Doorstop Interview – Blacktown – Saturday 24 July 2021




SUBJECTS: Sydney Lockdown; Economic Support; Vaccine Rollout Stuff Up 
MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Good afternoon. I’m Michelle Rowland, the Federal Member for Greenway and I’m joined here in Blacktown at a COVID testing site along with my parliamentary colleagues Ed Husic, the Member for Chifley, Jason Clare, the Member for Blaxland and Chris Bowen, the Member for McMahon. And between us as Western Sydney MPs, we represent the local government areas of Fairfield, Bankstown, Cumberland, and Blacktown. Blacktown alone representing close to 400,000 people in the Blacktown local government area.
Western Sydney has been hit hard by this lockdown and by the failures of Scott Morrison. We are here because we need help for our residents. We need more financial assistance, and we need more vaccines. It is perverse that this lockdown is hitting people so much harder, is hitting small businesses so much harder, but the amount of support being provided is less. We also have residents who are trying to do the right thing and get vaccinated and simply cannot get appointments. This is an outrageous circumstance that we find ourselves in and on behalf of our local residents, we are calling on more help to be provided for our local communities. In the area small business as recently as yesterday, I held a virtual roundtable and to a small business, local businesses are saying they are not getting the support they need. They are asking where is JobKeeper? They are asking why have they been abandoned by Scott Morrison? And in the area of community support, people are doing it harder than ever before, but our local community organisations are having to do more with less. We are here because we need help for the residents of Western Sydney. They are crying out for it, and it needs to be delivered urgently.
ED HUSIC, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INDUSTRY AND INNOVATION: Thank you, Michelle. Michelle and I having grown up here in this part of Western Sydney know the impacts of what a lockdown would have on people in this area. And I think it should be taken very seriously that you’ve got four federal MPs from across Western Sydney out here today to make the case that in an event where we’ve got the lockdown broadened out now to Blacktown and where you’ve got more and more local government areas being brought in, and a sizable part of Western Sydney now brought in under lockdown, now is the time to be providing support, not penny pinching. And quite frankly, I want to make this point. We should not be in this lockdown situation. Blacktown residents have been now added along with Cumberland residents represented by our friend here Chris Bowen, should not have been in this. And from my own point of view, I do wonder why Blacktown with the case numbers has been brought in, but that is an academic inquiry, the horse has bolted on that. The bigger issue here is that we should not have been put in this situation if the vaccine rollout at a national level had been sorted out. I in the last 48 hours had a virtual roundtable with local doctors who said there is no rhyme or reason to the way in which the vaccine allocations are made. There is no sense as to why they get the number of doses that they get with the huge demand that’s out there. You can see here today people are lining up to get tested and we do know that local vaccination hubs are well and truly booked out. We need more vaccines, we need more financial support, because it’s under done, people can’t leave the LGA now to work, they are forced to stay here with less financial support.
And the final point I want to make is this; we need to have a comprehensive, cooperative, uniform approach to this lockdown in Sydney. We simply cannot have a situation in Western Sydney where people are told they cannot work or leave their LGA to work but we see yoga being performed on the Bondi promenade or people going around without masks and a stop start approach to the lockdown. From the Federal and State Government level we cannot have what I would describe as lockdown hokey pokey, being in out every moment seeing a change. There needs to be clear messaging, uniformity and the reason for that is that the lack of uniformity is hugely corrosive to the effort that we need to undertake right now to ensure that we break the back of this outbreak here in Sydney and that people know that everyone is making the same sacrifice.
JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING: Thanks Ed, Michelle and Chris. This crisis is getting worse and worse every day and the people here in Western Sydney desperately need more help. People in Western Sydney are bearing the brunt of this nightmare. The people we represent are scared and they’re angry. Western Sydney didn’t cause this nightmare, we know why this is happening. Sydney was locked down too late and Scott Morrison didn’t buy enough vaccines. If this was stopped in Bondi, people from Bankstown to Blacktown wouldn’t be suffering right now. And if Scott Morrison delivered as many vaccines to Western Sydney as he does excuses, this lockdown would be over today.

We don’t need excuses, what we need is more help. We need more help for people who can’t work at the moment because they can’t leave the local government area. This time last year we had JobKeeper and people were given $750 a week. Now, if you can’t leave the local government area and you can’t work, you only get $600. Why? That’s just not fair. Last year it was $750, now it’s only $600. And the lockdowns are tighter now than they were last year. The lockdowns are tighter, and there’s less help. And here in Western Sydney there’s a lot of people who can’t work from home, who have to leave the local government area to work, and they can’t. It’s just not fair. If this was happening in a Liberal Party electorate you can bet Scott Morrison would be promising to build car parks on every corner. Here in Western Sydney, people are being treated like second class citizens.
It’s time for the Prime Minister to cough up and provide more financial help for people who can’t work. And it’s also time that he delivered more vaccines to people who desperately need it. The virus is running like a bushfire through this community, and we don’t have the vaccines to fight it. You would expect us as local members to be desperately calling for more vaccines here to fight this pandemic. Instead, what’s happening here is you’ve got hunger games happening right across the country between the states, because the Prime Minister didn’t buy enough vaccines last year. If he bought enough vaccines last year, people would be going to work here on Monday and sending their school their kids to school on Monday as well. Instead, we’re all locked down.
But just one last thing. I see in the paper today that people are talking about military checkpoints being set up on the borders of our local government areas, on the edges of red zones or hotspots. We’ll look whoever is thinking about this, I just ask them to have a good hard think about it. There are a lot of people in our community who fled countries where there are military checkpoints. We don’t need more military checkpoints, what we need is more cheque books. We need more financial help for people who can’t work at the moment. We don’t need more people carrying around guns, we need more people carrying around syringes full of the vaccine to help protect this community and get us out of lockdown.
CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY: Thanks Jason. The Premier said yesterday that what is happening in Western Sydney is a national emergency and of course she’s right. And a national emergency requires a national response and national leadership. And more than anything else it requires two things: vaccines in arms and money in pockets. It’s Scott Morrison’s job to get more vaccines in arms and more money in the pockets of people who are suffering in Western Sydney.

We need JobKeeper back urgently, or something that looks, tastes, smells and walks like JobKeeper, something very similar to JobKeeper. If the Prime Minister is too embarrassed to call it JobKeeper, that’s fine, I don’t care. But we need a package which keeps the employment relationship between employees who can’t work and their employers, so that when we’re through this they can go back to work just like they did when JobKeeper existed. JobKeeper is essential to the economic survival of Western Sydney as it is so many other areas. And the other thing we need is more vaccines in arms. We know how we got here; the Prime Minister didn’t order enough of the different types of vaccines despite the fact he was warned to do so. We see confusion overnight, yesterday Scott Morrison said there was no extra vaccine for New South Wales. We saw briefings, background briefings overnight to say there would be extra vaccines for New South Wales from the national stockpile. The Minister of Health in New South Wales this morning said, ‘I hadn’t been informed of that’. We need less confusion, less games and more vaccines. We need vaccines in arms, we need money in pockets.
And my final point is to support Jason’s very important point. We’ve seen again, the Prime Minister backgrounding that he offered the Premier troops for Western Sydney. Let me make it very clear. The Premier was correct to reject that offer. We’ve had more than enough police on the streets of Western Sydney, the last thing we need is troops. People in Western Sydney are doing the right thing. We do not need the army here to keep people following the rules. We need testers and vaccinators, and we need the vaccine for them to use to put into arms and we need the Prime Minister to be providing JobKeeper, not soldiers. I’m sure any of us are happy to take questions.
REPORTER: (inaudible)
CLARE: Look, this is speculation in the paper, and I hope it’s wrong. Because we don’t need the military here sitting up checkpoints between Bankstown and Fairfield and Blacktown. What we need is the Prime Minister to open the cheque book and provide help to people who can’t work at the moment and aren’t being given the help they need to pay the bills, to pay the rent and to put food on the table. There are lots of people here in Western Sydney who fled countries where there are military checkpoints everywhere. We don’t need more of that in Western Sydney. The people of Western Sydney are good, honest, hardworking people. If you tell them what the rules are, they will obey it and you can see it. You can see it, the streets are quieter, the shops are quieter. They’ll follow the rules, they don’t need someone in camo carrying a weapon to tell them to do that. The fact is this virus is running out of control here at the moment because it took too long to lock Sydney down. Sydney should have been locked down sooner and harder. At first, this was a mockdown not a lockdown. And so it spread out of Bondi. If it was stopped in Bondi, people from Bankstown to Blacktown wouldn’t be suffering now. The only way to fix this is to follow the rules. The Premier is right when she says to people, you’ve got to stay home, you can’t visit family or friends. The only good reason to leave home is to get food, to get medicine, to get a COVID test or to get a vaccination. Not a lot of people leaving home to get a vaccination at the moment, or at least not enough. Why? Because Scott Morrison stuffed it up last year when you didn’t buy enough vaccines. We’ve got half of the country locked down at the moment and barely 10% of the country vaccinated. In the United States it’s a lot higher than that, in the UK it’s a lot higher than that. The Olympics have just started. If we were comparing Australia to the rest of the world when it comes to vaccinations, we wouldn’t end up on the medal dais, we’d come dead last.
REPORTER: Can I ask you about the $600 payment that is currently on offer? A lot of people are pretty angry about how that doesn’t even touch the sides to some of us out here. 
BOWEN: Totally, there’s a lot of anger about the lack of JobKeeper. As Michelle said this is a harsher lockdown with weaker economic support. This is a harsher lockdown with less support from the federal government than we had last year, and it’s not good enough. The payments are not as good as JobKeeper, they’re harder to get than JobKeeper, it’s a complicated situation. If Scott Morrison thinks it’s working, come out and check the Centrelink lines in Western Sydney. I know he can’t leave Canberra, send somebody to take a picture for him to see that it’s not working. Business knows is not working. All the small businesses we talked to our electorates know it’s not working. The people who can’t work know it’s not working. JobKeeper had bipartisan support. He would have bipartisan support to bring it back. As I said, if the Prime Minister wants to change the name, if he wants to tweak the arrangements, that’s fine. Get the support for the people who need it, stat.
REPORTER: (inaudible)
BOWEN: Well that was the beauty of JobKeeper. That it was easy to implement, quick to access and that people understood it. I could not say the same about the current arrangements, I could not say the same about the current support. It’s difficult to access, it is not cutting the mustard and we need more. Any other questions?
REPORTER: Thanks for making time for us on the UNESCO discussion. What are your initial thoughts on decision to delay the decision, I suppose?
BOWEN: Well, the Federal Government can lobby the Barrier Reef off the list, but they can’t lobby it out of danger. The Barrier Reef remains in danger, we know that. There’s been five bleaching episodes in three years, there’s been multiple warnings over the recent years by UNESCO, we know that the Barrier Reef is one of if not the most at-risk environmental wonders from climate change. The government seems adamant to get the Great Barrier Reef off the endangered list, but they don’t seem so determined to get it out of danger. They’ve given millions and millions of dollars to a private charity and have not properly implemented a plan to save the Great Barrier Reef. That is what needs to happen.
REPORTER: So this decision delays a future decision by two years. What do you think can be done in two years?

BOWEN: Well look, of course we are not expecting miracles. We know that ultimately the Great Barrier Reef is at significant risk. Despite the fact that remains of course that it’s important to say in parts of great beauty for people to visit when circumstances allow. That’s always important to remember. But the fact of the matter is the Great Barrier Reef, one of our most important natural wonders is at risk, is at risk. And it’s at risk because of climate change. And it’s at risk, at least in part, because this government has had eight years of wasted opportunity when it comes to climate change policy.
REPORTER: What would have that endangered listing meant for the country and for the government?
BOWEN: Well, it simply would have been a recognition of the fact that the world regards this most amazing natural wonder as being at very significant risk. Now, the fact of the matter is, whether it’s on the list, or it’s off the list, the facts remain the facts. And the fact remains that the Great Barrier Reef is at danger because of climate change.
REPORTER: Some environment groups have said that the decision doesn’t change the reality on the ground and in the reef. And others are saying that the government is censoring science, do you agree with that?
BOWEN: Well, I certainly agree that whether it’s on the list or off the list, it remains a major concern. Now, I’m not going to comment on the government’s lobbying efforts, or what happens in the international forum, that’s a matter for the government to explain. I simply am concerned about the future of the reef, and I’m concerned about the future of the reef under a planet that is warming at an alarming rate.
REPORTER: Your Queensland counterpart Annastacia Palaszczuk has actually welcomed the decision to not list the reef as in danger. Obviously a difference of opinion when it comes to this issue within Federal Labor and Queensland Labor in terms of climate change in general?
BOWEN: No, I don’t believe so, not at all. Annastacia Palaszczuk you would expect to welcome that decision. But I also would be at one I’m sure with Annastacia Palaszczuk in saying the risk that does remain in the real world for the Great Barrier Reef, unless the world and Australia playing its part in that global effort tackles dangerous global warming.
REPORTER: So can I just clarify do you think that the Great Barrier Reef should have placed as endangered?
BOWEN: Oh, no, I believe it is in danger. Regardless of whether it’s on the list or not on the list, is I don’t think a central issue for the Federal Labor Party. Our central issue is that we are concerned about the future of the Great Barrier Reef.