Television Interview with Peter Stefanovic – Sky News – Tuesday 27 April 2021


SUBJECT: India’s growing COVID crisis; slow vaccine rollout; inflamed rhetoric on Australia-China relations.

PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Welcome back to first edition. Thank you for your company this morning. Live to Shadow Minister Jason Clare now. Jason, good to see you. Thanks for joining us this morning. Should the planes out of India be stopped?
JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINSITER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS: Let’s wait and see what National Security Committee says today. Those images out of India are just catastrophic. People being cremated in empty car parks. I heard this morning there’s something like one person dying every four minutes in Delhi. It’s mind boggling. It’s hard to get your mind around just the extreme nature of the crisis that’s there, and these are very serious decisions that the Government’s going to have to make later today.
STEFANOVIC: Would you be concerned about it seeping into our community, though, with return travellers, the way Mark McGowan is?
CLARE: Of course I would. Think about it: something like two and a half million people in India got COVID last week, that’s the equivalent of the entire population of Western Australia. The Government does have to take the actions that it needs to take to keep the Australian community safe, whether that’s the national government or state governments. But I do recall back last year in February, when flights were cut off to China, and that was the right decision then, but charter flights were brought into Wuhan to get Australians struggling to get out of Wuhan out. I think they were quarantined at Christmas Island. The Government needs to have a look at those Aussies that are desperately still trying to get out of India. There are cricket players there, there are Australian nationals there that have been trying to get out for months and months, and see what action they can take to get those Australians home as safely as they possibly can.
STEFANOVIC: Canada’s gone with a 30-day pause. Is that something that we should look at?
CLARE: What are you saying there, Pete? A 30-day pause?
STEFANOVIC: Yeah, so Canada’s gone for a 30-day pause on flights out of India to Canada. So is that something that perhaps we should look at?
CLARE: I suspect that’s the sort of thing that NSC might look at today. But frankly, these are things that government should have taken action on 12 months ago. I know the spike in India has been recent, but I still can’t get my mind around why the Prime Minister last year didn’t pick up the phone to the head of Qantas and say “Start your engines. I’m hiring a bunch of planes to get Australians out of places where they can’t get out”. Get planes to people who need it, get Australians home, and then set up nationally run quarantine services to make sure that those Australians are safe and can get back to their normal life.
STEFANOVIC: But at the start, the states agreed to do it.
CLARE: I think the Prime Minister is very lucky that the states agreed to do that. Because when you look at the Constitution, it’s actually the Commonwealth Government’s job to run quarantine, and until we’ve got a quarantine system that’s bulletproof and until we’ve vaccinated most of the Australian population, we’re going to have a repeat of all of this. We’re going to have a repeat of lockdowns of CBDs and major cities, and we’re going to have a repeat of the conversation we’re having now about whether we should cut off flights. We need a quarantine system that works, and the Federal Government have got to play a bigger role in that, and we need to vaccinate the Australian population as quickly and as safely as possible. This government is failing on both fronts at the moment.
STEFANOVIC: Gladys Berejiklian says Mark McGowan’s got to toughen up. Do you think he has as well?
CLARE: We wouldn’t be having this tit for tat from east coast or west coast if the Federal Government actually did their job. You’ve got state premiers here fighting over how you should run quarantine – the Federal Government should be running quarantine, and the Federal Government should be running the vaccination program. The fact that they can’t do either is the reason that the states are fighting, because they’re offloading their responsibilities to the states. This Federal Government couldn’t roll out a yoga mat the way they’re going at the moment. They need the states to help them do this. But they should pick up their game, play a bigger role here and run quarantine systems themselves.
STEFANOVIC: Just finally, Jason, some interesting comments from Mike Pezzulo on the front page of The Australian today. He says, “Get ready to fight for our liberty”. He doesn’t mention China, but it seems to be the one that everyone is thinking. What do you make of those comments? Are they over the top or are they justified?
CLARE: National security agencies have got to prepare for the worst. It’s the job of politicians, it’s the job of political leaders, to make sure that that never happens. No doubt our region is getting more complex and more difficult and we should never step back from our values or be prepared to stand up for them. But we shouldn’t be beating the drum ourselves. I think most Australians, hearing that news this morning, would be surprised, shocked at the thought of war or fighting. The bottom line here, Pete, is that we will all be better off if there is peace and stability in our region and we should be constantly working for that.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, Jason Clare, appreciate your time as always. We’ll talk to you again soon.
CLARE: Good on you.