03 August 2021


SUBJECTS: Labor’s vaccine incentive plan; Scott Morrison’s vaccine debacle.

MELINDA JAMES, HOST: Stephen Jones joins me now. Good morning to you. 

STEPHEN JONES, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Good morning, good to be with you Mel.

JAMES: Some people not very into this idea. They think maybe it's a waste of money, that's not what I need. What I really want is choice and it's a far greater incentive for me to be told I can't go to the footy unless I’m vaccinated that than being offered $300. What do you think of some of those reactions? 

JONES: Well, let's just step back for a moment. The reason we're in lockdown is because we've stuffed up, the Government has stuffed up the vaccination rollout. We're at about 15% of the population vaccinated. Equivalent countries, Canada, Singapore, well above 60%. The UK as well. We know that the lockdown is costing the economy $1.5 billion a week minimum. That doesn't include what's going on in Queensland at the moment. So the cost of the failed vaccination program, the cost of the low vaccination rollout, the slow vaccination rollout is $1.5 billion a week. That's the cost. It also means that we're going to have to inject some more stimulus money into the economy. Everybody acknowledges that. We're going to go into a downturn over this quarter. So the economy is going backwards as a result of this. We also know that. Every economist has confirmed that. So, what are we going to do about it? We've got to get the vaccination rates up and we know that we're going to have to put some stimulus money into the economy to ensure that the country as a whole doesn't tank. How can we combine those two objectives? Well, how about we have incentive payments, $300 a pop, but you only get it if you get your vaccinations. That combines two objectives. Let's get some stimulus money into the economy. And let's get our vaccination rates up to where we need them so we don't have to have these horrendous lockdowns again. 

JAMES: Is there any evidence to suggest, though, that $300 would be the tipping point for people who are still have vaccine hesitancy? Either point-blank vaccine hesitancy or hesitancy regarding particular vaccines? Is $300 really going to change their mind? Is there ever any evidence to suggest that? 

JONES: Yeah, we've looked at the evidence. You would have seen the Grattan Institute last week were out saying in other countries have put in place lotteries and other sorts of incentives. Not that keen on the lottery option, to be honest. But I do think those countries that have introduced incentive payments, that has worked. I've mentioned Canada, I’ve mentioned the United States where they've got their vaccination rates going from nowhere to really jumping ahead in many states they’ve put in place incentive arrangements there. But let me just repeat and be clear, we're doing this for two reasons. We know that we've got to get our vaccination rate up, but we also know that stimulus is going to be needed in the economy because the abject failure of the vaccination rollout by the Morrison Government has meant we're in lockdown. It's costing us $1.5 billion a week. And that's going to go on and on and on unless we get the vaccination rate up. So this policy has two objectives; stimulate the economy and let's boot vaccination rates because that's what we need.

JAMES: Now this, of course, all depends on Labor forming Government, which what most pundits would suggest that the Prime Minister is unlikely to call an election until next year. He would like to see most of the population vaccinated before he even thinks about calling an election which would make this policy, if you were to be elected, it is a bit of a moot point, isn't it? Or are you hoping the Government will actually take it up?

JONES: Actually hoping the Government takes it up. We've got Parliament sitting this week, the coronavirus response package, the third of those is in the Parliament this week. A great opportunity for the Prime Minister to say that wasn't my idea, but it's a good idea and I'm going to put it into action. And let's not forget when they released their four phase plan last week, that's just five days ago, they acknowledged that some form of incentive arrangements were going to be needed to boost vaccination rates from where we are, a woeful 15%, to where we need to get, closer to 80%. And we need to do that quickly if we're going to get the lockdown finished and the economy moving again. 

JAMES: The Government already seems to have given it short shrift, saying that it is they don't see the evidence for it and they think there are other things at play that might encourage people to get vaccinated. Do you think it's actually going to happen? 

JONES: Look, we've seen this before. Remember three weeks ago, Scott Morrison was saying we weren't going to reintroduce Job Keeper by any name or any form? We weren't going to increase any of the stimulus payments. We've done our bit we're not going to do it. And then within a fortnight, he changed his mind. So this is the thing about this Prime Minister. He’ll change his mind, if he thinks it’s in his political interest to do that. I don't care what reason he does it. I actually want vaccinations up and I want some stimulus into the economy to stop the economy tanking. That's why we put this forward. If he takes it on as his own and puts his own name on it, bully for him. That's the way this bloke operates. We just want it to happen because we don't get vaccinations rates up, we're going to be in further cycle of lockdowns for as long as the eye can see.