SKY NEWS FIRST EDITION
TUESDAY, 16 FEBRUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: Vaccine rollout; Housing affordability; The right to feel safe working at Parliament House.
PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: We’re going to go live to Canberra now. Joining us is Jason Clare, the Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Local Government and Regional Services. Plenty going on, Jason. Good to see you. Thanks for your time this morning. So, when it comes to the vaccine rollout, obviously it’s good news. Are you expecting any problems with that rollout?
JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS: I hope not. I think most Australians would be saying “at last it’s here, now tell me when I can get the jab in my arm”. I’m hoping that this rolls out as quickly and safely as possible. We know there’s different groups that will get the vaccine at different times, but I think Australians have a right to ask “when do I get it?”. If you’ve got a mum or dad in aged care, you’d want them to get it as soon as possible and you’d want to know when you can get it. In a community like mine in Western Sydney, where people speak a lot of different languages, it’s really important that we also get that message out that this is safe, and when and how you can get the vaccine so we get as many people to get it as possible.
STEFANOVIC: What are the questions that your office is getting, Jason? Since that announcement came yesterday, “the eagle has landed” from the Health Minister Greg hunt, is there any confusion out there about where people can go and when?
CLARE: There’s a bit of an information vacuum and particularly in different multicultural communities, people are getting rubbish information from Facebook or from WhatsApp, or from WeChat. And if you’re not getting the right information that this is safe, you’re likely to listen to what you read on the internet and spread it to your friends. It’s important that people listen to their doctor, seek their advice, but also that the government gets that information out to all Australians about what’s happening when you can get the vaccine and how important it is because the more people who take it, the safer everyone in our community will be.
STEFANOVIC: The New South Wales Premier, she believes, she was had a press conference, we had a bit of that live on the programme a short time ago, she believes that New South Wales should get the lion’s share of the vaccine given that the state is doing the heavy lifting at the moment. I know it’s a state government as opposed to federal government at the moment, but is she right, given that New South Wales carries the heavier load? Should New South Wales get more?
CLARE: We’re all Australians. We want all Australians to get the vaccine. It is right that New South Wales is doing a lot of the work when it comes to quarantine and a lot of these initial doses will go to quarantine workers. But I wouldn’t want to prioritise one Australian who lives on one side of the country from the other. We should be prioritising, and I hope we are, based on the type of frontline work people do and their vulnerability. We need to make sure that we keep those older Australians that we all know and love in aged care safe. That’s why I said at the start, I’ve got family in aged care, I want to know when the needle goes in the arm to protect our older Australians.
STEFANOVIC: I just want to talk about housing at the moment. You would have seen Jason on the weekend and for a few weekends now, pricing is just extraordinary. In Sydney, in the capital cities, Melbourne, to Brisbane to an extent as well, prices going through the roof. How concerned are you, particularly about first home buyers trying to get into the market? And if that’s the price, what can even be done about that?
CLARE: It’s a massive issue, you’re right. This is the biggest investment that most of us will ever make. You mentioned Sydney, think about this: the average price of a house now in Sydney is about $1.2 million, so it’s a massive investment that people undertake. There are things that the federal government can do. Wages policy determines the amount of money that people have to be able to buy a house and if prices go up quicker than wages, then it makes it harder and harder. Immigration is part of it as well and we’ve got a pause on immigration at the moment, and I bet everybody would be hoping that government would be taking this time to develop more land and make sure that there’s more supply out there, because immigration will be back and that’ll have an impact on demand for housing. What the federal government does and what state governments do in terms of land supply is critical, and planning. Federal Government announced about four years ago that they were going to make more Commonwealth land available for housing, not much has happened on that.
The New South Wales Government is talking about getting rid of stamp duty. Now, if they do that right, that’ll make a big impact. Think about that $1.2 million average house price in Sydney. If you get rid of stamp duty, that’ll save the average purchaser more than 50 grand. That’s a big amount of money that people don’t want to spend when they’re spending more than a million dollars on a house. That would make it easier to buy, easier to sell and particularly for people who are older Aussies and they want to downsize into a smaller place, but don’t want to have to pay a massive amount of stamp duty to do it and so don’t do it. That would help people to downsize too, so the Federal Government could, if it wanted to, play a role in coordinating that, not just in New South Wales, but in other states around the country.
STEFANOVIC: Jason, just finally and briefly, I’m just wondering your thoughts on Brittany Higgins’ awful allegations that emerged yesterday and last night too. Do you believe that there is a cultural problem at Parliament House, particularly within the Liberal Party?
CLARE: Did you really need me to answer that, Pete? Isn’t it obvious that there’s a problem here? It’s impossible for you and me to truly understand what Brittany Higgins has been through over the last few months, but this is a building that is supposed to be one of the safest places in the country. It’s obviously not. We’ve got all of these security cameras and security guards; we’ve spent tens of millions of dollars on perimeter fencing to keep us all safe here. It didn’t keep her safe. Anybody that watched The Project last night would know that she’s been let down. She didn’t get the care and support that she needed, and from what she said last night, it seems like the people around her treated her like she was a problem, rather than somebody that was owed a real duty of care.
STEFANOVIC: All right Jason, we’re out of time, unfortunately, but I appreciate your time. As always, we’ll talk to you soon.
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