ABC Canberra - COVID-19 restrictions, women in Parliament

ABC Canberra - COVID-19 restrictions, women in Parliament  Main Image

22 July 2021


RADIO INTERVIEW – ABC Canberra – Mornings with Adam Shirley

Thursday, 22 July 2021

SUBJECT: COVID-19 restrictions and border communities

ADAM SHIRLEY, PRESENTER: Is it great in your neck of the woods in the Eden-Monaro electorate or are you struggling a bit? Are you trying to get in the line for a vaccine? How are you finding the restricted movements, what you can and can't do? Given the ongoing COVID threat that is coming from Sydney but has made it into the regions. Kristy McBain is the Labor Member for Eden-Monaro. She along with many other MPs are scheduled to sit at Parliament in a little over a week. But there's still a bit of concern as to whether that would happen and what risks that might pose for the ACT. Kristy McBain Member for Eden-Monaro thank you very much for your time today.


SHIRLEY: There's a few things to look at here. First of all the community you represent, we have had texts and calls in the last week or so of having to drive hours maybe for COVID tests or to get in line for COVID vaccine AstraZeneca or Pfizer, how are you finding the supply and the health support for people living in your electorate?

MCBAIN: Obviously, the supply is still a major concern for regional areas. I've had people contacting the office who have booked in for a Pfizer vaccine in Queanbeyan and have been given dates at the end of October and the start of November, which is quite crazy. We've got other areas where we've got GPs who’ve applied, to be Pfizer hubs and have been knocked back. We've had some good news in that the Braidwood pharmacy is now going to be a vaccination hub, which is fantastic. But that's the only pharmacy in the entire Eden-Monaro region. So, you know, there does need to be a quickening of this vaccination rollout. And it has to make sure that our regional and rural areas get the supply that they need.

SHIRLEY: And in terms of the number of people that are restricted in their movements let alone, whether they can drive hundreds of kilometers, I'm trying to get a sense of how widespread that problem is, given we've already been told a bit about it on mornings.

MCBAIN: From our region's perspective, we don't have any major restriction on our movements. We can travel within regional locations near us, obviously the rules in terms of mask wearing, social distancing, and checking in apply right across New South Wales. But we have been quite lucky in that we can still move within regional New South Wales. Obviously, some members of our electorate are locked out of Victoria. We are making sure that where possible, we don't have anyone coming down from Sydney. And I know that that's been a concern right across the electorate with construction workers coming into parts of the region to do work. And I note the State Member for Bega Andrew Constance has called on his own government to restrict that as well.

SHIRLEY: And looking at the movement into Parliament next week, which is scheduled isn't scheduled it's a little over a week, in fact. What is your view on that living close to the capital region and understanding the ACT’s COVID free status for now?

MCBAIN: Okay, I think it's incumbent upon Parliament to continue to sit. We know last year in the Victorian lockdown that we had members virtually zooming into Parliament. Which is appropriate, we’ve asked our schools, our businesses, we’ve asked everyone to undertake a range of measures. So it's incumbent upon Parliament to continue to provide alternate means of being in attendance at Parliament. There will still be members who are able to get to Parliament, because there is no restriction on their movements, such as myself. But you know, I think it's incumbent upon us to sit and members to be available by electronic means if they're not able to attend in person,

SHIRLEY: How strong is the argument whether some are able to or not, how strong is the argument for most MPs to stay away if you look at the lockdown situation through Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne, for instance.

MCBAIN: So I believe that there are already requirements in place that if members are traveling to the ACT they have to quarantine for two weeks before they enter the ACT. But I would suggest that there are a number of MPs that that won't feel comfortable leaving their electorate when so many other people looked down and that's why it's incumbent upon us to make sure that there are other means to attend, such as those electronic platforms.

SHIRLEY: Just thinking about people in the Eden-Monaro region again, nd testing and vaccination rates. We see what we have in the current state of play with the testing networks, the vaccination supplies that are available. Given what we've got, what is the best way in your region, do you think, to improve testing and also vaccination rates?

MCBAIN: Look Well, I've had major issues with testing across regional areas. In Cooma, for example, you can't be tested after midday. In the Snowy Valleys region in Tumut, there's only a testing clinic open five hours a week during work hours. On the south coast, down in Bega, there is no testing available on Sundays. So there are quite a number of issues with testing. A lot of people have been in contact with me over delays that are taking place out of the Queanbeyan testing clinic. On top of that, we're obviously in winter and the standing queues around parts of the Queanbeyan Hospital, obviously aren't the best conditions to be standing around in whilst waiting to be tested. And there's a drive through testing clinic coming soon and I think it's incumbent upon the New South Wales Government to make sure that there are a variety of testing options for people right across the state.

SHIRLEY: Kristy McBain is the federal Member for Eden-Monaro. Adam Shirley with you on ABC Radio Canberra at it’s 16 past nine. Another issue that we were discussing before nine o'clock Ms McBain and something that you might have experienced yourself as Mayor of Bega or as a Member of Federal Parliament, the way that we all dress, we make decisions about why we wear certain clothing compared to other clothing. But how much? To what degree? Have you been judged for things you wear in your professional life?

MCBAIN: I remember jumping on a social media platform after we had opened an intersection when I was the Mayor of the Bega Valley. And there were a lot of comments on what I was wearing. And I never jumped into those comments. But I find that usually comments start to correct themselves and they were commenting on, you know that they didn't think I was dressed up enough for the occasion.

SHIRLEY: Dressed up enough. What do they expect a cocktail dress and heels or something? Or?

MCBAIN: Well, that was one of the comments. What do you expect her to wear a cocktail dress and then someone else wrote ‘the bloke next to her is in hi-vis? Like what do you want her in? You know, it's quite interesting that that's still a phenomenon that that happens. You know, it's difficult enough getting up in the morning trying to figure out what to wear for the day. But then to worry about the potential comments and fallout from what you're wearing is a whole other level that, you know, someone who can just wear a suit and tie probably doesn't really have to deal with.

SHIRLEY: Does it pervade and creep into your consciousness even though you don't want to?

MCBAIN: Look, I try very hard not to let it. But obviously, those things still exist. I mean, when we look back at Julia Gillard’s Prime Ministership, and most of the commentary on that first day was about the jacket she wore. So you know, as much as we would like those issues not to be there. They still currently are.

SHIRLEY: How do you get around that? If you're at the receiving end of it? Is there any way or is it just on everyone else to pull their socks up and do better?

MCBAIN: Oh, look, I think it's probably on all of us to make sure that we can move away from that. That we don't allow those things to creep into social commentary, that we don't allow it to creep into media commentary. And that way we can be judged on the work we're doing. Not what we're wearing.

SHIRLEY: Kristy McBain, we'll see how all the rest of the Eden-Monaro community holds up and whether the vaccination rates and the testing rates can improve for people who are in that queue. Thank you for your time today.

MCBAIN: Thank you very much.

SHIRLEY: Kristy. McBain is the federal Member for Eden-Monaro. Adam Shirely with you as well. I wonder how much of that resonates with you. If you live in Eden-Monaro.