TASMANIAN TALKS WITH MIKE O’LOUGHLIN
WEDNESDAY, 28 APRIL 2021
SUBJECT/S: Port Arthur 25th anniversary, International Workers’ Memorial Day, Tasmanian state election.
MIKE O’LOUGHLIN, HOST: I’ve got Federal Member for Lyons Brian Mitchell on for our regular chat. Brian, how are you?
BRIAN MITCHELL, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR LYONS: Good morning Mike, how are you and your listeners?
O’LOUGHLIN: Well thank you, can’t speak for my listeners but I’m sure most of them are well
MITCHELL: Pleased to hear it.
O’LOUGHLIN: Listen, 25th anniversary of the Port Arthur shooting, an incredible moment, and a lot of people still very raw just remembering.
MITCHELL: it’s hard to believe it’s been 25 years – a quarter of a century – it remains very raw. 35 people, men women and children lost their lives on that day. There’s a memorial service down in Port Arthur at 1 o’clock which I’m on my way to now actually just to quietly reflect on that tragic loss. It’s quite a sombre week more generally, Mike, because we had Anzac Day on Sunday, Port Arthur today and today’s also International Worker’s Memorial day where we remember those who lost their lives and were injured at work and tomorrow’s I’ve got a funeral for Brian O’Byrne, father of David and Michelle O’Byrne and a wonderful man. So, look, it’s not the best of weeks but all our thoughts are of course with the family and friends of those who died at Port Arthur 25 years ago today.
O’LOUGHLIN: Indeed, it is a very sombre week. When you talk about International Worker’s Day, a lot of people probably aren’t aware of that, are they Brian?
MITCHELL: They are unaware. It’s a significant international day commemorated every year on April 28. There’s always a service in Launceston in the morning and Hobart in the afternoon. People wouldn’t be aware of this, but I think we lost something like 32 workers in Tasmania over five years between 2014-19. We’re losing too many people – Tasmania is overrepresented in the number of worker deaths per head of population and it all comes down to health and safety at work.
O’LOUGHLIN: I can actually help you out with a few of those figures if you like. In 2019, six workers in Tasmania were killed according to Safe Work Australia. Equating it, it all works out to 2.4 per 100,000 workers being the second worst rate in the country.
MITCHELL: It is, and what those stats don’t take into account and they way they choose to relay those figures, what they don’t take into account is the people who take their own lives and of course some people take their own lives due to workplace stresses. There’s a fair amount of work that needs to be done to dive down into these issues, but the key message here of course is that no worker should leave for work in the morning and not come home. We should have safe working conditions for all our workers and that’s what today is all about – remembering those we’ve lost and to fight like hell for the living.
O’LOUGHLIN: Good call. Look, what about funding for the worker’s memorial in Launceston. How’s that travelling?
MITCHELL: Not well, unfortunately. This has been in train for about 10 years now. Guy, the father of Matthew who died in a workplace incident some years ago, he’s behind the plans, and architect has drawn up the plans and it’s been given the big tick off but it’s just waiting on funding from the government. And as guy say, he’s spoken personally to the Premier and the premier said, “put your application in” and he’s done that, and he keeps getting knocked back. We just can’t understand why this wonderful commemoration and sign of respect for workers in Tasmania who’ve lost their lives isn’t going ahead. It’s a pretty simple thing to do and it would make a real difference to many families in Launceston who’ve lost loved ones at work. They could go there to that park, walk around it and just have that quite reflection that they deserve.
O’LOUGHLIN: Tasmanian Worker’s Commemorative Park. Guy Hudson started the ball rolling, if you will, in particular to memorialise his 16-year-old son Matthew who was killed on the job back in 2004.
MITCHELL: That’s right, Matthew died in 2004 but I think the park has been in train since about 2011. I think that’s when Guy really pushed for the park and he just can’t make headway. I mean, he’s spoken to the Premier, he’s gone as high as you can go in Tasmania and the Premier sort of said “put your funding application in” and he’s gone through all the proper processes and it’s just not getting through to whoever makes those decisions. So, look, if I’ve got a request for this [state] election and I know Rebecca White has committed to that funding if she was elected, but to Peter Gutwein – let’s make this bipartisan. Let’s commit to this funding for this park.
O’LOUGHLIN: Just as I’ve asked the other federal pollies, Brian, I’ll ask you the same. Upcoming state election - you just touched on it there with Rebecca White - how’s it travelling from your side of politics?
MITCHELL: Look, I think there’s been a real shift in the past couple of weeks. There’s no doubt the campaign got off to a bit of a rocky start – there’s no hiding that fact – but there’s been a real shift. Everywhere I go and everywhere the volunteers are telling me they’ve gone and when I speak to the state candidates, it’s health, health, and health. It’s just the state of the health system and they want someone who can fix it. Now look, there’s no hiding the fact that under the previous Labor government there were issues with the health system as well but they’ve learned from that and what Rebecca White has done with Bastien Seidel, Labor’s health spokesperson who’s also a GP, is put together a comprehensive health plan. It’s a $197 million health system for rural and regional health alone. We’re talking about 24/7 care in the regions, we’re talking about taking pressure off the ambulance and emergency systems by having GP bulk billing clinics through the state. It’s a comprehensive plan, I think the first one that been developed in years by any party, so if Labor was to win this [state] election, health would be the number one priority.
O’LOUGHLIN: And let’s talk federally about the vaccine rollout Brian. It’s still shambolic at best.
MITCHELL: Hit the nail on the head there, Mike. Shambolic at best. I think it’s still a feast of errors. There’s a clinic down in the south of Hobart there, they’ve got 1100 people on the waiting list and they’re only getting 50 doses., you know. I’ve got clinics through my electorate who don’t know when they’re getting doses, there’s aged care staff who aren’t getting vaccinated and they’re right on the front line of what needs to happen. If they’re not vaccinate then they’re a risk to the people that they’re looking after so it’s just an absolute mess I’m afraid and it’s going to take a long time to get it sorted out.
O’LOUGHLIN: Look, I tend to agree but still Scott Morrison, you’ve got to admit, is still performing well in that regard because his popularity is right up there. I would’ve thought there’d be a shift but no, he’s still up there.
MITCHELL: I don’t think a reflection of how well he’s doing the job. I think what he’s managed to do quite successfully is handball responsibility to the states and the states have done a pretty good job in running things more generally but then Morrison comes in and tries to take the credit for it. I think people are rewarding him for the work of the state premiers and the state governments, but I think that’s starting to come off. Look, and I don’t comment on the polls –
O’LOUGHLIN: Well, we haven’t seen many polls down here, Brian, that’s the thing! What polls?
MITCHELL: (laughs) Well when I talk to people in the community, there’s not too many people who with a good word to say about the bloke.
O’LOUGHLIN: Well Brian, I appreciate having our regular chat, appreciate it very much, and we’ll have a chat again in another fortnight’s time and of course we’ll see what happens on the weekend with the election. Brian Mitchell, Federal Member for Lyons – good to talk to you.
MITCHELL: Thanks, Mike.