Television Interview with Peter Stefanovic – Sky News – Tuesday 4 August 2020


SUBJECTS: Paid Pandemic Leave; restrictions in Victoria; childcare; Homelessness.
PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Joining me live now is the Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness Jason Clare. Jason, good to see you. Thanks so much for joining us, as always. First of all on this pandemic leave while we’re here. What’s your thoughts on that? Is it enough? Any issues with it?
JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS: It’s good to see that the Government has finally decided to do it. We’ve been calling for the Government to do it. One point I’d make, Pete, is it should be nationwide. At the moment, the Prime Minister is saying it’s only when a State is in a state of disaster.  If you put this in place nationwide, it could stop a disaster from happening. We’ve been making the point for a while that you’ve got lots of casuals in Australia who don’t have sick leave and who are going to work sick and we’re seeing that in Victoria. I think 80 per cent of the virus transmissions are because people have got the virus and they’re going to work and they’re passing it to their work colleagues. If you put a paid pandemic leave system in place nationwide, it will help to make sure that people who’ve got the bug don’t go to work because they need the money to put food on the table for their kids. So it can stop a disaster before it happens. So that’d be my argument. My urging to the Government is don’t limit it to where a disaster has already happened. Put it in place nationwide and it can stop what’s happened in Victoria from happening in NSW or Queensland or anywhere else.

STEFANOVIC: We had Michelle O’Neil on the program a short time ago, and she mentioned that the $1,500 dollars isn’t enough, that it should be the same as the wage that’s being lost. What’s your view on that? Is it enough and what should it be if not?
CLARE: I’m not going to be prescriptive about the amount. I think the biggest weakness is it’s not nationwide. I think if we want to make sure that what’s happened in Victoria doesn’t happen here in NSW or anywhere else, you’ve got to make sure that people don’t go to work sick and we’ve seen too many examples of that in Victoria. It’s what has largely accounted for this massive spread that’s forced the lockdown. The last thing we want is that happening in other parts of the country, and I think if there’s one fix that you could make here, that would be it.

STEFANOVIC: The problem, I suppose, with that is that a lot of people just don’t know that they’re sick, and then they’re going to work.
CLARE: I guess that’s right. You’ve got people that are asymptomatic. I was talking to a friend of mine in Melbourne last night. The whole family’s got the virus. She’s got it, her husband’s got it, he’s got stage four cancer and he’s battling with this. Their eight-year-old son’s got it, the two four-year-old twin girls have got it, her mum’s got it, and her father-in-law’s got it. Her mum’s been in hospital for the last week on oxygen. Fortunately, she’s back home now. This is a highly infectious disease. Some people know they’ve got it straightaway. Some people don’t. But that’s the brutal reality of it, and that’s why what the government in Victoria has done is what they had to do. Otherwise you would have hundreds of thousands of people get this virus over the next few months, and thousands more people die.

STEFANOVIC: What is your biggest concern? I mean, the Premier mentioned yesterday another 250,000 people will be joining the jobless queues. It’s horrendous. What’s going on? Is there a singular part of yesterday’s announcement that concerns you the most moving forward?
CLARE: The job of politicians and the job of all of us is to make sure that we stamp down on this virus and get it out of the community as soon as possible. Otherwise, we can’t have an economy that’s got the jobs that people need to pay the bills now. What’s happened over the last few days is going to be awful for thousands and thousands of people in Victoria. It’s going to make it harder to pay the mortgage, harder to pay the rent, and that’s why it’s important that the Federal Government and the State Government work together, like we’ve been doing at a national level with the first wave of the virus. To make sure that we look after people, that people aren’t kicked out onto the street, that they’ve got enough money to look after their family. Even if this lockdown only lasts for six weeks, it’s going to take a lot longer for businesses to recover and it’s going to take a lot longer for families and people to recover. This is going to be really, really hard and we need to make sure that we’re all pulling together to help out.

STEFANOVIC: There’s now a push towards free childcare. Is that is that something that you would support to go back to what it was?
CLARE: I think you’d have to. This is a bigger lockdown than before. If you’re a mum or a dad with a kid in childcare in Victoria and you’re unemployed, why would you keep paying the childcare bills if you can’t send your child to childcare, if you don’t have the money to send them to childcare? Now, if that’s the case, then childcare centres are going to go broke in Victoria. So I think the Government’s got to admit that they pulled out support too early and put that support back in. Otherwise, you’re going to have childcare businesses go bust in Victoria.

STEFANOVIC: Are you fearing evictions now, Jason? Are you fearing an increased amount of homelessness particularly, it’s going to be even tougher in the colder months?
CLARE: This is a problem. I’m worried about this nationwide. As unemployment goes up and government support goes down, then you’re going to have more people that are going to struggle to pay the mortgage, pay the rent, and there’s a risk that you’re going to have more people homeless. One of the fantastic things that we’ve achieved over the last few months is to get rough sleepers off the streets, out of the parks and into empty hotel and motel rooms. It’s helped stop the spread of the virus, but it’s also helped a lot of the organisations that help homeless people to put them into permanent accommodation. But what happens in the next few months? Do those homeless Australians get put back onto the street? Or do we find them a permanent home? There’s an opportunity for governments and I think the national government’s got to play a role here to make sure that doesn’t happen. They have got to recognise Pete, that with unemployment going up, there’s a real risk that we’re going to have more homeless people, more people sleeping on their friend’s couch or forced to go home or, God forbid, back out onto the street.

STEFANOVIC: All right, Jason Clare, always good to get your thoughts. Thanks so much for joining us. We’ll catch you again soon.
CLARE: Thanks Pete.