Television Interview with Kieran Gilbert – Sky News – Thursday 29 July 2021


SUBJECT/S: COVID-19 pandemic; Extension of Sydney lockdown; Urgent need for vaccines in hotspots; Anti-lockdown protest.

KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: Let’s go live now to Jason Clare. He’s the Labor frontbencher and Federal Member for Blaxland, which is now the epicentre of this outbreak. The state authorities are saying compliance is the key, same message from the federal government. Are people listening in your LGA, in your area? Are they doing the right thing?

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS: Well, the short answer to that Kieran is yes, most people are doing the right thing. They’re staying at home, they’re only going out if they have to, to get food or medicine. But it’s just been made very, very clear over the last few weeks, that it only takes a couple of people to do the wrong thing for this thing to spread like wildfire.

The results today just show that this is getting worse, not better. This is the worst results we’ve ever seen in Sydney throughout this pandemic. And now the epicentre of it, as you just said is in the Canterbury Bankstown area that I represent. I represent a lot of people who are pretty down today. They’re pretty anxious, pretty worried, frustrated, worn out from four weeks of lockdown, and five weeks now. Now looking at, at least another four, and a lot of people are pretty angry. And you can understand why especially when you see what’s happened in Melbourne, when you see what’s happened in South Australia, where they locked down hard and fast. And now they’re getting out of lockdown and we look set for a long, dark four weeks, at least, ahead of us.

GILBERT: You look at these numbers that my colleague Andrew Clennell obtained from the New South Wales Health authorities, in the last 14 days 359 cases of people aged 30 to 39. In the teens 270 cases and zero to nine 188 cases now, from kids right through to young adults. It shows you at least in terms of the numbers of cases, it’s those people out and about – 20-year-olds, 30-year-olds – who are doing jobs as the Premier says crucial jobs but that’s where it’s being spread.

CLARE: Well, I think that’s part of it, Kieran. Young people are out working. Most older people if they’re like my mum and dad, they’re hunkering down at home and they’re learning how to shop for Coles, Woolies or Aldi online, they haven’t left the house.

But there’s another reason why it’s spreading faster amongst young people. And that is that they’re the group of people that haven’t been able to get vaccinated in the last couple of months. They’re the ones who were told in that late night press conference, that AstraZeneca is not for you. So, for most people in their 20s and 30s, for the last few months, they haven’t been able to get the jab.

This is where the responsibility rests on the Prime Minister’s shoulders. He had a gift when last year, we did better than most countries around the world because Australians did what they were asked, and they stayed at home. Then in the second half of last year, when the opportunity was there to buy enough different vaccines to make sure that if a second wave comes and hits us, like it’s hit us now, we had everybody vaccinated. We didn’t do the job that we needed to the Prime Minister didn’t buy all of those vaccines. There was a lot of gloating from him and Josh Frydenberg, about how good the economy was going. Now we’re paying the price for that gloating, that complacency, that hubris, because we’re all locked down here in Sydney and looks like we are for a long time to come.

GILBERT: More opportunities, Jason Clare, for vaccine hubs, it’s becoming more available. We’ve seen this advertisement launched today to say to people, whatever age please get vaccinated with AstraZeneca or whatever you can get your hands on. Are they taking up that opportunity from what you can tell in your LGA in Canterbury Bankstown?

CLARE: I think they are. Certainly the community’s rallying around it. Bankstown Sports Club, which is the biggest club in Bankstown, is becoming a vaccine hub on Friday or Saturday. That’s a fantastic opportunity. It means the club can tell all members, “Get down here and get vaccinated”, tell the whole community to use that as a place to get AstraZeneca.

Having pharmacies online is going to be really important because a lot of people see their pharmacists more than their GP. But if we can help GPs by making sure that they’ve got not just AstraZeneca, but Pfizer, that’ll help as well. I’ve written a letter to Greg Hunt about this today, because I’ve had GPs come to me and say, “Look, we’re a multicultural community. A lot of people don’t speak very good English, or they’re not online, don’t have a computer. They’re not going to go to one of the hubs where you can get Pfizer because they trust their local GP, can you please give it to us?” Some GPs have been rejected for that. So, I’m just asking Greg, can you have a look at that, because this is the epicentre of it. This is where the virus is running amok. And if we can get Pfizer to some of these GPs, there’s a group of people who are hesitant who we can vaccinate, if we can get that vaccine to the local GPs who aren’t getting it at the moment.

GILBERT: Is the hesitancy issue a real problem or are most people listening to the science and listening to the fact that the risk of dying if you’re over 70 is much, much greater if you get COVID, than it is from one of these vaccines?

CLARE: I think for most people, they’ve seen enough news to know the truth that if you get this, you’re going to get very sick and you might die. But there are groups of people out there that are getting rubbish information off the internet, or from people like Clive Palmer. One of the most frustrating parts of this is that you’re seeing micro parties set up to try to capitalise on people’s concerns and their anxieties. And I think you’re going to see a mob of ratbags try and win spots in the Senate at the next election off the back of that. And there are people who are susceptible to that. That’s a risk.

But most Aussies want the jab. We’re out there trying to encourage people to desperately get the jab. It hasn’t been helped, I’ve got to say, by the mixed messages. We were told AstraZeneca was for everybody, then it was only if you’re over 50, then if you’re over 60. Now it’s back to over 18. It’s like vax-on vax-off vax-on again. That hasn’t helped, nor has a late-night press conference. So, the government has to wear some responsibility for this. As I said earlier, if they bought enough other vaccines, just as a contingency to deal with the stuff up like the one we’re seeing now, then we would have more people vaccinated here now than we do.

And I still don’t know, I don’t know whether the government can give you this information, we don’t know what the vaccination rates are in our own electorates, or in the different suburbs. We need to give people that information, trust us with the information. I think if the people of Canterbury Bankstown, Fairfield and Liverpool know what the vaccination rate is in our local areas today, then that will help to set a target and encourage us in the community to say, “We’ve got to get it to 30 or 40, to 50 to 60 to 70 to 80”. But we’ve been kept in the dark on that at the moment.

GILBERT: What was your reaction to the self-indulgent lawlessness of those protests at a time when there’s a pandemic and serious public health orders out there?

CLARE: I think Stephen Jones, my colleague from down south, put it best when he said he turned on the TV and he thought he was watching the Dickhead Olympics in Sydney. Seriously, we know everybody is trying to get out of this lockdown as quick as possible. And then you see people do absolutely the opposite of what we’ve being told. And you just see that footage on TV and you think, does this mean we’re going to be locked down for another month? It’s certainly not going to make it shorter. It just risks making it longer.

No one likes being locked down. You know, this is pretty awful. But I tell you what’s more awful than that? Your mum dying. Or your grandfather dying, or choking to death in hospital because they can’t breathe. This is not a joke. This is serious. We need to work together to get everyone vaccinated. Obviously, what’s happening in Sydney at the moment isn’t working, or it’s not working as well as we’d hoped it would.

We talk about suppression. This seems more like containment at the moment, Kieran, because we’re not seeing the numbers go down. It seems like everything the government’s doing is trying to contain it until such time as there’s enough people vaccinated for us to get out of lockdown. Now, if that’s the case, then let’s all work together to get as many people here vaccinated as quick as possible. That means GPs, that means pharmacists, that means the local sports club, it also means the Prime Minister getting on the phone to Pfizer again and saying, “Have you got some more?” Because the sooner we get it, the sooner we put it in arms, the sooner we can get life a little bit back to normal without worrying about visiting our mum and worrying if we’re going to kill them.

GILBERT: Yeah, exactly. And we don’t need to see those boofheads on the street, as you said, we’re happy to watch the other Olympics. Jason Clare, thanks very much for joining us from Sydney in the seat of Blaxland.