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Mark Butler

Politics with Michelle Grattan: Mark Butler on the vaccine rollout and democracy in the Labor Party

Mark Butler on the vaccine rollout and democracy in the Labor Party.

Despite this week’s strong economic figures, the pandemic is not as distant in the rearview mirror as many had hoped it would be by now.

In Victoria, cluster outbreaks have forced the state into a new lockdown. With cases amongst aged care workers and residents, the state waits nervously as health authorities battle to contain the situation.

As Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing, Mark Butler is focused on scrutinising the federal government’s handling of pandemic and the aged care sector, and what more should be done.

“The problem is distribution[…] We need to ramp up the aged care vaccination and disability care vaccination. And that just means the Commonwealth needing to engage more teams to do the job.

"They’re doing that in Melbourne right now. But still, we have hundreds and hundreds of aged care facilities that haven’t yet received their second dose. And 98% of residents in disability care haven’t received their second dose. These are priority groups. So that is what the Commonwealth should be doing as a matter of urgency.”

Butler is a former national president of the Labor party and sits on its national executive. This week, rebel backbencher Joel Fitzgibbon called for Labor to scrap the rank and file component in selecting its leader. Currently the Labor leader is elected on a 50-50 basis between the caucus and party membership. Butler firmly rejects the Fitzgibbon call for change.

Indeed, he says he’s held a “strong view” for “many, many years” that there should be more rank and file decision making in the party - not less. But the complication is that with party membership decreasing, membership decisions skew a certain way.

“There is an obligation. You can’t rely upon a shrinking group of party members[…]but what I do know is that it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy if we continue to disrespect our members and just expect them to roll up to polling booths every election day and not really do much else.”

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Additional audio

A List of Ways to Die, Lee Rosevere, from Free Music Archive.

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