SUBJECTS: Katy Gallagher Family Exposure to COVID-19; Lack of Government Plan to Vaccinate Children and Young People COVID-19 in Western Sydney. 

KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: Julia, thank you for that. Let’s go live now, it's to Blacktown in Western Sydney. I'm joined by Labor frontbencher, the member for Greenway Michelle Rowland thanks very much for your time. I want to ask you about your area in the lockdown, the epicentre really at the moment but let's talk first of all, about your colleague, Katy Gallagher this situation she finds herself in her daughter, Evie has tested positive to COVID-19. What does that say to you about where we need to prioritise where the vaccines are going?

MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Well clearly there is really deep concern in my community. The feedback I am receiving is parents are very worried about whether there is actually a timetable for their children to go back to school, but more importantly than that, what is the timetable for them to get vaccinated, and they want to see a plan. There does not appear to be a plan at the moment for those who have been in the approved age groups to be vaccinated, in order to go back to school.That lack of clarity is weighing very heavily on parents minds here in Blacktown.

GILBERT: It's a game changer, isn't it, when you look at the Delta, the strain, it is transmissible among kids. I just had information from New South Wales Health handed to me that there is another teenager in ICU, six people in their 20s. It affects young people. There are a lot of people as you said, there are a lot of your constituents not wanting to send their kids back to school, even when they reopen if they haven't had the jab.

ROWLAND: What they want to see Keiran is, they want some assurances, and they want to see a timetable, and want it to be one that's very clear and doesn't change overnight. As we saw in the cases of those year twelves being vaccinated. There was a concern there about how those logistics were going to work. But I will say a couple of things. Firstly, you would think that schools would be the obvious place for these vaccinations to occur, you will have children in the one area, you'll be able to control the logistics and parents understand very well, I mean, this part of Western Sydney actually has very good vaccination rates on a usual schedule. Vaccination is well understood here in Australia. So, it is that kind of thing that people are thinking about now, like, when is my child going to be eligible? And it all comes back to exactly as I said this lack of clarity, this lack of a plan around when this is going to happen for that cohort for whom it has actually been approved, and we keep getting told that our key out of this is vaccination. Dr Chant said today that she is very concerned, still, at the low rates of vaccination that we see. And we know that this area is one that is highly afflicted, out of those over 600 numbers today, and people are very concerned about their children. We think that this was something that affected the elderly, but I think it is through a very different prism now, particularly in a young electorate like Greenway.

GILBERT: So what is the mood like in that electorate and in your part of Sydney at the moment? Given these record numbers that we're seeing, as you alluded to earlier, the we're seeing that record case number, earlier in the day.

ROWLAND: Well I think the key word there is probably “crushed”. We see these numbers and those numbers, of course, have a very human element, and within that, exactly as you say, there are young people in our hospitals at the moment, who are scared, they're separated from their parents, and many parents are thinking the same. What if this happened to my child? There is a level of exhaustion. There is also, there is anger, so there is a wide range of emotions here, in week eight, and bear in mind that Greenway is one of those electorates, which is covered by two of the hard-lockdown Local Government Areas in Western Sydney. So local residents here have been doing it very tough for a long time. Most people have been doing the right thing, but the most frustrating element I believe, is that there does not appear to be an end in sight.

I heard Scott Morrison today talking about lights and tunnels. We cannot see the light at the end of this tunnel we cannot see the plan, and that is the clear message that I'm getting from local residents at the moment. Where is the plan to vaccinate my children? Where is the plan to have children returned to school and some element of normality? So it is that lack of clarity, that is really causing the most frustration for residents.

GILBERT: Now just finally you said most people are doing the right thing, some aren’t. The premier keeps talking about this compliance issue. Is there enough, enough support there in terms of ensuring compliance of the health orders.

ROWLAND: I should be very clear, our local police has been very well engaged. They have been doing their level best to provide clarity when there has been very little. And I think that most people do want to do the right thing. People appreciate that it can be a difference between having a cluster developing in your own family and those that you love so I think that that is well understood.

And I also appreciate the level of outreach that has been provided by our local police in terms of what role the ADF would have on the ground, that it would be a support role, because even in non-COVID times there are a lot of people in our community who do it very tough. And I think we all appreciate everything that they have been doing to keep us safe. But in the end, it does come down to individuals making the right choices. So I just reiterate, as I'm sure everyone else does, the importance of following the rules and get vaccinated, where you can. And again, I'll just end on this point, I think that is what is frustrating a lot of people still out this way, they keep getting told to get vaccinated, but they keep, in many cases, having problems getting appointments. Still websites not working, trying to get their children vaccinated, in cases where their children are those authorised workers, and there is still deep frustration that that is not occurring seamlessly.

GILBERT: Michelle Rowland I appreciate your time. As always, thank you.

ROWLAND: Pleasure.