With Catherine King MP, Shadow Minister for Health and Medicare, and Dr Mike Freelander MP, Member for Macarthur.
SUBJECT: Turnbull – One Nation media deal provides a taxpayer-funded platform for anti-vaxxers on the ABC.
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND MEDICARE:
I just want to make some comments about the appalling comments by Senator Burston on Sky News earlier today, on vaccination. One Nation have a history of spreading misinformation when it comes to vaccination in this country and I want to condemn the comments that were made today in the strongest possible terms. There is no debate about vaccination. There are no ‘sides’ in this debate. The science is well and truly settled when it comes to vaccination. We have a very privileged position in this place, in this Parliament, as leaders in this community. When a leader in this community, like the Senator, seeks to spread misinformation about vaccination, that has serious public health consequences. The Government needs to call on One Nation and condemn these comments in the strongest possible terms. We have had launched over the weekend a campaign to improve the vaccination rate and to, once and for all, put to bed some of this misinformation. One Nation needs to be condemned in the strongest possible terms.
We want parents to know that vaccinations are the safest possible way to protect your children from those terrible diseases, measles, whooping cough, and those diseases that we hope we’ll never see again. Those in the developing world are desperately vaccinating their children. We want to make sure that vaccination is supported in this country and supported by political leaders. I am going to ask Michelle Rowland to talk a little bit about the grubby deal the Government has done that has resulted in One Nation having this platform today, and I’ll also ask Mike Freelander, our terrific paediatrician we have here in the Australian Parliamentary Labor Party, to make some comments as well.
MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS:
Communications Minister Fifield issued a statement yesterday welcoming the constructive engagement of One Nation of the issue of media ownership changes. Well, we now know what that ‘constructive engagement’ is. It’s about giving so-called ‘fair and balanced’ reporting to all sides of certain debates, including anti-vaccination. We don’t need this kind of rhetoric from One Nation. These kinds of beliefs are undermining, directly undermining Government policy. This shows what happens when you have a Government that is as weak as the one we have now. We have a Prime Minister such as Malcolm Turnbull who is becoming increasingly unhinged. This is what happens when you give a platform to One Nation to spout this kind of rhetoric, these kinds of threats. They are totally unacceptable and the Minister should come out, and indeed the Prime Minister should come out and condemn them in the strongest possible terms. Mike.
DR MIKE FREELANDER: Let’s be quite clear about this here, the One Nation view is the anti-science view. Immunisation in Australia saves lives, and continues to do so. That this Government, this Turnbull Government, would allow comments by One Nation to go uncriticised is just pathetic. They are in bed with One Nation, they’re agreeing to One Nation’s anti-science policies, it’s an absolute disgrace. Now, immunisation saves lives, still saves lives in Australia. We must increase our immunisation rates. Anything we can do to increase our immunisation rates is a good thing, and this comment by an Australian Senator is a disgrace and must not go uncriticised by Government. I am very upset about this. I have seen these diseases that kill children, and it just can’t go on if we accept One Nation’s comments as okay, it’s just not. I have delivered to One Nation the Australian Academy of Science booklet on the science of immunisation. They clearly haven’t read it. They are an absolute disgrace. It’s shameful that they are in Australian Parliament and we need to criticise them at every turn for their anti-science policy.
KING: Thanks, Mike. You can just see how passionate Mike is about this issue and, in fact, how angry Mike is about this issue. I know everybody in the medical fraternity will be angry about it and that there are parents across the country who are very angry about it today. We’re happy to take your questions.
JOURNALIST: Michelle, if abolishing the 2 out of 3 rule is going to go ahead, why wouldn’t Labor go back to the negotiating table to get a more responsible deal that doesn’t attack the ABC.
ROWLAND: Because Labor’s position is that we have one of the most concentrated media markets in the world and the answer for that is not to make it more concentrated. And let me be clear, Labor supports all other elements of the Government’s Bill that is before the Parliament. We support the repeal of the reach rule. We support the abolition of licence fees for free-to-air commercial broadcasters. We do not support the abolition of the 2 out of 3 rule, and quite frankly, for anyone on the cross-bench to think it is up for trade is something that is absolutely disgraceful. It should not be a matter of either/or. It should not be a matter of funding properly our community broadcasters at the expense of media diversity. It should not be a matter that this has now become a package about cutting and gutting the ABC. That is exactly what it has become.