Television Interview with Peter Stefanovic – Sky News – Tuesday 6 July 2021


SUBJECTS: Lockdown in Sydney; UK COVID restrictions to be lifted; Australia’s bungled vaccine rollout.

PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Let’s go to federal Labor MP Jason Clare now. Jason, good to see you. Thanks for your time this morning. I do want to start off with some state issues first of all. As a Sydney sider, I want to get your thoughts on it. We just had the Deputy Premier John Barilaro on this morning. He, despite the cases remaining higher than they would like, he’s quite happy with the balance that the state has struck at the moment. It’s a lockdown, but not the hard lockdown that we’ve tended to see in the past. What’s your take on the state’s approach so far?

 I think the state’s done what they’ve had to do. If we hadn’t gone into lockdown then there’d be a lot more people with the virus in Sydney today than there is right now. We’re still seeing positive cases every day, so I think we’re all on tenterhooks waiting to find out from the Premier whether the lockdown is going to end on Friday or not. There’s lots of businesses that have had the shut, lots of clubs that have had to shut that need to know whether they’ll be able to reopen on Saturday or not. Hopefully, we’ll get some good news today. Hopefully, we’ll get some more certainty about whether the lockdown ends at the end of the week.

STEFANOVIC: Is the message in some quarters not getting through, though? You’ve got a party that happened at Meriton. You’ve got the NRL Dragons players having a party, and I’ll ask you about that separately in a second. You’ve still got aged care workers who aren’t vaccinated, you got a student nurse who wasn’t vaccinated, which means there’s a shortfall of some 600 staff at two Sydney hospitals now. I mean, there’s still a bit of work to do, isn’t there? 

CLARE: Bloody oath. I shake my head when you see silly things like that happening. People breaking the rules, having parties, but even more hard to understand is how is it the case that only I think one in six aged care workers have been fully vaccinated? We’ve both got young kids. When your wife has a baby at the hospital, all the nurses there have been vaccinated for whooping cough to protect that little baby. What are we doing to protect those older residents in those aged care centres? A lot have now been vaccinated but it took an awfully long time for them to get the vaccination and the workers there still aren’t all vaccinated. That was supposed to happen in April. That is a massive stuff up. Something that should have been done, something that should have been fixed, a long time ago.

STEFANOVIC: As a football fan, you’re not a Dragons fan, but as a football fan, what do you make of those fines that were handed down in excess of 300,000? There’s a bit more to that as well. Do you think that was enough?

CLARE: Well, they’re serious. Three hundred grand. I think couple of players got a 50 grand fine and another got a 40-grand fine. The NRL is not mucking around, they’re serious. Big fines particularly compared to the $1,000 fine that the cops handed out. But it just goes to show how serious this is. You mentioned the Meriton party. That shows that if people get together in a small space and someone’s got the virus, then it can spread. More than that, when a bunch of footy players get together it can stop the whole comp. That’s why I think the NRL stamped on this really hard, because they’re worried that it’s not just one team, but if another team does this then it can bugger the whole comp.

STEFANOVIC: Of course. We had the Prime Minister’s four stage plan that was announced last Friday, there’s been plenty of reaction to that. There’s no timeline that’s attached to that at this stage yet. I want to get your thoughts on the UK because in two weeks, it’s moving to ease all of its restrictions. This is what happens after two thirds of the adult population has been vaccinated. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is taking on a lot of risk here. But do you think two thirds of the vaccinated population is about what we should achieved before restriction studies?

CLARE: I think you ask this question to all politicians, Pete, what’s the percentage we need before lock downs in people’s lives.

STEFANOVIC: Because different people say different things. That’s the problem.

CLARE: You’d have to be a pretty silly politician to give an answer to a question like that. It’s the epidemiologists and the medical experts that know the answer to this. That’s what we’re all hanging out for. That’s why there was some criticism of the Prime Minister’s plan that it didn’t have this detail in it. We need to know what’s that magic number or set of numbers of the percentage of different parts of the population that need to be vaccinated before life can get back to normal and we end the lock downs. 

You see it in the UK. I think the numbers is even higher than two thirds, it’s about 86 per cent have had one jab in the UK. About 50 per cent of the population have been fully vaccinated. As a result, Wimbledon’s packed, pubs are packed, masks are coming off. The whole of the UK is opening up and Sydney is shutting down. I’m doing Sky from the backyard because we don’t have enough people vaccinated in Australia. The reason for that, I’ve got to tell you, the big mistake Scott Morrison made last year is he didn’t order enough different vaccines. The Poms were ordering Pfizer in July last year, 12 months ago. We didn’t put our first order in until November. That’s the reason why the Poms have got 50 per cent of the population vaccinated and we’ve only got six or seven per cent. We’ve got to get more of the vaccine, whether it’s Moderna or Pfizer or whatever else it is into the arms of Aussies, but you’ve got to get them into the country before you can get it into people’s arms. The sooner we do that, the sooner we’ll be able to have a little bit more normality like the Poms are getting there.

STEFANOVIC: The trade-off is going to be for Boris Johnson, the expectation is that there will be some 50,000 cases a day of people testing positive for COVID, but the trade-off is going to be that there are less people going into hospital. Is that a reasonable risk as far as you can tell?

CLARE: The world changes when most people are vaccinated. If you get COVID, but you’re vaccinated, you don’t die. That’s the difference. The impact on people, if they have COVID and they’ve been vaccinated, is much different than if they get COVID without being vaccinated. This will be a big incentive for people in Australia and in the UK who haven’t been vaccinated yet to go and get vaccinated because eventually Australia is going to open up again, borders will open, people will come in and go. Aussies that have been vaccinated will be okay. It will be like the flu, but if you haven’t been vaccinated, you could end up in hospital on a respirator. That’s got to be part of the message to encourage more Aussies to get vaccinated because even though we’re talking about 30 cases a day in Sydney here and a lockdown, in life after lockdowns, when the borders open up again, there will be more COVID. If you’re vaccinated, you’ll be okay. But if you aren’t vaccinated, then you’re going to be in a bit of strife. 

STEFANOVIC: Yeah, and that should be on them, right? That should be on them those who choose not to get vaccinated.

CLARE: You’ve got to make sure that you get that message out. That’s why we’ve been calling for a TV campaign to tell people why they should get vaccinated, why it’s safe, why it’s important to do. Turns out the Government hasn’t been running TV ads because they’re worried they don’t have enough of the vaccine. If everybody runs off to get vaccinated, they’ll run out of vaccine. That’s the real reason that there aren’t any TV ads running at scale at the moment. We’ve got to get more of the vaccine in into people’s arms, and encourage as many of these as possible to get vaccinated because in life after lockdown, in life where the borders are open again, there will be COVID in the community, and if you don’t have the vaccine in your arm, then you’re going to get pretty crook.

STEFANOVIC: Jason Clare, we’ll leave it there. Good to see you. We’ll talk to you soon.