TUESDAY, 20 JULY 2021
SUBJECTS: Sydney Lockdown; JobKeeper; Vaccine Rollout Stuff Up
PETER STEFANOVIC; HOST: Well let's go live now Jason Clare the Shadow Minister for Housing, also the member for Blaxland, west of Sydney. Jason, good to see you. Thanks for your time as always. I just want to start by asking what sort of messaging you're getting from your constituents at the moment? A lot of people in the Western Sydney area are under a lot of pressure.
JASON CLARE; SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS: A lot of people are angry and frustrated. This is now the epicentre of the lockdown here in Sydney. Mass confusion is probably the best way to describe it. We got this message on the weekend that if you live in the local government area then you can't leave for work unless you work in certain different occupations. There was one list that was put out on Saturday morning and then another list that was put out on Sunday, so my office has been inundated with people just asking the simple question, am I allowed to leave the area or not? Does this job qualify or not? Even people asking simple questions like I'm supposed to go to a funeral in Sutherland, am I allowed to leave the local government area to do that or not? Now of course they can, but it's understandable that people are going to be really confused.
STEFANOVIC: When it comes to this pause on construction. What do you make of that and would you be urging a rethink for the New South Wales government?
CLARE: If the health advice is that it's got to be shut down at least for the next couple of weeks to stop the spread of the virus, then fair enough. But it's going to have a big impact. It has an impact in my local community where a lot of the people who can't work are tradies, labourers or builders. There's a hell of a lot of people in the building game here in Western Sydney. And it'll have an impact right across the city, right across the country. Construction is such a big part of the economy.
The point I'd want to make though mate is you can't leave people in the lurch. If people can't work, then you're going to have to look after them. And $600 a week is just not enough, particularly not a place like Bankstown here where $600 is the rent for a lot of people. When we had the first lockdown last year we had JobKeeper and JobKeeper then was $750 a week. Well now we've got an even tighter lockdown, we've got no construction going on. So you got more people in trouble and you've got less support. You’ve only got $600 instead of $750. I don't know what's going through the Prime Minister's mind at the moment, but I think he needs to swallow his pride, admit that he's got it wrong in getting rid of JobKeeper when he did and bring it back, or bring some version of it back, bring $750 back so people can pay the bills here in Bankstown.
STEFANOVIC: Just back on construction though. You mentioned if it was health advice then it's the right thing to do. But the thing is, it wasn't health advice. Kerry Chant said yesterday that it wasn't her call, that it was the government's call. So they've gone beyond that. So with that said, do you believe a rethink is needed?
CLARE: Well, it's hard with those press conferences to work out where the health advice begins and ends, what sort of advice they gave and how they made those decisions. I tell you Pete, what I'd like to know is, was there health advice given to lock down Sydney earlier than they did? Because I think everybody watching here knows that they locked down Sydney too late. If they'd locked down Sydney earlier and harder they would have been able to stop it at Bondi, and people in Bankstown and Fairfield and Liverpool wouldn't be suffering now. But we haven't got an answer to that question. I suspect if you press hard enough, you'll find that Kerry Chant was arguing for a lockdown to happen earlier than it did, back when Scott Morrison was congratulating Gladys Berejiklian for not locking down, goading her to stay open. I suspect we'll eventually find out that the health advice was to lock down and we're all paying the price now for that delay.
STEFANOVIC: This is how it's going to be isn’t it for the foreseeable future? I know the State Government calls these lockdowns. But with the Delta variant, for the rest of this year do you accept that this is how life is going to be, that there is going to be these constant lockdowns as new cases emerge?
CLARE: I think even the government admits that. In the budget it assumes there is going to be lockdowns. And why is there going to be lockdowns? Because not enough Aussies are vaccinated. That's the honest truth of this. If we had vaccination rates here in Bankstown, here in Sydney, like America where 50% of people are vaccinated, you wouldn't have the virus running like wildfire like it is at the moment. But it's only at 10%.
STEFANOVIC: But it’s ramping up though, it should be said that it is ramping up now. But I mean this was going to be a scary thought for businesses, the fact that these lockdowns are going to be taking place for the rest of this year. So getting back to your point about JobKeeper now. The Prime Minister had said JobKeeper was a national program. These disaster payments that are in place now are more targeted for specific state lockdowns. But you are saying that more is going to be needed because I think it's going to be if these lockdowns continue.
CLARE: I don't care what he calls it, give it another slogan, but give the people in my electorate $750 if they can't go to work. He stuffed up the vaccine rollout Pete, whether you like it or not, that is the truth. People can't go to work in my electorate, they can't send their kids to school in my electorate today because the city's locked down. Why?, one of the big reasons is not enough people aren’t vaccinated. And until the vaccination rate goes up, we're going to continue to see cities locked down.
So the least that the Prime Minister can do - he's making all of us pay for this in my local community - is make sure that you put money in the hands of the people who desperately needed to pay the bills today in Bankstown, Fairfield and Liverpool. People who can't go to work because this city was locked down too late and it's spread from the eastern suburbs to the west. And because the Prime Minister didn't do his job and buy enough different vaccines to get us vaccinated at the rate that you see the Yanks and the Poms today.
STEFANOVIC: Do the states need to chip in more?
CLARE: Of course they do, everyone needs to chip in more. I don't care where it comes from, I just want it in the pockets of my local community. Otherwise, people are going to struggle to pay the mortgage, or pay the rent, or pay the bills. Wherever it comes from, we need help. The place is locked down harder now than it was last year and there's less help. That's not fair.
STEFANOVIC: You mentioned a couple of overseas examples on where vaccination is going. But there are countries overseas that are going backwards even though they've got high vaccination rates. So even when we do hit vaccination targets here, whenever that is at the end of this year or the start of next year. There's no guarantee that there won't be lockdowns still, right?
CLARE: You see it now in the UK where you've got them talking about Freedom Day and the Prime Minister is in lockdown himself. The front pages of the papers today are talking about whether we need to vaccinate kids.
STEFANOVIC: Would you like that? Would you like to see that?
CLARE: First, let's vaccinate Australian adults who can't get the vaccine at the moment, people in their 20s and their 30s. In America if you're 12 to 18 you can get vaccinated. In the UK you can't at the moment, I think only kids that have certain conditions like Down Syndrome, or if they are getting chemotherapy because they got cancer are getting vaccinated. You think we've got vaccine hesitancy in Australia at the moment Pete, wait until the government starts telling parents that their little kids have to get vaccinated. I think that's going to be a pretty hard ask. We will probably get there. We vaccinate our kids for everything from polio to mumps and measles and COVID will eventually get there. But let's start by making sure we vaccinate as many adults in Australia as we can. Hesitancy is a problem, but so is supply. Bring in more of the vaccine and get it into Aussie’s arms. Then we can have that conversation about whether the evidence is in and it's safe to vaccinate little kids.
STEFANOVIC: Okay Jason Clare, always good to chat. We'll talk to you soon.
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