WEDNESDAY, 18 MARCH 2020
SUBJECTS: Supermarket delivery curfews; COVID-19.
KIEREN GILBERT: Let’s go live now to Labor frontbencher the Shadow Minister for Local Government Jason Clare. Jason Clare I know you’ve put out a statement this week calling on local governments to lift curfews when it comes to trucks and supply trucks into supermarkets. Explain to us your thinking on that.
JASON CLARE: This will make it easier for Woolies and Coles to restock. There’s a lot of people that are anxious out there. A lot of people that are panicked. I see it in my own electorate, with the tussle over toilet paper in Chullora last week. Or the fight that happened at Bass Hill Woolies. It got worse yesterday when someone got stabbed in a Woolworths car park in Victoria. And someone was punched in a Coles in Lithgow yesterday.
Politicians or chief executives of businesses telling people not to panic won’t stop people panicking. People have got to feel confident,they’ve got to feel like they can go to the shops and get toilet paper or get rice or get pasta it’s going to be there. Now one way to do that is to lift the curfews that Councils put into place for Woolies, Coles, IGA and Aldi so that they can get those big trucks into the loading docks late at night. It’ll make it easier for them to restock. The sooner the shelves are restocked and full, the sooner we’ll be able to reduce that panic and boost a bit of confidence back in the community that you don’t have to hoard, you don’t have to panic and worry that you’re going to run out of milk or toilet paper or anything else. The shops will stay open and you can get what you need.
GILBERT: We’ve seen Queensland move on this Jason Clare with a directive on this front. I think New South Wales is heading in the same direction, isn’t it?
CLARE: Yes, it’s a good idea. One way to quickly fix this problem is if the State governments issue a directive to all local governments to waive these curfews, these truck curfews, so that the trucks can get in without the risk of being fined. Queensland did that today. I hope that other States follow their lead. It’d be a smart and simple way to make sure that wherever you go, whatever shopping centre you’re visiting across the country, you’ll be able to get all the products that you need and not be fretting or be anxious or worried that they’re going to run out of the products that you want.
GILBERT: So how much of an obstacle has that curfew issue been for the supermarket giants? Have they got the supplies, are they ready to go if they were able to get in earlier?
CLARE: Well, I think Brad the CEO ofWoolies made the point that there has been a doubling demand that’s happened in a very short period of time. Christmas is a time where people rush to the shops and buy things but big supermarkets can prepare for that. They haven’t been able to prepare for this so the supply chain is under enormous pressure and it’s going to take time to get the stock and to be able to make sure that the shops are full. One way to help with that is to relieve them of these curfew problems. Most Councils have been fantastic. They’ve said, ‘look, we’re not going to fine you for turning up late’. These curfews are here for a good reason, because for a lot of people who live close to the shops, they don’t want to be woken up in the middle of the night by a beeping truck reversing into a loading dock. But given the challenge we’ve got at the moment. Given the importance of tackling head on this panic that’s stricken the community and restoring confidence, this is one simple but effective way, at least for the next couple of weeks, that will help to make sure that the shops are restocked, and that people can be certain that they’re going to get the stocks they need.
GILBERT: Yes, indeed, I guess urging them as the Prime Minister did today. You’d welcome that message though. It’s not always one that gets through but it’s certainly the right message to send isn’t it to say ‘just calm down’. The supplies will come back.
CLARE: It’s a good message and I support what the Prime Minister said. We’ve got to be calm and be kind to each other. But politicians telling people to be calm or not to panic, is not likely to stop people panicking. It might be counterproductive. People might think, well, ‘why are they telling us not to panic’ and then suddenly, they rush down to Woollies to get more toilet paper and it’s not there. So there’s practical things that we can do. This is one of them.
In that package you just ran it made the point that Coles are advertising for 5000 jobs at the moment, everything from stocking shelves to driving trucks to cash register work. On an average day Coles tell me they get about 800 job applications. Yesterday, they got 36,000. Now, that gives you a bit of an idea of the economic challenge the country faces at the moment. As I walked from the car park to the studio today Sydney looks like a ghost town. Lots of places where people would normally gather for a feed or a coffee are closed.
GILBERT: So 36,000 that’s extraordinary. 36,000 applications yesterday. What does that say to you in terms of those who are expecting to be laid off, in terms of casual workers, bar workers, gig economy workers? I mean, that’s a massive amount in one day -36,000 applications.
CLARE: I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re people who work in the tourism and hospitality sector. They’re the sort of people that would ordinarily work at the bars or the coffee shops, or the cafes that I walked past to get to this interview, that are shut. People looking for a safe haven, looking for a place that they know there’s going to be a job tomorrow. And it points to the size and the scale of the economic challenges that the country faces. That’s why we support the Government’s stimulus package and why we urge them to go further and act as quickly as they possibly can.
GILBERT: Now you touched on some of the incidents that occurred in not just your electorate but elsewhere. Would you like to see, as sad as it is, I mean, it’s not it’s not ideal. It’s been ugly incidents we’ve seen and with mobile phones, everyone’s got a camera. So we’ve seen this in all its ugliness. Is it time though, to have marshals and to have police at various supermarkets. How do you deal with that?
CLARE: Well, I think the Prime Minister was asked this question at his press conference this morning. He said words to the effect that he wouldn’t like to see that happen. You know, that’s not Australia and I agree with him. If we get to that point, it’d be a very, very sorry day. But I understand that government and companies doing the necessary work planning for that eventuality. I would urge the Australian public to be calm and be kind in supermarkets. But one of the things we can do to avoid that, to avoid having someone in a uniform standing out the front of the supermarket telling people when they can go in and when they can’t, would be to get the shelves restocked. And one very practical and sensible way to do that is to make it easier for those big semi-trailers to get in at night and get the products into the supermarkets. And whether it’s the state governments or the local governments acting to help that happen, that’s something they should do. Local government, state governments and federal government all need to work together here to make sure that we restore a bit of confidence into the Australian community.
GILBERT: Yeah and they’re isolated incidents of those ugly scenes. And to be honest, there are moments of kindness we’re seeing across supermarket shops as well as. One butcher told me how a young man, they’d run out of a certain meat mince I think it was for a grandmother, he went, this young man offered to get her that product from another shop and take it to her home. That’s a random act of kindness that happened in the last few days. I mean, these things would be happening as well, we’ve got to remember that as people.
CLARE: You’re right, and we do tend to focus on the negative but there’s some fantastic stories that don’t necessarily make it onto the nightly news. I heard a story about somebody who got the last roll of toilet paper and saw an old lady who missed out and gave it to them. You know that’s a another great example of the Australian spirit, looking after your neighbour and trying to be kind and generous to others. The more we see of that the better.
GILBERT: Well said. Talk to you soon Jason Clare, thanks for that.
CLARE: Thanks mate.
MEDIA CONTACT: SCOTT DAVIES 02 9790 2466