28 July 2021

SUBJECTS: JobKeeper 4.0, lockdown extension. 
HOLLY STEARNES, HOST: Stephen, thanks for your time. 
STEPHEN JONES: As always, good to be with you.  
STEARNES: Let's start our conversation today with Scott Morrison's latest comments about financial support. What are your thoughts?  
JONES: Look, I welcome it. If I've got any regret it’s that this Government, particularly Scott Morrison, he's got to be dragged kicking and screaming to making the right decision. It has been clear to everybody here in New South Wales that this lockdown was going to go for a long period of time. The reason it’s going to go for a long period of time, as the New South Wales Premier has made quite clear, is the Federal Government has stuffed up the vaccine program. So the least they can do is ensure that there's the right sort of support for individuals and for businesses. I've got to say, I didn't care whether they called Job Keeper, Snob Keeper, I don't care what they call it, so long as the financial support is in place. And the idea that it’s going to be a $150 less for this prolonged lockdown than there was last year just didn't make sense. So, I welcome the fact that that support’s going to be in place. I also welcome the fact that they've fixed up the obvious anomaly where part-time workers, who are on a part-time benefit, part-time wages, have lost their job were going to get nothing. So I think it's good that that's been sorted as well. Any regrets is the fact it's taken so long to make the right decision. 
STEARNES: In regards to the New South Wales lockdowns, there are concerns for more regional areas like that are being included in these lockdowns. What are your thoughts on that?  
JONES: Well, I'm a bit disappointed, I've got to say that my own area, Shellharbour in New South Wales has been included in the lockdown when people here are saying, we haven't had a case since June. We've not had an exposure site since June. We've not … (transmission break) 
 … make sufficient explanation for what's going on now down here, and I've got to say, the constant chopping and changing the rules and ambiguity within the rules that is leaving a lot of people confused about what their obligations are.  
STEARNES: Yeah, and I mean when we look at, obviously Sydney's in a really devastating state at the moment. Do you think, we know now the lockdown has been extended for about four weeks. If it goes longer than that, will there be more support for businesses and people? 
JONES: There it has to be. I think everybody is looking at this and going, if it's prolonged for more than the next month, they don't know what they'll do. Businesses were already on their knees in this part of the world because they've gone through bushfires, then they went through floods they went through COVID round one, COVID round two, now COVID round three. It has really been a devastating two years. Without support, the this place will be on its knees. So absolutely it has to be there. Totally support restrictions being put in place for the good of everyone. But if we're telling people they can't go to work and we're telling businesses they can't open, then the very least you can do is ensuring that we support them through that process.  
STEARNES: Yeah Stephen, and I think the main comparison between Victoria's state at the moment and Sydney, the main difference was locking Victoria down much more quickly and rapidly. But where to from here? I mean, I think everyone knows that the reason why Sydney's in the case that they are. But what's the answer to from here? I mean, in regards to the vaccination rollout being it's quite slow. People are not willing to stay home. We saw the protest over the weekend. People are angry. What's the answer? 
JONES: The protests are an absolute disaster. They are super spreader events. If their objective is to end or shorten a lockdown, they'll have the exact opposite effect. Because people will be looking at that mass gathering and saying, well we're going to add another 14 days to that, to see how much viral spread is occurred as a result of that event. It was a debacle. Absolute idiots, whatever their motivation. And I'm not talking about people who innocently went along because they are frustrated or upset. Believe me, I'm frustrated and upset as well. We should never have got to this. But mass gatherings, protests, are the worst possible solution. Let's keep the pressure on Scott Morrison. The only durable solution is getting the vaccines back on track. Vaccines rolled out and into people's arms. I think we're about 17 percent of the population. We need to get to about 80 percent. We’ve got a long way to go. So let's get the vaccine program rolled out properly. And ensuring that we can have that durable solution. Because unless we do, they're going to be more, not less, lockdown events, which nobody wants.  
STEARNES: Indeed, I agree with you there. Now on a more positive note before we wrap things up, how proud are you to be Australian at the moment with the Olympics on?  
JONES: Well, I think the greatest support that most Australians are getting in their living rooms over in lockdown of the moment as being able to flick on and watch the Olympics. Whether it's our swimmers is in the pool at the moment, our basketball players, our soccer players, they've all made us very, very proud. Our surfers as well, I should say. I think they've all made is very, very proud and while we're gone through such a horrible time at home, it's great to see Australians out there abroad over there in Tokyo, in very difficult circumstances themselves doing well, competing event against the best and coming up trumps.