14 July 2021

SUBJECTS: Greater Sydney lockdown; Scott Morrison’s vaccine debacle
HOLLY STEARNS, HOST: As economies around the world recover from the pandemic, Australia is continuing to be divided as different states grapple with more lockdowns and the vaccine roll out continues to lag. We're now joined by Labor MP and Shadow Minister for Finance, Stephen Jones, for his analysis on this. Stephen great to see you as always.
STEPHEN JONES: Good to be with you.
STEARNS: Let's start our conversation with the recent New South Wales relief package. What did you think of it?
JONES: Look it came a little late, three weeks into the lockdown here in Sydney in New South Wales. A lot of businesses already hit the wall, a lot of workers already lost their job. So, this goes directly to the reason why we were saying the government was too soon to cut and shutdown Job Keeper. We anticipated that there was going to be further lockdowns, particularly given the government with so slow and rolling out the vaccines and it so comprehensively bungled hotel quarantine. So my initial analysis, some relief welcome but it's a little late and a little short of what was needed.
STEARNS: How detrimental are these lockdowns to the economy, not just in New South Wales and Sydney but also the rest of Australia and what's the alternative?
JONES: So, about a billion dollars a week lost to the New South Wales economy. Hard to calculate at this point in time what the broader ramifications are. We know that it will be costing businesses outside of Sydney, outside of New South Wales, as well. Those businesses that are headquartered elsewhere but made to do business in New South Wales, interrupted supply chains, so there's a lot of flow on effects when you take the biggest economy in the country out of the equation. We know that the cost in the extensive lockdowns in Victoria was $1.5 billion a week. So there is a massive cost. The question is, what's the alternative? Well, the alternative is fixing up the vaccine, ensuring that we can get those high levels of vaccine rollout happening. This is exactly why we were warning the Government we can't be complacent on vaccine rollout. Redouble the efforts, ensuring that we've got the supply happening, because we're a long way short of the mark at moment.
STEARNS: On the topic of vaccines. I wanted to ask you about this, the vaccine add recently aired in Australia. It was, you know, quite graphic. What's on the screen there at the moment. I want to ask you, Stephen, was this the right move? What was the aim? The aim of the ad was to get the attention of younger people to go and get the vaccine and that it can affect anyone. But it's not actually available to everyone yet.
JONES: Yeah look I’m not an adman, but I've got to say if I was in the hamburger business I wouldn’t launch a series of ads on TV encouraging somebody to go out and buy a hamburger that I didn't have any supply for. And that's kind of what they've done here. They're encouraging young people to go and get a vaccine that they're not eligible for, that is not available at the moment. So the number one job of the Commonwealth Government before they jump into the marketing is to ensuring that they’ve got the supply sorted. Now, I want some good advertising out there to dispel a lot of the anti-vaccine nonsense that's going around the country at the moment. I've had more stuff in my mailbox from Clive Palmer than from the Government on the science around vaccine. So, I think there is a role for advertising, and I think there's also a role for hard-hitting advertising. But for God's sake, can we get the vaccine up before we get the marketing campaign about the vaccine happening?
STEARNS: Well, we know former PM Kevin Rudd, recently contacted the Pfizer chairman to move the vaccine rollout along. What do you think of this? And why was it put on his shoulders to have to do that?
JONES: Yeah, clearly there's a lot of concern within the business community that the Government hasn't done its job, and they're basically reaching out to anyone who they think has got some influence in the US. Kevin Rudd mostly resides there now and he's got extensive business contacts, and as a former Prime Minister, whether it's Prime Minister Rudd, Prime Minister Turnbull, Prime Minister Howard, they all pack a bit of punch and if they put in a call it's going to get answered. So I think Australians are saying, well good on you Kevin. Perhaps a little bit disappointed that instead of saying thanks mate, the Health Minister decided he was going to go out there and bag Kevin for trying to do the right thing. No-one is suggesting that Kevin's name is on the contract which is going to get more vaccine supply there, that is the Government's job. It is actually the Government's job to have been doing this as far back as July, August last year. They’ve failed. So like, you know we can't turn back time. It's up to the Government now to get the vaccine flowing into though places where it's needed, which is particularly Sydney and greater Sydney at the moment, for the whole country.
STEARNS: Indeed, now just on that from an economic point of view where does Australian I guess sit in the next six months from an economic recovery standpoint? And where does Australian seat in comparison to the rest of the world now, but also in the, you know, next few months as well?
JONES: We’re at the bottom of the league table when it comes to vaccinations rolled out and therefore we're at the top of the league table when it comes to risk. You know, we all watched the soccer, we all watched the tennis a couple of nights ago and the one thing that would have struck Australian viewers was the packed stadiums and the fact that life was pretty normal over there in the UK at the moment. And over here in Australia, we're locked down. We're watching from behind our locked down houses. And the thing that’s making the difference between the situation in the UK and situation in Australia, whatever their mistakes over there and they have made plenty, is they have prioritised getting the vaccine into people's arms and it's working. It means their economy is opening up. And until we hit those high levels of vaccine roll out in Australia, we won't be opening up and we will be a risk. And it means that the tragic situation that we've seen in Australian over the last fortnight, tragically we've got our hospitals being filled with covid patients again. Two tragic deaths in the last week. I hope that the last, but I fear they may not be. And this is the result of complacency. This is what happens when, instead of doubling down on the vaccine strategy, you’re planning the next election. That's not what Australia needs right now.