Television Interview with Peter Stefanovic – Sky News – Tuesday 7 July 2020


SUBJECTS: New South Wales-Victoria Border closure; COVID-19 in Victoria.
PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Joining me now live from Sydney is the Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Jason Clare. Jason, good morning.
JASON CLARE: G’day Pete.
STEFANOVIC: Good to see you. First we of all, before get into these housing towers in Melbourne, what are your thoughts on closure of the border between New South Wales and Victoria?
CLARE: It’s a tough decision but it’s the right one. It’s about stopping the spread of the virus. We’ve seen here in Australia, but we’ve more particularly seen it overseas that this virus can spread very quickly. In the US now, more than 130,000 people are dead, so this is a dangerous virus that can spread quickly and kill people. So of course, it’s the right decision.
STEFANOVIC: We’ve spoken about this Jason, about you know, getting Queensland’s border to reopen, and you were for that. What is different now? What has changed in your opinion?
CLARE: The big back flip here has been the New South Wales Government. They were opposed to a border closure when they were worried about the virus getting out of New South Wales and into another state. Now they’re supporting a border closure when it comes to a virus getting into New South Wales. There’s a bit of hypocrisy here by the Federal Government too. They support this border closure, but they oppose all the others. I think they’re in the Federal Court next week arguing that all of the other border closures are unconstitutional. What we should be doing here is taking the advice of the medical health professionals on all these border issues, and the approach that was taken yesterday was the right one. You had the Prime Minister and the Premiers on both sides of the border working together. Frankly, that’s what should have happened with all of the other border issues. Instead, you’ve had fights between the Prime Minister and Premiers and it’s even got to the extreme where you’ve got the Federal Government taking State Governments to court or contesting this in the High Court. That’s ridiculous and that needs to end.
STEFANOVIC: Presumably Annastacia Palaszczuk is sitting pretty at the moment?
CLARE: Well, it shows that she took a cautious and responsible approach. She was worried about the virus coming from another part of Australia into Queensland and ruining her economy. Just as I’m sure Gladys Berejiklian’s worried at the moment about the virus getting from Victoria into New South Wales infecting people here, causing a crisis our health system and also hurting our economy, north of the border.
STEFANOVIC: What about her position yesterday suggesting that while we are closing the border, New South Wales and Victoria is closing the border, there’s no reason for anybody else to close the border. What’s your thoughts on that?
CLARE: What other borders are you talking about sorry Pete?
STEFANOVIC: Well, I mean, she’s referring that there’s no need to close, you know, Queensland and New South Wales border, or any other border other than the New South Wales-Victoria border, basically. So she’s saying that, while this should be closed, there’s no reason for anybody else to close their borders.
CLARE: Instead of politicians pretending to be doctors, just take the advice of the medical experts. The New South Wales Government has made this decision based on medical advice, based on the advice of the New South Wales Chief Medical Officer. Queensland has done exactly the same. So has WA, so has Tasmania, so has South Australia. I think I’ve said a couple of times on the program, Pete, that instead of replicating what’s happening in the US where you’ve got the President attacking Governors, what we should have in Australia is the Prime Minister and the Premiers working as a team to resolve these issues. The National Cabinet has done a good job in sorting out lots of tough issues, but it’s dropped the ball here where you’ve got one side of politics attacking the other over border closures for some sort of political advantage. That’s not the right approach. The job here has got to be stop the spread of the virus, otherwise people die. And that’s why I support what happened yesterday, and the way in which it was done – getting political leaders to work together. We need more of that.
STEFANOVIC: What about the shutdown? The lockdown of these public housing towers in Melbourne, there’s as many as 10 now. That involves thousands of residents, you know, we’re all aware of their view and the conditions that they are in and the support that they are getting. What’s your position on that? What are you hearing about it all?
CLARE: Look, it’s really tough. But I don’t think the State Government in Victoria had any choice. We know the virus is in those towers, and we know it’s spreading. If people were allowed just to go in and out without any restrictions, then the virus would spread more broadly in Melbourne, and in Victoria. It’d be like the Ruby Princess, and people would be attacking the State Government saying “You knew the virus was there? Why did you let it get out and spread in the community?”
But the people who are living in those towers, I can only imagine how tough it is for them. I heard a story on the radio on the way into this interview of some young parents who are in those towers that are running out of nappies and baby formula. I’ve got a toddler, I know you’ve got a little baby that’s less than one, you can just imagine what it’s like when you run out of milk or formula or nappies or that sort of stuff.
STEFANOVIC:  It would be a bit frightening, yeah.
CLARE: Yeah, and that’s just one example. There are people there that need medication and a whole bunch of different services. So the challenge now is stop the spread of the virus. Don’t let it get out into the broader community where people can die. But also make sure that you look after the people that are in the towers that have either got the virus or don’t and we need to make sure that we look after them as well.
STEFANOVIC: Do you think Daniel Andrews has lost control?
CLARE: No, I think he’s made the right call here. And as I said, if he did the opposite, he would be smashed from pillar to post, “Hey you let the virus get out, you knew what was there.” The same criticism, I think that’s legitimately been made of the New South Wales Government about the Ruby Princess, “You knew people were sick, you let them off from the virus spread around the country.” So it’s the right decision, but I don’t underestimate how difficult a decision it is. And now the challenge is making sure that we look after the people who are in those towers and make sure that the virus doesn’t get out of there.
STEFANOVIC: Should he have brought in the ADF though? I mean, before we got to this point, there’s so much criticism about that last week when you have these private security firms that have completely stuffed up, but should the Premier and his government have brought in the ADF to begin with?
CLARE: I think actually one of the good things that I’ve seen throughout this crisis has been the collaboration between the Federal Government and the State Governments in the use of the ADF. You know. This is an important asset that Australia has that we don’t use often enough in the right way. I was critical during the bushfires that it took way too long for the Federal Government to deploy the ADF to help fight those fires. There’s been a different approach here. The ADF got deployed in Tasmania when we saw people get off the Ruby Princess and then a flare up with the virus on the northwest coast of Tasmania. The offer was made here and I think it’s now being accepted and we’re using the ADF in Melbourne, but also to manage that New South Wales-Victoria border issue. They’re going to play a really important role here, Pete. You got 55 border crossings between New South Wales and Victoria and the cops on both sides of the border can’t do it on their own. So that’s a good example of Federal-State collaboration. We need to see more of it.
STEFANOVIC: All right Jason we’re out of time. Appreciate your time this morning. Thanks for joining us.
CLARE: Thanks, mate.