19 July 2021

MONDAY, 19 JULY 2021

SUBJECTS: Impact of Covid lockdowns on regional economies; Scott Morrison’s vaccine debacle; Scott Morrison’s inadequate Covid support package

STEPHEN JONES: Well, this morning we've learned that the virus has spread well beyond the boundaries of Greater Sydney. We've got cases in Coffs Harbour, traces in the sewage treatment works here in Wollongong and we know that there's been cases in Geelong and in Mildura. What is is quite clear is that the virus continues to spread. And I agree with the former Liberal Premier Jeff Kennett when he said this morning that the principal cause is the Government’s abject failure in rolling out the vaccine. The principal cause of this second wave is the Government’s abject failure in rolling out the vaccine. Now, we've got 10 million people in lockdown. We've got half the economy affected, people locked out of their workplaces. And in the news this morning, the Prime Minister is getting angry at Australians for not following the rules which are changing seemingly on an hourly basis. I mean, on my way here this morning, I heard that the construction shut down that we were advised of yesterday may be suspended. And this is not good enough. Australians need clear messages and they need a clear plan for the way out of here. The Prime Minister is encouraging all Australians to go out and get a vaccine, but he cannot tell half of the Australian Workforce, all of those people under the age of 40, when their first vaccine shot is going to be available. We need much better than this. We need the Prime Minister, who is getting angry with Australians. The thing that Australians want to hear from the Prime Minister right now is an apology. I'm sorry for getting the quarantine so horribly wrong. I'm sorry for stuffing up the vaccine roll out. I'm sorry that on a daily basis we are giving mixed messages to the Australian community. So instead of getting angry at the Australian people, you should try a little bit of humble pie. Australians need a clear and consistent message from the Government. And they need a clear indication about when they're going to be able to get their vaccines. I mean under 40s still do not know when they'll be able to get their first jab. We've got the construction industry closed down. We've got retail closed down, half the Australian economy in shutdown. Insufficient support and half the Australian workforce still know when they're going to be able to get their first vaccination, it's simply not good enough. And for the Prime Minister be getting angry is just vintage of this guy. Whenever there's a problem is looking for somebody else to blame. He is the last person to take accountability for his own failings.

REPORTER: Let’s start with the payments support package available. Do you think that $300 a week, $600 a fortnight, is enough to cover the cost to workers who have been stood down over this shutdown?

JONES: When Australians were shut out of their workplace last year during the first wave, Labor pushed for Job Keeper. Job Keeper provided $750 a week. This time round the Prime Minister reluctant to provide anything. $600 a week, a $150 a week cut. The most vulnerable, the poorest Australians are paying the highest price. They’re living in some of the most expensive rented accommodation, they’ve got the highest mortgages and the getting the least support. The Prime Minister needs to answer, why was $750 a week the right amount last year but only $600 a week is the right amount this year? We don't know how long this lockdown is going to occur. It's quite clear that the Government doesn't have it under control. It's quite clear that they don't have a clear plan for ensuring all Australians get vaccinated as soon as possible. Under 40s Still don't know when they're going to get their vaccinations. It's over half the Australian workforce. The same people who have been people who have been locked out of construction, locked out of retail, locked out of their jobs today aren't getting sufficient support and I've got no idea when they're going to get their vaccine.

REPORTER: What about the eligibility of people on other support payments? They are ineligible if they are receiving Job Seeker or any of the other, AusStudy that sort of thing. A lot of those people work a few hours a week to pay their rent, but they are not getting any support in this package.

JONES: The poorest Australians are paying the highest price. If you're a single Mum on a Single Parent Pension and you're working, as about one-third of them do, part-time and getting Centrelink support to supplement that, you've lost your job, your income has been slashed and you're ineligible for any support. So the Government's got to go back to the drawing board. It's not fair that the poorest and most vulnerable Australians are paying the highest price. It's not fair that Scott Morrison is leaving those people high and dry, whether it's single pensioners, whether it's people who are casual workers, whether it's the people on the Youth Allowance, people on the lowest incomes are getting the least support.

REPORTER: Would Labor support increasing the support package?

JONES: The Government needs to explain why Job Keeper isn't being reintroduced. We said it was wound down too soon. You should have still been available for the second wave that is now upon us. We think that Job Keeper was right last year. It's right this year.

REPORTER: Just going back to messaging around Covid for certain communities, particularly multilingual communities. We saw the removalists who went to regional NSW while they were positive. The owner of that business has come out and said he didn’t understand the messaging and he wasn’t aware he wasn’t allowed to leave. Do you think the Government needs to more to target multilingual communities?

JONES: The Government needs to do more to target multicultural communities to ensure the messaging is right. We all have an interest in ensuring that the messaging is right and the communication is getting through. But they've also got to look beyond Sydney. I mean, in my own region, in the Illawarra, people in the Shellharbour region are quite rightly saying well how come there's no explanation about why we're in shutdown? There have been traces in the sewage treatment area in Wollongong. But all of the communication, all the messaging is about Sydney and not about the regional areas. So people on the Central Coast, people on in the Illawarra and South Coast are saying, why aren't we getting clear information about what's going on in our community?