Let us help with vaccine rollout, councils urge

Australian councils say they want to support the vaccine rollout. Picture: Shutterstock
Australian councils say they want to support the vaccine rollout. Picture: Shutterstock

Australian councils say they stand ready and willing to help with Australia's vaccine rollout, even though they have been left without a seat in the national cabinet.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Thursday Australia's vaccine rollout would be accelerated, with frontline health staff, quarantine workers and aged care residents to receive the jab as soon as mid-February.

The vaccine would first be distributed from up to 50 hubs at hospitals around the country, before being rolled out through GP respiratory clinics and practices.

Health Department secretary Brendan Murphy said there would be more than 1000 distribution points for the vaccine, including specialty vaccination centres set up by the states. Australians could also get the jab at pharmacies later in the year, he said.

But Linda Scott, a City of Sydney councillor and president of both the Australian Local Government Association and Local Government NSW, said the nation's 537 councils could play a key role in the delivery of the vaccine - if the states and Commonwealth let them.

"We have a lot to offer in terms of infrastructure. There's no one else who has public spaces in every corner of the nation," Cr Scott said.

"Local government has a lot to offer and it stands ready and willing to help."

But to date, local governments have been locked out of the nation's virus response.

Cr Scott said while the Australian Local Government Association had a seat on the Council of Australian Governments, they had not been a part of the new national cabinet.

"We certainly hope the federal government and state premiers at some point issue an invite to be an ongoing part of the national cabinet," Cr Scott said.

"We have town halls in every place in Australia, we could play a supportive role in the vaccine rollout."

Councils - particularly in areas hit hard by the latest COVID-19 lockdowns - have been crying out for federal government aid, as the pandemic smashed their bottom lines.

Cr Scott said the City of Sydney lost $75 million in own-source revenue in six months, due to falling parking and outdoor dining fees.

In the northern beaches - the epicentre of the latest wave of virus - the council had a combined loss of $21 million and had invested an "enormous amount" in additional cleaning of public spaces and even private businesses due to the outbreak, Cr Scott said.

Councils, which were not eligible for JobKeeper, either, were also forced to redeploy staff amid virus restrictions.

"[Councils] employ 55,000 people in NSW and it was important we kept as many people employed during COVID as possible which meant shifting people's roles," Cr Scott said.

"In the City of Sydney, we had librarians calling through membership lists checking on people. Staff were doing Meals on Wheels runs."

Yet Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Monday said councils should provide extra support to businesses in COVID-hit areas, deflecting calls for further federal government intervention.

Cr Scott said Mr Frydenberg's comments were "unhelpful" and JobKeeper should be extended due to the latest lockdowns.

This story Let us help with vaccine rollout, councils urge first appeared on The Canberra Times.

Comments

Discuss "Let us help with vaccine rollout, councils urge"

Please note: All comments made or shown here are bound by the Online Discussion Terms & Conditions.