Interview with Peter Stefanovic – Sky News – Tuesday 8 June 2021


SUBJECTS: Biloela family; Government clueless on number of homeless Australians vaccinated.

PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Joining us is Jason Clare, the Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Local Government and Regional Services. Jason, good to see you. Thanks for joining us as always this morning. I want to ask you about this young family. The young girl who had been on Christmas Island, she has been crook for 10 days before flying to Perth with her mum. Sick for 10 days before she left, is that acceptable?
JASON CLARE MP, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS: The short answer to that is no. We’re both dads with little kids. You imagine what it’d be like if our little ones were sick with a temperature over 40 degrees. I go crazy if it’s more than 24 hours looking for the baby panadol. This little girl’s been sick now for two weeks. She’s three years old, she was born in Australia, she’s been crook for two weeks before they took her to a hospital. Of course it’s not good enough. It’s not good enough that she’s locked up locked up in Christmas Island either, really. She should be back in Biloela with her mum and aher dad and her sister in the community that desperately want them back.
STEFANOVIC: What concerns would you have about Christmas Island’s healthcare system?
CLARE: I’m sure that they provide a high level of healthcare service there, but the fact that she’s been moved to Perth tells you that they can’t provide her with everything that she needs. She’s got a blood disease, I’m told, there’s talk of septicaemia so they’ve had to transfer her to a hospital that can provide a greater level of service. The bigger issue here though, Pete, is that this little girl’s been locked up for three years. Why is she there in the first place? Her dad worked in the abattoir in Central Queensland in Biloela. He had a second job working at the local supermarket. On the weekend he volunteered at Vinnies, her mum volunteered at the local hospital. Now she’s had to take her little girl to a hospital in Perth just to help her recover from this illness. That local community wants them back and it’s not just them. Alan Jones supports this family being allowed to stay in Australia. Tony Abbott supports the family being allowed to stay in Australia. So does Barnaby Joyce. We talk in the federal parliament all the time about how do we get people to move from the city to the bush, how do we get people who come here on a visa to go and work on some of those tough jobs that, whether it’s picking fruit or whether it’s slaughtering animals in abbatoirs in the regions, this bloke did it, raised a family, loved by the local community. And how do we treat them? Lock them up on Christmas Island where their little girl’s getting sick now. I just shake my head. We can show a little bit of compassion here and a bit of common sense. Let the family go back to the community that loves them and wants them back.
STEFANOVIC: The concern for many, though, and the line from the government had been for the last few years now, is that if you allow this family to stay, then it opens up the floodgates for other people who may want to come to Australia illegally.
CLARE: Look, Peter, I’d accept that argument if it wasn’t for the fact that Tony Abbott, Mr. Stop-the-Boats, is arguing here that the family should stay. If you’ve got Tony Abbott, who ran an election campaign and won an election on stopping the boats, saying that this family should be allowed to stay, doesn’t that tell you something? The fact is the government does have discretion here. They’ve got discretion to let family stay where they think it’s in the national interest, and I think you’d be hard pressed to find many Australians today that would say that this family, that have done so much already to raise a family, contribute to a local community, don’t deserve to stay.
STEFANOVIC: So does Alex Hawke need to intervene here?
CLARE: Whether it’s Alex Hawke or Karen Andrews, somebody in the government should just have a look at this. Think about it as a person. Remember, the Prime Minister not so long ago talked about his wife asking him to think about this as a dad. I’m just asking the Prime Minister today, think about this as a dad. You’re a dad, I’m a dad. We know what this is like, what this family must be going through right now with this little girl sick being on an emergency flight to Perth. We all wish her well and I hope that she gets better quickly, but I hope that she doesn’t get flown back to the middle of the ocean. I hope that she gets taken back to Biloela with her family where they can start their life again.
STEFANOVIC: You are the Shadow Minister for Homelessness, Jason, and you make the point, you’ve made the point in the last couple of days that you can’t get the numbers on how many homeless people have been vaccinated for COVID. How do you get those numbers though, when so many don’t have a fixed abode?
CLARE: You’re right, Pete. We asked this question last Friday in Estimates, how many homeless Australians have been vaccinated, and the government just threw up their hands and said they didn’t know. They should be in a position to track this information by working with state governments and working with charities like St. Vincent DePaul, to make sure that the people who are most vulnerable, people who are living on our streets, get vaccinated as soon as possible. They are the priority. Remember, it’s elderly people, people who are in aged care, people who are disabled, we should be vaccinating first. Homeless people are in that category too. If you’re sleeping on the street, you’re going to die 20 or 30 years before the rest of us. We should be doing every single thing that we can to get them vaccinated as quick as possible. You would think that the government would have some idea about how many people who are sleeping rough had been vaccinated so far, whether it’s by getting that information from state governments or getting it from charities, but when we asked them on Friday, they just threw up their hands and said they didn’t know. They didn’t know how many people had been vaccinated in aged care last week. They didn’t know how many aged care workers had been vaccinated. We eventually found out that only two per cent of disabled people who are in disabled residential care have been vaccinated. Now, they don’t know how many people who are homeless have been vaccinated. It’s just another example of how bad the vaccine rollout is going. They need to pick up their act here. Vaccinate the people who need it most as quickly as possible, and make sure that the rest of the country gets vaccinated quickly so that we can open the country back up and get back to normal.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, Jason Clare, good to have you with us. We’ll talk to you again soon.