Television Interview with Peter Stefanovic – Sky News – Tuesday 31 August 2021


SUBJECTS: Lockdown in Western Sydney; Morrison-Joyce vaccine rollout failure; Afghanistan.

PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Let’s go live now to Jason Clare the Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness. Jason, good to see you. Thanks for your time this morning, a bit to get through here. But first of all, I do want to ask you about some mental health statistics that have come out overnight, a survey conducted by YouGov and News Corp as well. It shows the stunning effect that the COVID crisis is having on mental health, and in particular, those of the younger generation, what’s your response to it? And is that what you’re seeing in your electorate? 

JASON CLARE, MEMBER FOR BLAXLAND: I’m not surprised at all by it Pete. It’s hard to describe to people who aren’t in lockdown what this is like. It’s sort of like an invisible weight that’s on your shoulders, made worse if you’ve lost your job, if you’ve lost income, or if you’re a parent at home  scrambling to try and do your job and look after the kids and homeschool at the same time. I talk to parents all the time, a lot crying to me on the phone with the challenges of trying to look after their kids and educate them at the same time as comply with all the rules. 

The challenge here is, we are all over this, but it’s not ending anytime soon. This is the 10th week of lockdown. Schools’ are not expected to go back for another eight weeks and that’s only half of Sydney. God knows when school will go back here in Bankstown or in Western Sydney. We’re told that we don’t get our life back until we reach 80% double dose. I was just looking at the Sky News ticker, we’re only at 36% double dose at the moment. We’re not even halfway there yet. Think of all the mental health challenges we’re dealing with in Sydney here and in Melbourne and other places right now. We’ve still got a long way to go. No wonder people are sick of it. But the only way out of this is vaccination. And it’s still taking too long to get everyone vaccinated. 

STEFANOVIC: I do have some vaccination questions, but still on mental health does this energize the need to be able to give people their freedoms back once they hit 70 and 80% vaccination targets, those that are double dosed? 

CLARE: You bet. I think that’s what people are hanging out for. It’s part of the reason why there’s queues around the corner just outside this office of people getting vaccinated today. People are hungry to get back to life. We’re living a half life here. We’re not grizzly bears. We’re not used to hibernating and we want life to get back to normal. That’s why people are getting vaccinated for their own health but also to get their life back. 

STEFANOVIC: So is Mark McGowan and Annastacia Palaszczuk, by threatening to keep their borders closed, are they taking the wrong approach?

CLARE: I think one thing you’ve got to understand here is that 70%, 80% means different things in Western Australia, or Queensland or Tasmania or South Australia than it does here. We get to 80% here in Sydney, we get our life back, we get to get back to the life we were living. When they get to 80%, they get COVID. That’s the difference. You go to Perth at the moment people can have a beer at the pub. We can’t do that. 

STEFANOVIC: But what’s the option, to stay closed forever for them? 

CLARE: No, absolutely not. But they’ve got to make sure that they’ve got their hospital systems ready to go and their health systems ready to go when they get to 80%. We’ve got to get the country back up and open again. But before you even get to there, you’ve got to get to 80%. This is part of the problem. We’re at 35 or 36%, double vaxxed here in Sydney, we’ve still got a long way to go before we get to 80.

STEFANOVIC: So just to be clear, once the national average hits 80%, that’s when we’ve got to get going and then borders have to for the most part stay open.

CLARE: That’s what the national plan says. Once you once you get to 80%, all of the health evidence is that more people get COVID but you get fewer people in hospital. Think about it, you’ve got 137 people in ICU in Sydney hospitals today, only one or two of those people are double vaxxed. It stands to reason then that more people get vaccinated, the fewer people are going to end up in hospital on a ventilator. 

STEFANOVIC: Speaking of which, it’s now been revealed that for those taking a Pfizer jab, there should be an 8-week gap between the two Pfizer jabs. It seems to have been done a little bit quietly, perhaps a little sneakily, too. What’s your reaction to that?

CLARE: I found out about this on the weekend I went into a coffee shop here in Bankstown, talked to a bloke there. He got vaccinated here in Bankstown on Friday, he showed me his phone said he’s getting the second vaccination on the 25th of October. I said, mate that can’t be right. That’s 8 weeks away. They’re telling everybody it’s 6 weeks. He said no, this is what I’ve been given. So, I went on to the NSW Health website, found out that they’ve changed the rules now so that you don’t get your second jab until 8 weeks. 

Now, there’s only one reason why they’ve pushed this out and that is because there is a lack of vaccine to give people a second jab. So, it stands to reason then that we are in lockdown here longer in Sydney because Scott Morrison didn’t buy enough of the Pfizer vaccine. For everybody that filled out that survey that’s angry and sick and tired of lockdown and are struggling because of that, you know who to blame. If we had more Pfizer, you could give people a second jab here in Sydney after 3 weeks or 4 weeks or 5 weeks, they’re going to have to wait 8 weeks. That means potentially we are in lockdown here for two weeks longer, at least, than we need to be because we didn’t buy enough Pfizer vaccine last year. 

STEFANOVIC: Jason, I’ve only got 30 seconds left. But I do want to ask you on Kabul, you made two trips to Kabul when you were in government, the last American flight left this morning. What’s your take on that and its legacy, if you can sum it up briefly?

CLARE: It’s hard to do it briefly, there’ll be books written about this for years to come. First, relief that those last flights occurred without any further loss of life. Heartbreaking for the people left in Afghanistan who hoped for so much more and so much better. This is a really difficult day, the last few weeks have been difficult, for Australian veterans who served there, who put their lives at risk, particularly if their interpreters have been left on the ground there. But we went for the right reasons. We did the right thing. We did a lot of good there. Remember, we went there originally to get rid of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. This was the place also where the Bali bombers were trained. We hoped to do more and train an army, to build a police force, to build a better country that could stand on its own two feet when we left. We weren’t successful there. We witnessed the limits and the reaches of Western power. But that doesn’t mean that we did the wrong thing. We did the right thing and we did a lot of good. 

STEFANOVIC: You’re right and today will be a tricky day for our vets to deal with today. Our thoughts are with them. Jason, good to chat. We’ll talk to you soon.