26 July 2021



MONDAY, 26 JULY 2021

SUBJECTS: Western Sydney lockdown; lockdown protests; JobKeeper.
Joining me live now is Michelle Rowland, the Shadow Minister, Shadow Communications Minister I should say.  Michelle, good to see you, thank you for your time this morning. So a report today in The Australian suggested that the Premier knocked this on the head, but it says that financial modelling has been done to involve the possibility of a lockdown into mid-September, doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s going to happen, but the modelling has been done anyway.  What do you think about the possibility of a lockdown into mid-September? 

MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: I think there is deep despair as it is today here in Blacktown for local residents and small businesses, for those thousands and thousands of families who at this very moment are logging on for remote learning yet again. I think the key point here is that we have got squabbling between the Federal Government and the State Government about everything from JobKeeper to vaccinations, to whether further lockdowns are the answer and people simply want a roadmap, they want to see that there is actually a finish line.  Unfortunately, at the moment there is very little hope that is being provided.  

STEFANOVIC: If that finish line is mid-September though how do you think people in your community would cope?  How would businesses cope?  And of course, a JobKeeper 3.0 would surely be needed if it is stretched out that long. 

ROWLAND: Well I think it’s a no brainer in terms of JobKeeper and listening to the small businesses in my electorate, they say it’s a no brainer. The amount of red tape, paperwork and simply disqualification from being able to access these payments that have been made available is really not understood by the State and Federal Governments.  As one of the key business owners here in my local area said to me, there is a real disconnect between what is happening on the ground with small business and what assistance is actually on offer.  JobKeeper needs to be reinstated – whether it is called that or something else does not matter – but there needs to be a return of this wage subsidy scheme that keeps the link between employees and employers.  

STEFANOVIC: The numbers aren’t coming down either and there is an expectation today that they will rise again.  Do you believe a tougher lockdown is needed?

ROWLAND: Well it’s very clear that Sydneysiders and here in Western Sydney, we are all trying to do the right thing. Depending on the health advice that is received and the numbers that come out today, we should be aware these are not just numbers, these are lives and human beings who are being deeply affected by what is going on and that’s a matter for the State Government to determine in terms of the lockdown extension.  But people simply want to know that there is some light at the end of all this.  I will end by saying overnight new sites of concern have emerged in this local area for Seven Hills, Toongabbie and Pendle Hill.  I would urge anyone on that list of affected sites to actually go and get tested, and even if they have the mildest of symptoms.  

STEFANOVIC: What would you say to any of the protesters who may have come from your electorate and protested over the weekend.  What would you say to them today?

ROWLAND: You have done no good for any of us, for any of our local businesses who are saying they simply will not survive another four weeks the way they are going; for all the families who are trying to work from home and perform home schooling for their children; for all those people who can not travel outside of their Local Government Area to work and are going without incomes. You have let us all down by your moronic behaviour.  The vast majority of people, it should be said, want to do the right thing.  They want to get vaccinated; they are staying at home; they are social distancing.  Here in the Blacktown CBD it is basically a ghost town so you have let all of those people down. 

STEFANOVIC: A short time ago we had Dave Sharma on and he suggested that as numbers come down in areas outside of places in Western Sydney that they should be released from lockdown, that restrictions should be eased.  How would you feel about that if you and your electorate stayed in lockdown while others were released?

ROWLAND: I think we need to realise that while Western Sydney is a big place it is also a very interconnected place and Sydney itself is very interconnected.  Out here in Western Sydney we are a commuter society.  We commute just about everywhere to get services and for work.  Just as we have analysis at the moment about the need to have a Commonwealth, I’ll be very concerned if we started talking about differentiating different parts of Sydney.  As it is we have got a number of Local Government Areas locked down including those that affect this entire electorate of Greenway, the Cumberland and Blacktown Local Government areas.  Blacktown alone has four hundred thousand people so I think we should have less time on some of these issues and more focus on getting vaccines to people who want them and need them, and more financial support for local residents and small businesses.

STEFANOVIC: Do you think it would build resentment in your own community if say the Eastern Suburbs or the Northern Beaches was released from lockdown after having no or very few cases while you stayed in lockdown?

ROWLAND: Well put it this way, these local residents are doing the right thing.  These local residents want life to get back to some semblance of normality.  To think that some parts of Sydney are being treated differently to others.  It is well understood that there are health reasons for that and we accept that and are doing the right thing, but we really aren’t being helped by the sort of commentary that looks to a future where we segregate parts of Sydney when we should be ensuring these governments at a State and Federal level have a focus on delivering help to residents who need it now and to small businesses who are about to go to the wall.

STEFANOVIC: Okay Michelle Rowland, appreciate your time. Thanks for joining us, always.  The Shadow Communications Minister Michelle Rowland.