Television Interview with Natalie Barr – Sunrise – Friday 22 September 2023





SUBJECTS: Rupert Murdoch; COVID Inquiry

NATALIE BARR: Sussan Ley joins me now, along with Education Minister, Jason Clare. Good morning to both of you in the studio today.


BARR: Jason, Rupert Murdoch obviously redefined the media world, an Australian on the world stage, 70 years. An amazing career. What do you think of today’s announcement?

CLARE: I think that Rupert Murdoch will still play a very big role in the media going forward, whether he’s Chairman or not, it appears that he’ll still play a very big role at Fox and at News.

BARR: He says, Sussan, that he will take an emeritus role, an honorary role in that organisation.  Do you think it will change Fox?

SUSSAN LEY: Time will tell, Nat. He’s keeping an eye on what’s going on, that’s for sure. But I think that somebody who’s working and busy and engaged at 92 is a great message for all older Australians actually. We used to step away and think we had to not be involved in the workplace or the workforce after 65, as I was growing up, and isn’t it terrific that this is such a strong message for all older Australians. That side of life can bring great benefits and great interests.

BARR: Moving on, the Prime Minister has been accused of going soft on his COVID Inquiry by refusing to examine border closures and lockdowns by State Governments. Deputy Opposition Leader, Sussan Ley, says the PM is putting political interests ahead of Australia’s interests and shielding Labor Premiers from proper scrutiny. The 12‑month inquiry will instead examine things like vaccine supplies and quarantine arrangements made at a Federal level under Scott Morrison.

You really came out swinging yesterday. Why is it so important?

LEY: This is Anthony Albanese’s COVID cop-out, Nat, and I live on the border between New South Wales and Victoria, and for everyone today who absolutely knows this inquiry needs to go ahead, I want them to know that we’re in your corner. For people who were smashed by those lockdowns, 32 closures across the Murray River, the actions of the Premier of Victoria make people in my community angry now.

This is the Prime Minister looking after his Labor mates at State Government level. How can you possibly have an inquiry that doesn’t look at the totality of what this did, in a way that actually allows us to learn how to do better next time? Unfortunately there may well be a next time. We need Australians to come together and to know how we can learn the lessons. But I came out strongly, because I was shocked, I was angry, and on behalf of people who were affected by this, we do need those answers.

BARR: Jason, it is hard to find support for the way you have set up this inquiry as a government this morning. Why aren’t the States included?

CLARE: They are. The Prime Minister got asked this question yesterday, and he said they can look at everything.

BARR: They’re not in the scope though, are they?

CLARE: He was asked yesterday, can they look at what the States did, can they look at cross‑border issues, like Sussan just mentioned, can they look at lockdowns, and he said yes. So they can look at all of that.

Now I don’t think Australians really want to relive what happened two years ago, but we have to. This was a nightmare. It cost people’s lives, it shut the economy down. Two years ago it was illegal for me to step off my driveway after 9 o’clock at night.

BARR: Exactly. So you’re saying that the States and the way the premiers handled the lockdowns, all the closures, the border closures, will be investigated comprehensively by this inquiry, ’cause it’s not in the scope.

CLARE: Yeah. I think the key thing here is this should not be about blame, right.


CLARE: Politicians did their best, whether it’s Scott Morrison or Dan Andrews or Gladys Berejiklian, I think everybody did their best. They didn’t get everything right, that’s for sure. We’ve made mistakes, but there was no rule book. I remember Scott Morrison making this point, and he was right. The last time we’d had a pandemic was 100 years earlier. But Sussan, you’re right when you say that we’ve got to assume that this will happen again. This was like a movie we never wanted to see, the sequel is often worse, and if we work on the basis that this is history, I think that that’s being a little bit naive.

BARR: Okay. 

LEY: So just for the Prime Minister to say that unilateral actions of State Governments will be out of scope is not right. We need to actually look at what the rationale for some of those closures were, what the effect was, so indeed we do learn from our mistakes.

BARR: Exactly. It’s just interesting it’s not written in the scope that you’re going to investigate State Premiers.

CLARE: Sure. But when he was asked can they look at it, he said yes.

BARR: Yeah, just why not is it written down. It just feels a bit rubbery, doesn’t it?

CLARE: But the whole approach shouldn’t be about blaming people for…

BARR: No one’s saying blaming, I think people are saying investigating.

CLARE: Yeah.

BARR: Just so we know.

CLARE: Just so we do a better job next time.

BARR: Yep.

CLARE: And I think that’s what all Aussies want.

BARR: Yep.

CLARE: They’re not interested in this sort of political argy‑bargy, they know what happened. They want to make sure that if, God forbid, that in two years’ time something happens again…

BARR: So just weird it’s not written in there.

CLARE: …that we do a better job.

BARR: Yeah, so why wouldn’t it be written in there?

LEY: They know what happened, they just want to know why…

BARR: Yeah.

LEY: …in some cases, because they don’t have those answers.

CLARE: Yeah, and in some cases, Premiers made decisions, in some cases the Federal Government made decisions.

BARR: Exactly.

CLARE: A lot of it was done together. The key thing is if something…

BARR: They will investigate it.

CLARE: …like this happens again, that we’re better prepared.

BARR: Okay. Well, you’ve heard it here. There you go. Government Ministers saying the States will be investigated in that inquiry today.

ENDSMedia Contact: Nick Trainor