Release type: Transcript

Date:

Interview — Channel 9 Today Show with Allison Langdon

Ministers:

The Hon Stuart Robert MP
Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business
Acting Minister for Education and Youth

ALLISON LANGDON:

Oh yeah, the song says it all, doesn't it? That was Rafael Nadal last night pulling off one of the greatest ever victories at Melbourne Park. He came from two sets down to triumph over a stunned Daniil Medvedev. Let's discuss with Acting Education Minister and Employment Minister Stuart Robert who is in Melbourne. And in Sydney, the Deputy Editor of the Daily Telegraph, Anna Caldwell. Nice to see you both this morning. Stuart, a record 21 Grand Slam wins, he had the crowd on his side. Is he the greatest of all time?

MINISTER ROBERT:

The man is the GOAT, the greatest of all time, no question about that, eclipsing Federer. What an extraordinary game. It just goes to show, Anna, it's never done until it's done, from two sets down. Extraordinary achievement.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Anna, I think he is calling you out for the fact you did what I did last night, which is you went to bed after two sets.

ANNA CALDWELL:

I just admitted it, I'm ashamed, I'm so ashamed. I’m a big Rafa fan, but honestly I thought he was down and out. That's the great lesson of tennis, isn’t it, you always regret it if you call it out after two sets. I did. But what a match to catch up on this morning. I have so much regret, and I reckon that has to be one of the best Australian Opens of all them, with Ash, Rafa – meanwhile, Dylan Alcott wins the Australian of the Year. So much going on, what a fantastic couple of weeks.

ALLISON LANGDON:

I don't think I can remember a tournament in recent history that has been exciting as this one, Stuart?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Amazing. And look at Ash's win. A record number of Australians, highest in 20 years, watching it, the whole nation poured out online and television to see it. And to see each Evonne Goolagong Cawley come out at the end, extraordinary. And again with Ash, 5-1 down in the second set. It's never done until it's done. And of course, the Special K boys, we were certainly entertained.

ALLISON LANGDON:

We were, weren’t we? But to see you- with Rafa and Ash, both coming from behind to win there, just to show how mentally tough they are and what such great role models. And then we have, of course, Daniil Medvedev, gracious as ever in defeat.

[Excerpt]

DANIIL MEDVEDEV:

Before the Rafa serves, even in the five set- in the fifth set, there would somebody be- I would be- even be surprised, like, one guy screaming: come on Daniil – and like, thousands of people would be like, dead silence. Before my serve, I didn't hear it. It's disappointing, it's disrespectful, it's disappointing. I'm not sure after 30 years I'm going to want to play tennis.

[End of excerpt]

ALLISON LANGDON:

You know what, I mean, you can almost feel sorry for the Russian, right?

I feel we’re being too mean this morning. Stuart, I mean, he’s the tournament villain, isn’t he? And he plays the part pretty well.

MINISTER ROBERT:

You don't get to come down under and have a dummy spit if you lose. We all lose sometimes and make mistakes. You take it on the chin, you smile, you congratulate Rafa who was the better player on the day. Extraordinary achievement from Rafa. But don't come here and have a cry and say the crowd was mean to me, come on.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Well, I mean, that is it, isn’t it. We’ve seen him in each round, he’s had a blow up or something. With Nick Kyrgios, I think he then accused the crowd of having a low IQ. He went them against Tsitsipas, and then of course last night. Anna, he hates Melbourne, and for I think obvious reasons Melbourne is not too fond of him either.

ANNA CALDWELL:

Yeah, that's right, you certainly get that sense very strongly, don't you Ally? True champions are gracious in defeat. That's what we like to see. But at the same time it is nice to have a villain. It's been quite entertaining. I have really enjoyed the drama of it. He's been a whinger from go to woe, he was a whinger from go to woe, he was a whinger last night. And, you know, there's a good reason for, I think, the way the crowd reacted to him. But I must say I do enjoy having a villain in the Open as well.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Yeah, I’ve kind of enjoyed it too to be honest. It's been fun. I just can't believe the tennis is over. It's been an amazing, amazing two weeks. And now we turn our attention, school is going back. It’s going to be a huge week for millions of school kids facing a very different return to the classroom, while Queensland has finally revealed its plans for the new academic year. Stuart, The Age is reporting this morning that Victorian teachers who fail to get their booster shots from March 15 will be banned from the classroom and eventually sacked. What do you make of this pretty hard line approach?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Four million kids going back to school in the next week or two, which is great. It's been good working with our state and territory counterparts, 320,000 for the first time. Each state is doing it different. As you said, here in Victoria where I am - and well done to Victorians for a great Australian Open here in Melbourne - Victoria is doing it slightly different.

The key thing is plenty of boosters. There are millions and millions of boosters for every single Australian. 7.5 million Australians have had them.

We will leave it to the state education ministers to make those decisions. But there's plenty of boosters, plenty of support.

To all the kids going back today, and mums and dads getting ready, today is a great day. Let's get back into it.

ALLISON LANGDON:

But do you support this idea if you don't get the booster shot by March 15, that you get the sack in Victoria?

MINISTER ROBERT:

The Federal Government has always said we won't be mandating any boosters apart from the critical areas of health care, so we will leave those decisions to the state governments. There will be no criticism from me as the Education Minister to my counterparts who are doing some really heavy lifting getting kids back to school. So, we’ll leave that to the state government.

But again, 7.5 million boosters given. I’ve had mine, they’re available to all Australians.

Let’s get in there, let’s get boosted, let’s get our kids back to school today.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Okay, but you wouldn't mandate. Anna, kids and teachers wearing masks and twice weekly RATs at home. Do you think people are going to comply and do that, and how long do you think that is going to last?

ANNA CALDWELL:

Well, look, I think it will last in terms of the requirements as long as we need them to last. I can't put a timeline on that. But I think you don't need to be a genius to see there will be hurdles along the way. But I think we have to accept that. This is a pandemic; it was never going to be easy. I think fundamentally, at the end of the day, today is a fantastic day. Seeing kids going back to school is a real, sort of, chapter-turning moment in this thing for us. I think it’s important we accept there will be challenges. RATs are a pain, particularly if you can't get your hands on them. Masks are a pain, but we just have to do it, because kids should be at school and we are taking the right approach.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Look, and let's just go back to a moment that Stuart touched on earlier. It was a really magical moment at the tennis. And we’re learning details this morning of that secret plan to sneak Evonne Goolagong Cawley into Melbourne Park without anyone knowing. That’s so she could of course surprise Ash and present her with the winner's trophy. Anna, I loved this. I loved that they turned off the cameras so they could smuggle her in. Only a handful of tennis execs were in the know, and they were able to keep it quiet. It was a beautiful moment, wasn’t it?

ANNA CALDWELL:

It really was beautiful. Now, I promise I didn’t go to sleep in that match. I was obsessed with it all weekend. I teared up. It was incredible and so wonderful to see. I’m so happy that Ash got that moment and I’m so happy that they could pull it off. No small feat keeping a surprise like that.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Karl and I were very lucky to have been in the crowd. It was an incredibly special, special moment to witness that. And Stuart, to see afterwards, there was Evonne, there was Ash, and Cathy Freeman - it was just beautiful.

MINISTER ROBERT:

A bunch of great Australians, and the country turned out to watch. I think the highest television audience this millennia, which goes to show that all of Australia loved it as well.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Yes. Good stuff guys. Well, you enjoy the week ahead, won’t you?