Mar 27, 2020
Australia PM Scott Morrison Coronavirus Press Conference Transcript March 26
Scott Morrison: (00:00)
Thank you Australia. Thank you. Thank you for the way over the course of this week, you have been responding to the very significant changes that we’ve been asking you to make to your lives and to your livelihoods. Over the course of the past week, people moving around places like Melbourne and Sydney has fallen by two thirds. In the last two weeks, it’s fallen by around 80%. There has been a significant change in the way that people are taking on these messages and supporting each other all around the country. On behalf of all the premiers and chief ministers and myself, the members of the National Cabinet, we simply want to say to you Australia, thank you. Keep doing it. You’re saving lives and you’re saving livelihoods. This has been a significant shift, and we need to see it keep taking place all around the country.
Scott Morrison: (01:04)
But you have encouraged us greatly, and you’ve encouraged us by the way in which you’ve taken this on. We’ve called on you as Australians to combine together in this effort, and your response over the past week has been simply magnificent. We always knew Australians are up to this test, and you’re proving it each and every day. Let’s keep doing it Australia, and we will continue to get through this together. Washing your hands, staying one and a half meters away from each other, only going out when you have to do the necessities and returning, and just doing simple things. This afternoon, people won’t be going to the pub, but they’ll be at home just with their family on their own, and they’ll be FaceTiming and other things with their friends, and they’ll be having those conversations through that method. It’s a big change to our wildlife, but we’re staying connected to each other.
Scott Morrison: (02:01)
We might have to keep our distance, but it doesn’t mean we have to disconnect from each other. This is also a very important message about supporting each other, supporting each other’s mental health, and ensuring that no Australian, even though we have to be isolated, no Australian should have to go through this alone. Last night, I joined the G-20 leaders all around the world, and I was very proud of my country. I was very proud of the response that I’m getting from the Australian people. I was very proud of the fact that together, we’ve ensured that we have the highest testing rate, it would seem in the world today, and the efforts that had been done by health and medical professionals at the Commonwealth and at state level to implement those arrangements. Whether it’s been the travel bans or the other restrictions we put on Australia in life, all of these things are making a difference, and I can assure you, I would rather be at Australia now with the way we are dealing with this together than in any other country in the world today.
Scott Morrison: (03:08)
I was filled with great concern in so many countries, what they’re facing at the moment. But here in Australia, it is a vital time but we’re getting on top of this and we can keep on top of this, and we need to keep doing what we’ve been doing. This weekend, the challenge will be there again, let’s keep doing the right thing. Let’s keep saving lives, let’s keep saving livelihoods. And businesses are adapting as well, distilleries are making hand sanitizer, large companies like Woolworths are completely changing how they do things in employing more Australians. Cafes are changing how they do things, businesses are being agile and they’re adapting even under significant strain and stress. But for many others, it has been devastating. There have been long queues, there have been frustrating delays as people have been in access to the strongest support from our safety net. Our social security system, our safety net in this country, our health system in this country is something I was reminded of again last night that we can be very proud of.
Scott Morrison: (04:23)
In many countries where they are moving, they are simply getting their standard of social support to the same standard that Australians have in normal circumstances through our social security system. And so, by extending the support of our social security system, by providing greater financial support and greater eligibility, then we are able to help more people. And so in particular, the 10% of GDP measures that we already have in place more than matches up to those that are being done around the world. But I promise you, we will be doing more, and I’ll say more about that shortly. I want to assure you that we’re in two fights. We are battling this thing on two fronts, and they’re both important. We’re battling this virus with all the measures that we’re putting in place, and we’re battling the economic crisis that has been caused as a result of the Coronavirus. Both will take lives, both will take livelihoods, and it’s incredibly important that we continue to focus on battling both of these enemies to Australia’s way of life.
Scott Morrison: (05:41)
I’m watching closely and am deeply concerned as are all premiers and chief ministers by the devastating impacts in our economy, and we will all be doing more to provide whatever support and assistance we can to help Australians and the businesses that employ them through this very, very difficult time. No decision that we’re taking on the health front that has these terrible economic impacts is being taken lightly. Every day, someone is in a job for just another day is worth fighting for. Where the health advice enables that, every day, I can keep an Australian in work. Every day, I can get that little bit more of support by keeping those things running. The more we can do that every day matters, because it matters to the person whose job it is, it matters to the business that has been built by someone over many years. It matters to their families, and that means it matters to me and it matters to all the premiers and chief ministers.
Scott Morrison: (06:50)
So, we will not take these decisions lightly, we will not take them for a matter of convenience, because every decision we are taking, we understand has very real personal impacts for individuals and for families and the stresses that it can place upon them at the most difficult of times. Today, we’ve decided to take further actions targeted at what is our greatest area of concern, and Dr. Murphy will speak more to that. What we’re announcing today enables us to deal with the increasing pressure we have from Australians coming home. And the reason we can focus on that is because of the great work Australians have done, particularly over the course of the past week on getting on top of their own movements and their own behaviors. It means we can focus even more on these critical areas that are our greatest risk at this point in time. Two thirds of the cases that we currently have are from an Australian who has come home, two thirds. That is very different to what we’re seeing in other parts of the world. Our biggest issue, the biggest number of cases relate to this.
Scott Morrison: (08:16)
And as time has gone on, the risk of those who are returning from other parts of the world actually increases because more countries have the virus, where Australians have been, they’ve been there for longer and they’ve been more exposed. And so, we’re going to take further measures today to strengthen the enforcement of the self isolation that has put in place for people returning through our airports in particular. This is the isolation declaration card for coronavirus. Everyone who has been coming into Australia now for some time has had to fill this out. On this, they make a declaration. They say who they are, they say where they’re going to self isolate, they tell us what their phone number is, their passport numbers and they sign up to the self isolation. This is enforceable by law. If you have come back into Australia, you need to live up to this pledge, and the state and territory governments are going to make sure you do. And there are strong penalties for those who don’t comply with this, and those States and territories are all already moving in their enforcement measures.
Scott Morrison: (09:33)
But today, we believe we need to go even further in addition to the arrival declaration and the support of legislation that has put behind that. So by no later than midnight tomorrow, that’s 11:59 PM Saturday, states and territories will be quarantining all arrivals through our airports in hotels and other accommodation facilities for the two weeks of their mandatory self isolation before they are able to return to their home. If their home is in South Australia, or in Perth, or in Tasmania, and they have arrived in Melbourne, they will be quarantining in Melbourne. If it’s in Sydney, it will be in Sydney, if it’s Brisbane, and so on. This same situation we’ve put in place, particularly for the case you’ll be aware of in Western Australia in relation to the Vasco da Gama and the returning vessel there in terms of these arrangements. The Western Australian premier Mark McGowan will be having more to say about that. But each state will be doing the heavy lifting themselves to support the other states, and I thank them for this typical nature in the way they’re putting these arrangements in place.
Scott Morrison: (10:55)
It’s a great time to be part of with the premiers and the chief ministers. They understand they need to share each other’s burdens to ensure that we can manage this issue together as a nation. This will be enforced by the state and territory governments. The Commonwealth will be supporting them with all manner of assistance, which will relate to the work done by the border force, logisticians and other supports that will be necessary, but those arrangements will be run by the state and territory governments in each state. We will be supporting them also by providing members of the Australian defense force to assist in the compliance with these arrangements. Now, I want to stress, members of the Australian defense force are not authorized as enforcement officers regarding prosecution in states and territories. That is the of law enforcement officers so sworn in those jurisdictions. The ADF will be there to support those enforcement authorities, and so we will be turning out the defense forces to support compliance with these new arrangements.
Scott Morrison: (12:09)
It will require that cooperative and facilitative support, and I have no doubt the defense forces will do that in the most sensitive way that they can, but it is necessary. The other thing we are doing is we will be supporting the states and territories in the important work they have of enforcing the existing isolation arrangements for people who are already here. The ADF will be supporting those States and territories with compliance checks to ensure that people are at their residences that they have so sworn that they would be at, to ensure we get compliance with the self isolation. Again, if there is a situation where people are noncompliant, of course the enforcement authority is the state jurisdiction and the relevant law enforcement agency in that state, but the ADF will be there to put boots on the ground to support them in their enforcement efforts, and I thank the ADF for their great support in turning up to this task.
Scott Morrison: (13:10)
We believe these important actions are the most important we can take right now because of what you’ve done Australia. By you getting onboard with the changes that you’ve needed to make, this means we can target our efforts even more into these areas where we believe the most critical concern is right now. Now also today on the economy, we were briefed by the treasury secretary, Dr. Kennedy, and states and territories were given a very extensive understanding of the impacts that we’re potentially dealing with. The treasurer and I, will have more to say about that in the next few days as we are preparing to put in place the third tranche of the measures that will be there to support Australians further as we go through the many difficult months that are ahead. The thing about an economy is your society does depend on it and so to governments. You can’t run a country without an economy, and we are doing everything we can to ensure we maintain as much of that economy as we can through this crisis, to support all of the essential services that are so necessary at a time like this.
Scott Morrison: (14:22)
Part of that plan that we’ll be announcing will be to seek to hibernate Australian businesses. This will be a very innovative approach in the circumstances we find ourselves in. We will have more to saber about this, but I discussed it with the premiers and chief ministers today. The idea is pretty simple. There are businesses which will have to close their doors. They will have to keep them closed, either because we have made it necessary for them to do so, or simply, they’re just not the business to keep their doors open. We want those businesses to start again, and we do not want over the course of the next six months or as long as it takes, for those businesses to be so saddled by debt, so saddled by rental payments, so saddled by other liabilities, that they will not be able to start again on the other side. We want these businesses to effectively go into a hibernation, which means on the other side, the employees come back, the opportunities come back, the economy comes back.
Scott Morrison: (15:27)
This will underpin our strategy as we go to the third tranche of our economic plan, and that will include support by states and territories on managing the very difficult issue of commercial tenancies, and also dealing ultimately with residential tendencies as well.