Television Interview with Peter Stefanovic – Sky News – Wednesday 18 August 2021


SUBJECTS: More vaccine hubs and medical staff needed for vaccine rollout in western Sydney; Afghanistan.

PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Let’s head over to the Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Jason Clare. Jason, good to see you. Thanks for your time this morning. So, health officials in New South Wales are increasingly worried about seven Western Sydney suburbs that includes Auburn in your electorate. What most concerns you?

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS: What most concerns me is this is the epicentre of the outbreak. This is where people are getting sick and dying. More people are getting sick here in my local community than anywhere else. We’re getting more of the Pfizer vaccine here this week, which is a good thing. What I’d be calling on the NSW Government to do is to set up more of these “pop up” vaccination clinics. You’ve got doctors and pharmacists who are helping out with the vaccine rollout, you’ve got those big mass vaccination hubs, but these smaller “pop ups” are important as well. We’ve got a couple here in Bankstown but at the top end of my electorate, Auburn which is fast becoming the new epicentre of this outbreak, there aren’t enough of those “pop up” vaccination hubs, we need them.

The other thing I’d say, Pete, is that GPs need more Pfizer. The Pfizer that we got from Poland is going into these hubs, that’s a good thing but GPs could do more. I’ve got one GP clinic in Auburn, it’s massive, it’s got 3000 patients that it looks after every week, about 15 doctors there. They tell me that the Pfizer stock they’re getting means they can only vaccinate about four people per doctor per day and they can do a hell of a lot more than that. So I’ve written to Greg Hunt saying if you can get more Pfizer into big GP clinics like that, that’ll help to speed up the vaccination rate. It’s still lower here than many other parts of Sydney, many other parts of the country. Given this is the epicentre, where it’s spreading fastest, then we’ve got to do everything we can to get my community vaccinated quickly.

STEFANOVIC: That’s a good point you make I mean, it’s surging in many parts of the country now we’re seeing those numbers come in, but it’s tailing off it’s not happening in some parts of Western Sydney anyway, so is that access is a problem with access? Or is vaccine hesitancy still an issue where you are?

CLARE: Remember how contagious this thing is, this thing is as contagious as Ebola. It’s more contagious than smallpox. If it gets into a household here in Western Sydney, where you’ve got two people for every bedroom, then of course everyone’s going to get it. It doesn’t surprise me that we’re hearing today that it’s raging through households. I’ve said before, the purpose of the lockdown is supposedly to suppress the virus and push it down, that’s not working, or it’s not working as well as it should, it just keeps going up and up and getting worse. It seems like the whole strategy is just to try to put a lid on this as much as possible, and to try to contain the outbreak until we get everybody vaccinated. So the mission here has to be to get everyone vaccinated as quick as possible. That means more vaccine, but it also means these vaccine hubs. In a big multicultural community like we’ve got in Western Sydney, I think you’ve got to have people being vaccinated, where they pray, where they play, where they work, where they study. That’s the key to speeding up the rollout.

But the other thing that we do need is more staff to vaccinate people. There’s another story in the paper today saying that the NSW Health Department is running short on staff, they’re getting people to come out of private hospitals to help with vaccinations. I’m hearing that they’re trying to drag people from the regions into the cities. We’ve written to the Prime Minister saying get the army in to help. There’s army medics, there’s military medics, who could help here. That’s a practical, common sense idea that the Prime Minister could pick up today to make sure that we’ve got more people to vaccinate Australians in my community. We had 120 people turned away from a vaccination clinic last week here in Bankstown just because there wasn’t enough doctors and nurses to vaccinate them. That’s crazy. So if we can increase the number of hubs, that will help, but we also need to increase the amount of staff here to vaccinate people.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, and just one final on before we go Jason. I just want to get your thoughts on Afghanistan, you made two trips to Afghanistan during the war. The Taliban has done its press conference today. It’s it says that it’s going to do what it can within Sharia law for women and girls and that it can be trusted. Basically, it doesn’t hold a grudge. Can the Taliban be trusted?

CLARE: Well, let’s wait and see. You’re right. I was there twice in my capacity as Minister for Defence Materiel. What’s been ringing in my ears over the last few days are the words that were passed on to me by Australian Commanders there at the time, who said the real risk is that the Taliban will just “wait us out” and that’s obviously what has happened. But Peter, I think it is important to remember why we went there. Yes, we went there to get rid of Bin Laden, we were successful in that respect. We went there to get rid of al Qaeda. But remember Afghanistan was also the place where the people responsible for the Bali bombings were trained. 88 Australians were killed in Bali. The work Australian soldiers did in Afghanistan helped to deny Afghanistan for 20 years as a place that could unleash terror across the world.

It’s true to say that the purpose of the mission expanded to become one to train an army and a police force to deny the country to the Taliban. In that respect, it’s been unsuccessful. This is going to be a really hard time for Australian diggers, retired diggers around the country. It’s also going to be a hard time I’ve got to tell you, for the families of the victims of 9/11, the 20th anniversary is only three weeks away, I can only imagine what they’re thinking as they see those images of people falling off that plane yesterday as is it’s taking off and remembering those images of people leaping from the World Trade Centre. This is an awfully difficult time, not least for them, but also for the people of Afghanistan. My real fear is that we could see a mass exodus of people seeking to flee Afghanistan, or that Afghanistan could become a sort of a seeding ground for terror around the world again, I hope it’s not. I hope that the Taliban are good to the words they’ve uttered in the last 24 hours, but the proof will be in the pudding.

STEFANOVIC: All right, Jason we’ll leave it there. Appreciate your time, though, as always talk to you soon.