26 July 2021



MONDAY, 26 JULY 2021

SUBJECTS: Western Sydney lockdown; negative gearing; legislated income tax cuts.

CHRIS KENNY, HOST: I want to go to Labor frontbencher now, the Member for Greenway, Michelle Rowland. Good to talk to you Michelle. I want to get your perspective firstly on the lockdowns. Part of your electorate is now included in this sort of hard lockdown within a lockdown in Sydney. What are your concerns about the impact it’s having on the community 
thirty days in?

MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Well it’s actually the whole electorate of Greenway because Greenway comprises the Blacktown and Cumberland local government areas Chris, so it is affecting every resident in the electorate of Greenway in some way. 

I think it’s fair to say there’s probably three moods that are out there. The first is a frustration that we are in this lockdown situation and there doesn’t seem to be a pathway out of it. Each day as the numbers comes out, that seems to reaffirm that.

There is immense frustration that the cause of this seems to be argued as between Scott Morrison and his state counterpart in New South Wales, be it, is vaccine the pathway out of here or is it more lockdowns? So, that combined also with this dispute over the amount of assistance that New South Wales thinks the Government should be providing in terms of reinstating JobKeeper, for example.

The third point is, and you went to some of it in your editorial, it’s the human cost. I have a nine year old and a four year old at home, and working from home with children who need to be subjected to online learning – it is a frustrating experience. For those viewers of yours who may not have children in that situation, it’s not a matter of just turning of the computer and leaving them there, it is a very hands-on experience.  Many thousands and thousands of families are experiencing this right now.

KENNY: I hear some people criticising that, saying “oh, it’s just a bit tough, suck it up”. But it’s also very difficult. Some kids don’t have the technology or the help at home. Plus as we’ve spoken to experts here, the kids need that socialisation and what they’re missing out on from not going to school is a problem. Look, we all decry people breaking the law as they did on the weekend, especially some of the idiots who got violent on Saturday, but do you understand the frustration of people in Western Sydney whose livelihoods are under threat and they don’t see how the Government is planning to get them out of there?

ROWLAND: Well let’s be clear Chris no one wants to be in this situation. No one wants lock downs. The frustration that I’ve been receiving in feedback from local residents though is what happened over the weekend really undermines the collective efforts that the vast majority of people have been putting into this situation. Doing the right thing, wearing masks –  you can walk down the main street of Blacktown and it is virtually a ghost town – the boarded-up shops. People whose livelihoods, as you said, are disappearing before their eyes, and the thought of this going through August and September, as some of the reports have come out, I’ve seen small business people on the verge of tears. And it is so disheartening to see what is going on here with people’s lives and their livelihoods. 

One of the key bits of feedback that I think your viewers should really understand is I’m being expressly told by local small businesses that there is this disconnect between what Government thinks is working and is needed and what is actually happening on the ground. This lockdown is worse than what it was last year, but the ability to qualify for assistance and the assistance on offer is actually less – and that is perverse.

KENNY: I think everyone expected it to be shorter and it’s obviously not going to be. I just want to update with some breaking there. There have been two new COVID-19 deaths reported in New South Wales today. It is a man and a woman both aged in their 80s we understand, two more deaths, a man and a woman both in their 80s. I believe that will bring the number of deaths from this outbreak in NSW to 10, hitting double figures now.

I want to go back to you Michelle Rowland just before I let you go.

Just moving on from COVID-19 and the pandemic, your own party today ditched a couple of signature economic policies from the last election, just in time for the next one I suppose. No surprise really getting rid of the negative gearing changes and also deciding not to oppose the Government’s next tranche of tax cuts. It’s hardly surprising but it means Labor is going to give up the idea of taxing the rich I suppose? 

ROWLAND: We had a very thoughtful discussion and took our time on this issue, and I think it’s important to recognise we have listened to a lot of feedback. We have also listened to one another in a respectful way as well. But I think that one of the key messages that I took out of the last election with respect to negative gearing, and I’ve said this on a couple of occasions: when you need to explain a policy that is complicated, that has the best of intentions, but appears to be one putting the handbrake on aspiration – trying to explain that to a voter in nearly 10 or 15 seconds is nearly impossible.  And all of these important issues that go to housing affordability for example, that one of the remedies that our negative gearing policy was seeking to be, we have certainly announced other policies in that area, but we do recognise housing affordability continues to be a very big issue and that given the really trying economic circumstances that we find ourselves in, making this announcement now indicates that we appreciate all those factors. As I said, we have taken our time to come to a decision which was unanimous.

KENNY: Yeah it’s a smart move and it certainly gets rid of a barnacle or two before the next election. Thanks for joining us Michelle.

ROWLAND: Thank you