MICHELLE ROWLAND MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS
MEMBER FOR GREENWAY
SKY NEWS FIRST EDITION WITH PETER STEFANOVIC
MONDAY, 23 AUGUST 2021
SUBJECTS: Church breach of COVID-19 restrictions in Blacktown, COVID-19 in Western Sydney; Government’s failure to provide a clear plan; Mass vaccination hubs.
PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: I’m going to bring in Michelle Rowland, Shadow Communications Minister, returning to our top story being the continuing COVID outbreak in New South Wales and elsewhere. Michelle, good to see you again. Just a couple of things in your electorate or in your area. There were $35,000 worth of fines that were issued for COVID breaches at a church in Blacktown last night, what's your response to that?
MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: It would have been a very selfish act that would have led to this gathering when the rules are very clear that they cannot occur. And for all those residents, the vast majority of whom are doing the right thing, for all those small businesses that want to open up again, before they go out of business altogether - this is simply very selfish. And I would like to recognise that the police are doing their utmost in these situations, most residents are doing the right thing. But this is also a part of Australia that has large faith communities. And I want to acknowledge how hard that has been for so many individuals, and how appalling it is to see these people breaking the rules on this occasion.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, on to the tougher restrictions that are now in place. There are curfews that we are going to be getting tonight as well. Is that the circuit breaker that is needed?
ROWLAND: We’ll need to wait and see. But again, very valid questions have been asked about why these measures were dismissed in the first instance, and now why are they only being applied to certain parts of Sydney? So I think the inequities here are certainly under question, but we'll wait and see what the results end up being on that front.
STEFANOVIC: Yeah, I mean, if something was needed, though, because in the western parts of Sydney, I mean, and I know that people do feel like they're being singled out, they're being singled out because that's where the high number of cases are.
ROWLAND: Well, let's also be very clear, this is where a lot of people live and work right around Sydney. We are commuter societies. We service your supermarkets, your logistics, your truck drivers, your healthcare professionals. They come from this part of Sydney and they need to travel. But the other thing we all understand is the importance of being vaccinated. People want to get vaccinated, which is why it is so frustrating that my office is overwhelmed every day by people saying they're trying to book appointments, and they can’t. And then I read that Greg Hunt is not only denying the use of the ADF to assist in this respect. I've got the Bowman Hall next to me here in Blacktown where Gough Whitlam made the iconic, "It's Time” speech. Blacktown Council has offered this as a mass vaccination hub, and it has been refused because apparently, it's “unnecessary”. There is nothing “unnecessary” about wanting to get this part of Sydney vaccinated as quickly as possible.
STEFANOVIC: You must be encouraged though by the take-up now. It's amongst the highest in the world when it comes to vaccination, especially in New South Wales.
ROWLAND: It's got to get better. And let's remember we're coming off firstly, a low base. And secondly, I cannot fathom for a minute why we are talking about this in such low-balling terms. We need to do this as quickly as possible with as many incentives as possible. There's no point patting ourselves on the back for getting high numbers up for those who are vaccinated when in some parts of Western Sydney, they are way below the average. We need to throw everything at this and from the get-go. Scott Morrison has been saying this is not a race. It is a race and we need to win it as fast as possible.
STEFANOVIC: So, how come there are some parts in Western Sydney that I mean, just on the back of that question I just asked you, about some parts of New South Wales now experiencing the highest uptake in the world. It's taking off, why is that not happening in some parts of Western Sydney? Is hesitancy still rife?
ROWLAND: This is an excellent question. There is a lot of misinformation that is out there. And unfortunately, that is feeding into some people's behaviours. But I think there's a huge question about the logistics here. Why is it that in some cases we say the streets are awash with vaccines? But I kid you not, myself and my counterparts here in Western Sydney, are inundated nonstop from people who are unable to get appointments to get vaccinated. So there is something seriously wrong here. And unless it's fixed urgently, we aren't going to see those vaccination rates here in this part of Sydney rise as quickly as we all want them to.
STEFANOVIC: Just finally Michelle, just more broadly speaking, I want to get your response to these comments by Steven Miles yesterday, the Deputy Premier of Queensland, suggesting that he's going to keep the border closed even after 80% vaccination targets met. Are these Premiers going rogue or do you support them?
ROWLAND: Look I think this is a failure of Scott Morrison's leadership here. He is supposed to be the Prime Minister — the person who is supposed to be making federalism work. And I’ll tell you what people in this part of Sydney want: they want some certainty, they want clarity, and they want to see a clear plan. And Scott Morrison simply cannot corral the rest of the country, let alone his own party.
STEFANOVIC: They agreed with it in the National Cabinet though.
ROWLAND: Well, let's be very clear. This is the Prime Minister. Every time this guy opens his mouth, things become less clear. One minute, he's talking about the importance of looking at the numbers of cases, next minute, he's saying they're not important. It is just driving people insane. And meantime, all people want to see is a plan. It is his job, to be able to be the Prime Minister, who was able to get everyone on the same page. He can't even get his party on the same page. He's got freelancing MPs on his own side out, they're now giving their own points of view. He needs to come up with a plan and articulate it in a way that people can understand because I guarantee you if I can find 10 people around here and ask them what the Prime Minister's plan is, no one would be able to say what it was.
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