Doorstop Interview – Blacktown – Friday 13 August 2021





SUBJECTS: Western Sydney lockdown; delays in vaccine access; use of ADF resources to support vaccine rollout.

MICHELLE ROWLAND, MEMBER FOR GREENWAY: I’m Michelle Rowland, the Federal Member for Greenway. I’m here with my parliamentary colleagues. Ed Husic, the Member for Chifley, Jason Clare, the Member for Blaxland and the Mayor of Blacktown, City Councillor Tony Bleasdale. We are here because Western Sydney still needs help. We need more vaccination centres, and we need more vaccines. And we need more personnel to administer those vaccines to our local residents. It’s important at this time that we all work together, which is why I’m very pleased that Blacktown City Council, along with our two federal representatives here, myself and Ed, had jointly written to the Health Minister to say we want more vaccination centres here in Blacktown.

We need mass vaccination hubs throughout the Blacktown Local Government Area, and Blacktown Council stands ready to lend its facilities for this task, including the Bowman Hall here in Blacktown, and Blacktown Leisure Centre at Stanhope Gardens. It is also pleasing to see that Anthony Albanese has written to the Prime Minister, urging the use of Australian Defence Force personnel as part of this task. We need every layer of our society to work together on this great task of vaccinating our population, because we know that is our ticket out of lockdown. Now, it is most frustrating to see that, despite the fact this morning Blacktown and Mount Druitt was specifically named as areas of concern, we still have not been prioritised for those mass vaccination hubs. It remains a deep concern that we still have people contacting our offices saying they want to get vaccinated, but they cannot get appointments.

It is so frustrating for these people who want to get vaccinated now. And they get told by every layer of society that they should get vaccinated. They’ve been convinced to get vaccinated, and they simply can’t make it happen. It is especially frustrating for those in the construction sector here in our local area, who need to be vaccinated in order to go back to work. So we have young people in particular, who are being denied the opportunity to get back on the tools. The only way through this is to establish mass vaccination hubs here in our local area and for Greenway, that means here at Bowman Hall, and at Stanhope Leisure Centre. So I’ll pass to the Mayor, Council Tony Bleasdale whom, as I said, is very ready for all levels of government to work together to achieve this task.

TONY BLEASDALE, MAYOR OF BLACKTOWN CITY COUNCIL: Well, thank you Michelle. Yes, as the Mayor of Blacktown City, let me say the answer to this issue is really expansion of vaccination centres, right across the board, certainly in Blacktown and across New South Wales, right across Australia. And this is why we need the Federal Government to play a much bigger role in mobilising the ADF and other forces to make sure that we can achieve these results. It’s not good enough at this time for the virus to spread without fear that large scale vaccinations as you and I know, the economic impact of what’s happening is catastrophic right across Australia and certainly for Blacktown City Council, a city of 400,000 people. We need the ADF, for the Federal Government to come in and expand massive vaccination centres right across our city and right across New South Wales, and of course, right across Australia. I know National Cabinet is meeting today. They need to take these views on board ASAP. Time is on our side. Let’s get forward. Let’s go forward. Make sure this happens ASAP. Thank you very much.

JASON CLARE, MEMBER FOR BLAXLAND: Thanks, Tony. Thanks Michelle. Thanks Ed.

Today is another record day for all the wrong reasons. Today another 390 Aussies here in New South Wales have tested positive to COVID. Things here are getting worse and worse. The virus has spread from Bondi, to Bankstown to Bourke, because the State Government locked Sydney down too late and because Scott Morrison didn’t buy enough different vaccines. That’s the truth of it.

The epicentre of this outbreak is still Western Sydney. It’s here where people are getting sick and dying. It’s here where the virus is spreading fastest. And it’s here where we need the most help. We’ve called this press conference together today to ask for three things. One, we need more vaccines. Two, we need more vaccine hubs. And three, we need more medical staff to deliver those vaccines into the arms of Aussies who live here in Western Sydney.

This week, 120 people in my local community in Bankstown got turned away from a local vaccination hub because there wasn’t enough medical staff to vaccinate. My local community’s dangerously exposed. It’s the epicentre of this outbreak. There’s lots of people who are desperate to get the jab and we had to turn away 120 people because there wasn’t enough doctors and nurses to vaccinate them. That’s crazy. We can’t let that keep happening. If there’s a shortage of doctors and nurses to give people the jab, then we need to find other people and bring them in to help make sure that we can vaccinate our community as fast as possible.

I spoke to a pharmacist in my local community today. Our pharmacists are doing a fantastic job but they’re quickly being overwhelmed. She told me she’s got a waiting list of hundreds and hundreds of people who want to get vaccinated, but it’s going to take her a month to get through all of them. And we don’t have a month to wait. We want to make sure that Australians who want to get vaccinated today can get vaccinated today. That’s why we’ve written to Scott Morrison and said bring in the Army medics. We used them to vaccinate Aussies in aged care. They could be used to help vaccinate the people of Western Sydney this year.

The Defence Force is there to help protect Australians. Well, vaccinating Australians here will help to protect the lives of Australians who desperately need it. We need soldiers with syringes on the ground here, helping to protect the lives of Australians whose lives are at risk because of this awful virus. In addition to that, retired doctors, retired nurses, medical students, whatever it takes, there’s ways to train people quickly. It only takes six modules before people are ready to vaccinate other Australians. If there aren’t enough doctors and nurses in Sydney to do the job now, then we’ve got to think laterally about what we can do to make sure that we’ve got the people here that we need to vaccinate people as quickly as possible.

As Michelle said, we also need more places to vaccinate people in my own local community. We’ve got the sports club, we’ve got Lakemba Mosque. Lakemba Mosque is temporary. It’s only vaccinating people a couple of days a week. We need to make that permanent. Up at Auburn Mosque, Gallipoli Mosque, they’re going to vaccinate people next Friday and the Friday after that, but there’s no more guaranteed slots for them from New South Wales Health after that. They’ve got a waiting list of 500 people there who want to get vaccinated. If we’re going to get our community vaccinated quickly, you need the vaccines, you need the doctors and nurses to vaccinate them, but it makes sense to set up hubs where people play, where they pray, where they work, and also where they study. That’s the way to get our local community vaccinated as fast as possible.

Finally, most importantly, we need more vaccines. Everybody knows this vaccine rollout has been botched badly. But as we get more vaccines into the country, we’ve got to get them here in Western Sydney. That’s where the bushfire is worst and it’s vaccines that are going to put this out. As we get more Pfizer, we need it here. If we get Moderna, then we need it here. Our final ask is if Moderna is coming into the country, if it’s been ticked off by the TGA, then how much of the Moderna is coming here? We need it here because this is where the virus is running out of control.

ED HUSIC, MEMBER FOR CHIFLEY: Thanks, Jason. The news today of the nearly 400 new cases is deeply concerning because we’ve had a situation where the lockdown has gone on for a longer period long period of time and yet the numbers haven’t been coming down accordingly and people have tried to do the right thing obviously supporting the lockdown and understanding the need for that. But they also know that the way to get out of lockdown is vaccination and this will do a number of things that will reduce the chances of getting COVID, reduce the chances of transmitting it. And if you do get it, reduce the chances of you needing to be hospitalised as a result, people are calling, as Michelle indicated, and certainly been the case in my office out here, they want to get vaccinated and are very keen to do so. But are finding it difficult to be able to get the appointments to make that happen. We had as a community, and I want to thank the Mayor of Blacktown for his leadership in terms of this and bringing us all together for both Michelle and myself to join with council to call for major hubs to be set up. We’ve said this for weeks. And that hasn’t happened.

I was deeply concerned with the situation that Jason outlined a few moments ago, where people were being turned away in large numbers when they were trying to vaccinate and following the advice that everyone is giving, which is go and get vaccinated. And when they do, they can’t, we need to overcome this. And we think that one of the ideas that can help in terms of speeding this process, up in terms of reducing the prospect that people will be turned away, is that we have vaccination hubs that are set up and run by the idea in our communities. We now lockdown LGAs. To speed up the process of vaccination, this desperately needs to occur very quickly. And we also need to ensure that we’re calling out retired GPs, nurses and also bring in medical students to provide extra support in those hubs that do get set up. And the other thing that we do need to do is establish some sort of volunteering program that allows people from community, social, sporting, religious groups, to be able to pitch in with some of the administrative effort that’s required to make these vaccine hubs work smoothly. We think those things need to happen. These are practical solutions that we’re urging the Federal Government through the letter that Anthony Albanese sent to Scott Morrison last night, to get done. And we think that’s important. We have been, as I said a few moments ago, Michelle and I, calling in our respective areas, and particularly across Mount Druitt, Emerson, Woodcroft, to set up major vaccine hubs in the electorate that I represent. And we’ve had very little movement on this.

We had the Premier today say that she was concerned about Blacktown and Mount Druitt, that these were areas of concern. I have to make this point. I was staggered to see in the last 24 hours, a mass vaccination centre announced for Penrith. I’m very happy for Penrith to get that it is important that we vaccinate but we have been calling for weeks for these centres in lockdown LGAs, where people aren’t able to move, and the concern is that we aren’t vaccinating people long enough. We have been calling out for that and being denied. And I think the people of Penrith and I think broader Sydney would take into account the fact that lockdown LGAs have been calling and being ignored on these hubs, and then wonder how quickly this has been able to be set-up in an area that just called for it. And I have to say from my own personal perspective, this represents a low in the pandemic response by the State Government that they can ignore communities, particularly vulnerable communities when they call for these hubs, but then do it for reasons that we would be very interested to see how that hub got set-up so quickly, because I would be very interested to see the public health advice that said to do that, to prioritise those areas ahead of the lockdown LGA. I don’t think that public health advice exists. Frankly, I think this has been a case that within the New South Wales Liberal Government, they have prioritised in the area above others. This is not right. You cannot play favourites on public health. Our communities need these hubs and they need them now. And we would certainly urge that that could quicker rather than later.


KATIE BOOTH (CLARE) 02 9790 2466
BEN ANSELL (HUSIC) 02 9625 4344