Television Interview with Johanna Nicholson and Fauziah Ibrahim – ABC Weekend Breakfast – Saturday 31 July 2021


SUBJECT/S: COVID-19 vaccine rollout; Advertising and information campaign for COVID-19; Urgent need for vaccines in Western Sydney.

FAUZIAH IBRAHIM, HOST: National Cabinet has agreed to new vaccination targets which will dictate the easing of restrictions and the reopening of the nation’s economy. 70% of the eligible population will need to have received both doses of a Coronavirus vaccine before the nation moves to the next stage of easing restrictions.

JOHANNA NICHOLSON, HOST: But for now, New South Wales continues to battle the COVID-19 outbreak with Australian Defence Force troops brought in to support police and enforcing compliance within the lockdown of Sydney. Let’s bring in our political panel. Now we’re joined by Liberal MP Jason Falinski. And also joined by Labor MP Jason Clare, who’s the Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness, both of you are in lockdown in Sydney. We hope you’re doing well. Jason, I might start with you. We heard from the Prime Minister outlining this…


NICHOLSON: It’s very convenient to have you both called Jason, we hope both Jasons are going well. Jason Falinski, I’ll start with you. We heard from the Prime Minister late yesterday speaking about this roadmap out and how we’re going to progress through these phases and what targets of vaccination we have to reach. The Prime Minister said, “Put it out to Australians, it’s up to you to get vaccinated”. What’s the government going to do to get people on board and to encourage people to get vaccinated?

FALINSKI: Yeah, that’s a really good question, Jo. And I think that’s what comes next, which is we’re seeing in we’re seeing in the United States that they’re getting a lot of resistance around that 60% mark. But we saw in the UK, and we saw in Israel, that when you put an end date in front of people that that really encourage them to move from around the 50% mark over 70, 75, 80%. So we’ve seen, you know, I call them incentives, others would call them gimmicks, things around ensuring that whatever, and this is where nudge economics comes into it very strongly. So you need to remove as many barriers as possible from people getting the vaccine. That’s why the rollout to chemists is so critical. And so important, I think, for getting that rate up. And I think there are other things you could do to incentivize people in the US we saw how encouraging things like lotteries, and that sort of stuff really got people taking out the vaccine.

IBRAHIM: Jason Clare, do you think that the numbers of people taking the vaccine will start to increase now that we have this target that we need to work towards? You know, it’s a it’s an actual tangible number that people can see.

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS: I think Aussies are up for it. I think we can hit that target. I think we can do better than America. Australians will put out their arms when the vaccine is there. It is our only way out. I’m here in the epicentre of this crisis here in Western Sydney. You’re seeing the virus run amok here. The government’s talking about trying to suppress the virus here, it seems like it’s more about containing it until we get everybody vaccinated. We’ve got to do everything we possibly can particularly here in Western Sydney to get people vaccinated as quick as possible if we’re going to stop people getting sick, stop people dying and if we’re going to get out of this lockdown.

Here’s a constructive idea: There’s a lot of people watching ABC Breakfast now, but not everybody in my electorate is watching us as we’re talking about this. I represent a very multicultural electorate about 70% of people are going to speak a language other than English today in their house. A lot of them will be listening to SBS Radio. I’ve been calling on the government now non-stop for months to do more to get messages out to people about the virus and about the vaccine in different languages. SBS Radio communicates with about 3 million people a week right across the country in about 70 different languages.

Now Brad Hazzard yesterday said that there are still people from my community that are turning up to hospital either really sick or dead. Now that tells you that there are a lot of people out there who are still not hearing the message about how dangerous this virus is, or are trusting the government with the information they’re putting forward. We’ve got to do a hell of a lot more to get information to my community in different languages, both about how serious this virus is, but also the importance of getting the vaccine when it’s available. It hasn’t been available. We know why, the government stuffed up the rollout. But as we get more vaccine, we’ve got to get it into the arms of people, particularly here in Western Sydney who are in the most severe form of lockdown.

NICHOLSON: Jason Falinski, what about more of an advertising campaign? I mean, we’ve seen a couple of ads from the government but it’s fair to say that we haven’t seen the sort of inspiring creative ads that other countries have rolled out. Is the government going to throw everything at an advertising campaign to encourage people to get vaccinated?

FALINSKI: Sure Jo, we are. I mean, we’ve committed to 10s of millions of dollars along with the state government in New South Wales to getting those messages that Jason Clare was just talking about. I’ve got to say, Jason, with that background and your jacket on you look like you’re in the middle of the Patagonia. But having said that, we will spend a lot of so a lot of public resources have gone into it. Look, I don’t mean to be political about this. But we also need to have people getting the right information out there, especially around the AstraZeneca vaccine of which Australia has quite a lot of at the moment. There have been a lot of people that haven’t been out there doing stuff. I mean, Bill Shorten yesterday went to CSL he said it was a safe vaccine, he encouraged people to get AstraZeneca. We need, frankly, Anthony Albanese to stand up and say that as well. And we need the Labor Party generally not to endorse candidates like Michelle Rajah, who spent a large part of this pandemic campaigning against what is a very safe vaccine.

CLARE: Oh, come on. Hang on, Jason just said he was going to be political. How desperate is the Liberal Party that they’re now blaming the Labor Party for this vaccine rollout stuff up? I’ll tell you who’s done more damage to the AstraZeneca rollout than anybody else in the country, that’s Scott Morrison. Remember that late night press conference back in April? That scared the crap out of everybody in the country that AstraZeneca wasn’t safe. That’s why we’ve got vaccine hesitancy in my electorate at the moment. And for Jason Falinski to now say, it’s our fault? Give me a break. If excuses won gold medals at the Olympics, Scott Morrison would be on the dais in Tokyo singing the National Anthem at the moment. We don’t need excuses. We don’t need blaming the Labor Party. We’re in opposition. You’re in government, do your job, roll out the vaccine.

FALINSKI: So I’ll respond to that by saying quite clearly, Michelle Andanah-Rajaha that has been endorsed by the Labor Party in the seat of Higgins is on her own Twitter account, admitting that she ran a campaign to get ATAGI to change the advice.

Anthony Albanese is a member of the Australian Parliament. All of us have a responsibility to communicate clearly to our communities that AstraZeneca is a safe vaccine. It has been used in many countries around the world, including the UK to allow them to get back to normal life. Bill Shorten has to fill the vacuum created by Anthony Albanese

CLARE: That is just rubbish Jason. How desperate is the Liberal Party, that you’ve got to blame us for your vaccine rollout stuff up? Seriously?

FALINSKI: … to stand up and say that the Labor Party endorses AstraZeneca and rejects the comments from people like Jeannette Young and Michelle Rajah.

CLARE: This is unbelievable. This is how desperate the Liberal Party is…

NICHOLSON: We’re gonna move on.

CLARE: 70% we would be there now if it wasn’t for this vaccine rollout stuff up.

NICHOLSON: We’ve got other issues to cover so I want to move on to the lockdown that you are both experiencing in Sydney. The AMA, the Australian Medical Association, has called for tighter rules in Sydney. But also consistency with the rules. We’ve got some LGA dealing with very tight restrictions and other areas in Greater Sydney that the restrictions aren’t as tight. Jason Falinski is this scope to perhaps make it more consistent and therefore less confusing for people?

FALINSKI: Quite the opposite Jo. I think there is scope actually for more bespoke regulations for people in different parts, where this is being affected. I come from a part of Sydney that was the only part of Australia locked down over Christmas and New Year. That was both appropriate and sensible, and allowed the vast majority of Australians, in fact, every other Australian, to enjoy their Christmas and New Year’s so we were locked out. And when you say it was the AMA, let’s be quite clear. It is the President of the AMA. That’s not the view of the AMA. And in Jason Clare’s electorate we’ve had doctors charging people to get vaccines. And I’d love to see the President of the AMA criticised doctors doing that rather than constantly criticising governments around Australia that are trying to do the best for their communities in this country.

IBRAHIM: Jason Clare, Jason Falinski had a point there and a lot of comparison has been made to how the Northern Beaches were locked down in December during Christmas. And now you’ve got southwest Sydney and western Sydney basically in a lot stricter lockdown than the rest of the city as well. Can you compare these two areas which vastly differ in terms of culture in terms of language in terms of income as well, in you know, when it comes to treating both sort of areas, is it one in the same sort of treatment or does it have to be targeted?

CLARE: Well, I just say to Jason, if your area doesn’t have the virus at the moment, then give us your vaccines.

FALINSKI: Happy to, happy to. Hey mate…

CLARE: Great. Okay, terrific. So we’ve got Jason on the record there saying…

FALINSKI: Jason Clare, let’s also be very clear, in southwest Sydney… So that’s already happening.

CLARE: Put a cork in it for a second, give me a chance to speak. If there’s no virus in your electorate at the moment, then stop the vaccine rollout there and send it to Bankstown where people are getting sick and dying at the moment. If you don’t think a lockdown should be in your area, then bring it here because people are being vaccinated in your area at the moment and people are getting sick and are dying here in Bankstown, in Blacktown and in Fairfield.

NICHOLSON: A quick response from Jason Falinski and then we’ll have to finish up.

FALINSKI: Jo, I just say to Jason Clare, that is already happening. We’ve had this week alone the New South Wales Government divert 50,000 doses from country and rural New South Wales, regional and rural New South Wales to southwest Sydney. The ACT Government through the National Stockpile has donated or it has redirected another 50,000 Pfizer doses to southwest Sydney. Now no one’s complaining about that, that is entirely appropriate and proper. And because he’s right, we don’t want people dying from this virus. But to suggest that somehow parts of Sydney don’t believe that we should be redirecting resources to those people who most need it is not fair.

CLARE: Redirect it from your electorate then, mate.

FALINSKI: But they are being redirected.

IBRAHIM: We want to move on. One last topic, and I just butt in here. I know you’re having a wonderful conversation both of you, but there are four people in this conversation. One last topic and that is the fact that we are expecting another anti-lockdown protest to happen here in Sydney at the moment.

Now, there is a mix of people who may not believe that this pandemic happens there is a mix of people who may believe that there is no such thing as the Coronavirus, or that vaccines shouldn’t exist and shouldn’t be put into people’s arms. But there’s also a mix of people who are very frustrated about what’s happening here. And that frustration comes from a lack of leadership or the perception that there is a lack of leadership. Jason Falinski, if I could start with you, what would you say to people who may be gathering to do this anti-lockdown protest in Sydney today?

FALINSKI: Don’t do it. It’s stupid, and you’re being idiots. If your goal is to get back to normal life, then by going to that protest, you are putting that goal further away. Do not go to these protests. It is only going to make the situation worse.

CLARE: I agree with Jason, I can understand why people are angry. But if you’re angry with the way the government has stuffed this up, then there’s one way to protest and that is vote them out. Next year when there’s an election, get rid of them for stuffing up the vaccine rollout. But at the moment if you go to Sydney in protest, you’re not going to make the lockdown any shorter, you risk making it even longer. You also risk getting the virus yourself and potentially passing it on to your own family and friends. And do you really want to have a conversation with your brothers and your sisters about who’s going to go to your mum or dad’s funeral? So seriously, don’t go to the protest.

IBRAHIM: All right. On that note, we’re going to have to end this very spirited conversation. We thank both of you for coming on to Weekend Breakfast, Jason Falinski and Jason Clare. Stay safe, both of you. Thank you.