Doorstop Interview – Prairiewood – Sunday 1 August 2021






SUBJECT/S: COVID-19 vaccine rollout; Urgent need for vaccines and clinics in Western Sydney; calls for better communication campaign in languages other than English.

CHRIS BOWEN: Thanks for coming to the Prairiewood Vaccination Centre. This is a very important message today. We have these centres here in Prairiewood and in other places. Vaccines don’t save lives, vaccinations save lives. And we need, as we’ve seen during the week, as many people across the country vaccinated as soon as possible so we can return to normal. And our message as the Opposition today is one a support for the message that the sooner we all get vaccinated, the sooner our country can return to a more normal situation. I also want to just say a few words to the people in regional New South Wales who’ve had their vaccines taken away and redirected to here and other parts. Thank you. We’re in this situation because the federal government, the Morrison Government didn’t organise enough Pfizer vaccines; not enough were ordered. But the fact of the matter is, we are where we are. And we now have to get through this as quickly as possible. And that means working cooperatively, wherever possible to ensure as many people as humanly possible can be vaccinated.

Two final quick messages from me before I hand over to Michelle, and then Ed and Jason. Firstly, last week, we said we had concerns about the military being deployed in Western Sydney, those concerns could be cleared remote. However, I know in my case, I know in the case of my colleagues, we’ve interacted with our Local Area Commands, and are very happy with the way our Local Area Commands are going about implementing the situation. I have the greatest respect for my Local Area Commander in Fairfield. He’s made clear to me that he sees a priority being humanitarian support and friendly checking on those who are COVID positive in their homes for the military. That, of course, is appropriate. We don’t need any overblown rhetoric from the federal government or anyone else about boots on the ground, what we need is recognition that we’re all in this together. And we have to support our authorities. And certainly, we, the federal parliamentarians will do so.

The final point is this; when I move around a community, I see people complying with the rules, I see 99% of people doing the right thing. The rules are complicated at one point. Now I’ve got four local government areas that I represent. And I have three sets of rules to try and explain to people and even I would find it confusing. There are different rules that have come in about mask wearing that have now been clarified, that you don’t have to wear a mask when alone in a car or when you’re strenuously exercising. So let’s make the rules. And I’m not making a political point, just a statement of common sense observation. Let’s make the rules as simple as possible. Everybody wants to do the right thing. 99% of people want to do the right thing, regardless of where they live, regardless of their background. We all want to get through this as quickly as possible. The simpler the rules are, the more consistent they are, the easier it is for people to comply with them.

MICHELLE ROWLAND: It’s been yet another very frustrating week for the residents of Greenway, all of whom are impacted by these restrictions. It is the case that the vast majority of local residents want to do the right thing. But some of these rules are very confusing in terms of how they apply in practice. I held a community Zoom during the week with hundreds of local residents joining and there were very practical questions that were asked, for example, if you live on the border of a local government area, and that second local government area is not impacted by these rules. But that area actually has the closest supermarket for you and it’s within five kilometres, are you allowed to go there? These are very practical and very serious questions asked, for example, about which small businesses are allowed to work. If you don’t have contact with people, for example, if you’re a lawn mower business, are you still allowed to work? So all of these questions need to be clarified. But the fact remains that people want to do the right thing. And everyone is grateful to their neighbours for seeking to do the right thing. So we get out of lockdown, no one wants to be locked down and have the restrictions that we currently have.

The second point I want to make is in terms of languages and reaching people who need to understand the rules. In order to ensure we maximise compliance. I represent an electorate where nearly half of the population speaks a language other than English at home. And when I look up some of the information on publicly available websites, it is actually easier to find specific information in Icelandic than in Tamil. This should not be happening. We need to ensure that everyone in our community understands the rules and can access information as readily as possible.

The third point is it’s great to see this walk-in vaccination clinic here. But we need them throughout our hotspots and I note that along with other representatives of my area, including local government, we stand very ready to ensure that facilities are offered for that purpose. But also, they need to be in areas that have been of great concern, including in the southern end of my electorate.

The last point I want to make is in terms of small business. Small businesses, of course, have been terribly impacted by this lockdown situation. Now the Prime Minister had to be dragged kicking and screaming, to have an additional package to assist our local small businesses. But unfortunately, for so many of them that has come too late and it is typical of this Prime Minister who doesn’t take responsibility, who is dragged kicking and screaming. But for so many small businesses, the additional assistance that’s on offer is too late for them.

This is a National Emergency and it needs national leadership. We need to get that from our federal government – not late-night press conferences promising once again to have a set of targets, when we know that this Prime Minister said this wasn’t a race. We know that he dragged his feet on the vaccination schedule. He said that all Australians would be home by last Christmas. This isn’t helping anyone. The blame game between New South Wales and their federal counterparts isn’t helping anyone. People need help. Now, they need greater assistance, and they need more vaccines. And that’s what’s going to get us out of lockdown.

ED HUSIC: Everyone, I just wanted to start by thanking communities in in my neck of the woods in Mount Druitt through to Blacktown for the mammoth effort that they’ve undertaken in terms of undertaking testing and going to vaccination clinics similar to these ones that we’re at right now. They’ve done a terrific job, making sure that they step up and I want to encourage people to get vaccinated, to go and talk with their doctor or medical practitioners and get vaccinated because as we’ve all been saying, it’s the fastest way out of lockdown. But importantly, it’s the best way to avoid either getting COVID, transmitting COVID, reducing the chances of transmission and getting it yourself and importantly, if you do get it, reducing the impact of COVID on people personally.

I also want to give a shout out if I may add to the residents of in particular here in Fairfield, who have done it particularly tough in southwest Sydney, right through to Bankstown as well. We certainly feel for them going through what they they have. The big thing that I get out of residents in my area is the need for clear concise rules, and also a lot better support. One of the things that I have to say I was a bit surprised listening to the Health Minister from New South Wales on Insiders this morning, is a suggestion that the reason why Western Sydney got these lockdowns and have been much tougher is because in the Northern beaches and Eastern suburbs cases, people followed the rules, which was what he was suggesting this morning. We don’t need blame shifting out of the New South Wales Government and in particular, what we don’t need is a government trying to suggest that communities are responsible for these problems when in fact, the messaging has been unclear.

There has not been enough work done on the ground to network in neighbourhoods and communities to get the message out. A big assumption being made that everyone is watching the Premier’s 11am press conference and getting the daily instructions and then following those. I think that is a heroic assumption. It is very important that that press conference occur but it should not be assumed that everyone’s listening to that. It does take a lot of work to get that message reinforced and to build community networks that can get that message out. I was contacted in the last 24 hours by my local police Local Area Command and I’m very grateful for the fact that we’ve had that effort made and I know my colleagues have received similar. But we’ve had no real substantive contact out of either federal ministers or state ministers that have been very keen for these lockdowns to occur and not so forthcoming in terms of talking about the support that will be around.

Again, we don’t need as Michelle indicated, harried, panicked late-night press conferences, and the sight of Scott Morrison every time he’s in a jam, he’s a man suddenly with a plan. The plan just to distract we’ve seen this this week. We saw it last week. The big plan that we need to see; securing more vaccine providing more financial support, helping people struggle, ordinary workers, like, for example, in my area, where I’ve had people say, if I have to isolate, where am I going to get the money for my wages from? Will my employer support me? Or will the Federal Government help out? For instance, people forced to take annual leave, and not work because the level of financial support out of the Federal Government hasn’t been strong enough. We do need to ensure that people don’t feel like their only option is to chase down work no matter what because they feel the financial support is not there to back them up from federal and state government.

The best thing that we could see is much stronger support. So it certainly urged that, and in my area, I’ve been very keen for the New South Wales Government to open up vaccination clinics, like what we’re seeing here, certainly to occur in Emerson, Mount Druitt, and Woodcroft. We’ve written to the New South Wales Government, with the Mayor of Blacktown urging that to happen, and I certainly would hope that that’s the case because, again, making sure we’ve got access to enough vaccine supply in terms of what the government has been pushing for making sure that we also get the process happening of mRNA manufacture in this country, making sure we can move on on national quarantine, and making sure that we have a public information campaign that is cohesive and well understood to back in everything that’s being done.

JASON CLARE: Thanks, Ed, Michelle, and Chris. Parliament returns this week. But the four of us won’t be in Canberra for Parliament. We will be here with our local communities. We will be with our local communities fighting for them through a video link to Parliament. And our message to the Parliament, our message to the Prime Minister is clear. We need more vaccines, and we need them now. Our communities are on fire at the moment and vaccines are the hose. Vaccines are what will put this fire out here in Western Sydney and right across metropolitan Sydney.

Today’s press conference, we heard more bad news that another 239 people have tested positive to COVID here in Sydney, many of them here in Western Sydney. That’s equal with the highest number that we’ve had all through this pandemic. What it tells us is that the lockdown is not working, or at least it’s not working as well as it should. Lock downs are supposed to suppress the virus, push that number down. Today I heard the Premier use a word that I hadn’t heard her say before, she talked about “containing” the virus. That should tell you something that everything that the state government is trying to do here is just to try to put a lid on the amount of people who are getting the virus and what she said is the only way to put this fire out is with the vaccine. Well, we need more of it if we’re going to put this fire out.

The Health Minister said as much on Insiders this morning, when he said we don’t have enough of the vaccine here in Sydney at the moment, at least not enough Pfizer. This is a race, the faster we get the vaccine, the faster we get out of lockdown. The faster we get everybody vaccinated, the fewer people here in Western Sydney are going to get sick and die. Remember the Prime Minister on Friday said the target 70%, then it’s 80%. The great tragedy in all of this is that if we met the original target that the Prime Minister set of having everyone who wanted a vaccine, vaccinated by October, well, we’d be at 70 or 80% now. Think about the misery in our local community here in Western Sydney that could have been avoided if the Prime Minister had delivered what he promised, if almost everybody in Australia had the chance to be vaccinated by October, which is what this Prime Minister promised us, how much misery, how much sickness how much death in our local community could have been avoided?

It was also revealed at the press conference that the Premier held today that four people have died from COVID in their own home, not in hospital, but at home. We heard the other day that some people are presenting the hospital dangerously ill and that dead bodies have been brought to hospitals. What the hell is going on here? How is it that people are dying in their own home? This should tell us something.

The message isn’t getting through the message about how dangerous this virus is or how important it is to get vaccinated. Lots of people are going to tune in tonight to Channel Nine, Channel Seven, Channel 10, ABC and SBS. But as Ed said, the people in our local community get their news from lots of other places. Michelle made the point that a lot of people in our local community speak a different language to English at home. In my own community in Bankstown and Auburn, 70% of people today are going to speak a language other than English at home. If we’re going to get the message through to people about how dangerous this virus is, what the rules are and how to comply with them, and how important the vaccine is to get you got to give that message to them in the language they speak at home. So here’s a constructive idea; SBS Radio talks to 3 million Aussies a week in 70 different languages. I call on the Federal Government on the eve of Parliament to put more money into SBS and get more ads on SBS Radio. It’s radio that’s not broadcast in English. It’s broadcast in all of the different languages that are spoken here in Western Sydney. On its own, it won’t do the job, but it’s part of getting the message through to our local community about how dangerous this virus is, about what the rules are that we need to comply with, and how important it is for everybody to go out and get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Now, of course, for everyone to get vaccinated, there needs to be a vaccine. There’s not enough of it here at the moment. That’s part of the reason why people here in Western Sydney, are so tired, and so angry with the State Government for not locking down sooner and with the Federal Government for stuffing up the vaccine rollout. Look, just finally, on one point Chris mentioned, the army he mentioned that our Police Commanders have picked up the phone and talk to us and I want to thank them for that. We’re very fortunate here in Western Sydney to have great men and women in blue who do a fantastic job for our local community. But to reiterate the point Chris made, there’s been a few politicians state and federal have been talking about boots on the ground. My message to them is we need our men and women in green to tread lightly. That community is fragile. A lot of the people we’ve got the privilege to represent come from countries where the military would knock on the door. I think from the conversations we’ve had with the police yesterday, they know that, they get that and they’re going to make sure that the military and the police in the work they do help our local community. But just remember how fragile our community is, how tired a lot of the people we represent are, how frustrated they are, how confused they are with some of these changing rules and just how angry they are that after five weeks, we’re still in this mess, that things are getting worse not better. They’re angry with the State Government for locking down too late but they’re even angrier with Scott Morrison for abandoning them in their time of need. We need more vaccines. This is a race. The faster we get the vaccines. The quicker we get out of this mess, the quicker we get out of lockdown, and the fewer people are going to get sick and die here in Western Sydney. Thanks very much.


KATIE BOOTH (CLARE) 02 9790 2466