Apr 2, 2020
Australia PM Scott Morrison COVID-19 Briefing Transcript April 2
Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison held a press briefing on coronavirus in which he announced announced a childcare relief package. Read the full transcript here.
What is Rev?
Scott Morrison: (00:09)
… as a result of some of the decisions we’ve been taking and the work that is being done. But before I do that, I’d just like to run through a few things. 10 weeks ago this week, ahead of the rest of the world, Australia listed the coronavirus as a disease with pandemic potential under our Biosecurity Act following the outbreak of coronavirus in Wuhan, China. We stood up our incident response center at that time and I visited on the 22nd of January. Some of you joined me there on that day. We set up quarantine facilities soon after that on Christmas Island and ultimately later in Northern territory and we repatriated families and individuals from Wuhan, China who had been affected by that initial outbreak area.
Scott Morrison: (01:03)
The expert medical panel was stood up and has met every day since the 31st of January. On the 1st of February, we started closing the borders to visitors coming from Mainland China, and one of the first countries in the world indeed to do so. The Chinese Australian community did an amazing job in those early days of the spread of the coronavirus. They have been an early example to the rest of the country as the broader implications are now being experienced in the measures that have been taken. They showed all Australians back then how to do this and I want to thank them very, very much for the example that they set in those early phases. Containing and limiting the spread of the virus that had come from China in those early days was incredibly important and has put Australia in the position that we’ve been in now for these many weeks where we’ve been able to get ahead of this more so than many other countries around the world.
Scott Morrison: (02:08)
Five weeks ago, a fortnight before the World Health Organization, we called out the coronavirus as a pandemic and we activated the emergency response plan on that basis. Further border closures and measures were announced and implemented. Three weeks ago, our first economic package was released and that has now been scaled up as you know, just in terms of fiscal measures of the Commonwealth to some $200 billion with the Reserve Bank and the Australian Office of Financial Management adding a further 105 billion to that total through their supportive liquidity in financial markets. The National Cabinet was formed soon after that and started to put in place the many social distancing and other restrictions and they have been upgraded ever since.
Scott Morrison: (03:04)
Today, emergency powers are in place across all the states and territories and at a Commonwealth level with a very clear message when it comes to the measures we need to have in place to continue to save lives and to save livelihoods. Stay at home unless you’re out there exercising, getting medical care, you’re going to work or education, these are important, or getting things that you need at the shops. These measures are being implemented as was agreed by the National Cabinet, by the states and territories with the enforcement arrangements that they believe are necessary to ensure that those social distancing and other restrictions are effectively implemented in their states and territories according to the circumstances in their states and territories.
Scott Morrison: (03:56)
And as we know of these last couple of weeks and particularly in this last week, this is getting very, very real for Australians as they continue to adapt and change their daily lives to what it is going to be like for us for many months ahead. We are one of the few, if only countries that have been talking about the coronavirus pandemic as being one that we’re going to have to live with for at least the next six months. I’ve been very clear about that for a very simple reason. I really want Australians to understand that we need to be in this for that whole, it will be months. We need to make changes that we can live with and that we can implement day after day, week after week, month after month.
Scott Morrison: (04:43)
And so making your changes to your daily lives and how you do things and the other changes that are being put in place, we have sorted all times to make them sustainable, to make them scalable because this gives us the opportunity as this happens to prepare more and more and to strengthen the position we’re in so we can get more ICU beds in place, so we can get more PPA, the personal protection equipment in store, that we can get more ventilators and then we can even better prepare our community for the changes and impacts that will come. We are supplying the spread that is happening and that is saving lives and it is saving livelihoods. And again, I thank Australians for their support.
Scott Morrison: (05:31)
The rate of growth as we’ve seen particularly over the course of this week, has fallen to on a daily basis, single digit numbers and that’s welcome, but it’s still not enough. And in particular we’re watching those community transmission numbers very carefully as other states and territories most effected. Over these many weeks, there have been announcements on aged care, health systems, domestic violence support, emergency relief, private hospitals, many responses, unprecedented responses. It’s creating a new normal in Australia during this virus, a new baseline as we fight the virus and we fight the economic threats that it poses. Today we are making further announcements.
Scott Morrison: (06:21)
Childcare and early childhood education is critical, particularly for those Australians who rely on it so they can go to work every day. Particularly those who are working in such critical areas and as I said, critical areas aren’t just the obvious ones. It’s not just the doctors or the nurses who are at the hospitals. It’s the cleaners at the hospitals as well. It’s the people driving trucks to get food out to supermarkets and ensure the supplies continue to run. If you have a job in this economy, then that’s an essential job in my view in terms of the running of the economy and it’s important that all those parents who have children, that they get access to the childcare and that those facilities will be there for them in the many months ahead.
Scott Morrison: (07:13)
The education minister will take you through the specifics, but what we’ll be doing is we’ll be ensuring for those parents who are still in that position where they are needing that childcare, it will be free and we’ll be putting in place support arrangements to the childcare facilities, some 13,000 of them to ensure that they’ll be able to remain open and be there for those parents to ensure that they can do what they need to do each day. Just like it’s essential that those schools that are out there that they can take the children they need to take each day from those same parents so we can continue running Australia each and every day.
Scott Morrison: (07:49)
In addition to the issues that we’ve been addressing in the childcare area, which the education minister will go into in more detail now, the Attorney General has been working closely with the union movement. I spoke to Sally McManus again this morning and I want to thank her for her engagement in what is a very difficult time. They understand that and I thank them for the way they’ve engaged in that discussion. There are no blues teams or red teams or there are no more unions or bosses. There are just Australians now, that’s all that matters. And Australian national interest and all Australians working together and I thank all of those who are coming together in that spirit and that will be very important as we move to put in place the arrangements we have for this job keeper program and the many things that relate to that.
Scott Morrison: (08:38)
And so the Attorney General has also been working with Fair Work and others to ensure some very constructive and flexible arrangements are being put in place to help us get through all this. Parliament will return next week on Wednesday to pass the measures that we’ve recently announced. I’m meeting with my senior leadership tonight with the opposition. There has already been briefings that have taken place with the opposition. They’ve been putting forward their views and we’re working through that. The drafting is taking place each and every day and till very late in the evening. But we now need to make the changes that have been made work, that’s so important. There is a new normal here in Australia and it’s one that we now need to get used to and settle into for that whole over the next six months.
Scott Morrison: (09:29)
That is something that will go against the grind for so many, but we adapt. We can change the way we live, but it doesn’t change who we are. And what I’ve seen from Australians in so many cases is exactly that sort of attitude. While we have to be isolated, we can still remain connected and Australians are finding innovative ways to achieve that. And I think that’s tremendous because through all of this, we must always maintain who we are as a people, our character, our principles, our values, and to live them out. We are a strong society. We are a liberal democratic society. And as I said in the house, we will demonstrate to the world here in Australia how such societies can deal with these sorts of challenges our way, the Australian way.
Scott Morrison: (10:16)
So stay positive, Australia, stay connected, stay strong. We will get through this together. Dan.
Thanks PM. And as you’ve said, we want all parents who have to work through the coronavirus pandemic to be able to make sure that their children are getting the care that they expect and they want their children to be getting. So that’s why we’ll be moving to a different childcare system as of Sunday night. It will be a system which will mean parents will get their children cared for for free. What we will be doing is turning off the old system and going to a new system which will provide that relief to parents.
And can I say to all those parents, what we want to do by doing this is ensure that your childcare center will remain open so that you know where you normally take your child to get cared, that that will be there for you so that you’re not looking to have to go to a new center, that you do not have the worry and the concern about trying to look for new care for your children. The way it will work is that we will look at what 50% of the fees up to the right cap were in the fortnight before 2nd of March and we will pay you that amount on a fortnightly basis. We will also make sure that it is calibrated with JobKeeper. Now 60% of the cost of a childcare center are the wages.
So with JobKeeper, we are helping support the sector to the tune of over a billion dollars. With this payment, we will be helping the sector to the tune of $1.6 billion and this will enable the sector to make sure that they remain open and are providing this care for parents for free. Now there are some conditions that we’re asking if the sector are to receive these payments, the center must remain open. It must provide care for those parents who need their children cared for. They must also seek to re-enroll those parents who might have dropped off so if they need care, they can get that care as well. And to help and assist with that, we’re backdating to the 23rd of March. The requirement that the sector must pursue from parents a fee so we’re waiving the gap fee for parents going back to the 23rd of March.
So the hope is that now all parents who need will get the care they want and those who have sought to disengage from the childcare sector will reengage with the sector. I want to thank the childcare sector for the cooperative way they’ve worked with me and worked with the government as we have devised this new way of payment. Obviously we’ve had to calibrate this after we knew the settings of the JobKeeper payments so we could ensure that we got the balance absolutely right to keep the sector functioning and viable through the next six months.
Scott Morrison: (13:47)
Thank you, Dan. I’m going to ask the attorney now to update on the issues relating to industrial relations.
Thank you Prime Minister, and thanks to everyone present. So the Prime Minister has asked me to give you a summary of some of the changes in industrial relations and workplace relations that have occurred over the last three weeks and to highlight some possible next steps in that regard. So behind the scenes in a quiet and cooperative way, there have been a series of reforms to modern awards in the IRS system, that’s been done cooperatively and quietly, but it has been utterly critical to saving what I believe to be tens of thousands of jobs. And it’s probably fair to say that there’s been the type of change in three weeks inside the award system that you might otherwise wait 30 years to see.
The reform has been temporary. It’s meant to last for as long as this crisis lasts. It’s critical and ultimately it’s been incredibly cooperative. So there are 121 modern awards. There have been very significant changes to three. Restaurants, hospitality, what’s known as the clerks award. Now, whilst that’s only three of 121, they cover about 2 million workers. These have been applications by agreement between the employers and the unions in each of those sectors and they’ve been approved in record time by the Fair Work Commission and the changes to those three awards have meant things like this, that an individual worker who was performing one type of duty in one type of classification can go and move and perform another type of duty in another type of classification.
They have facilitated working from home arrangements so remarkably some of the awards were so inflexible that it was actually unlawful to work from home which of course, there is a great amount occurring in Australia at the moment. They’ve also allowed for by agreement things such as taking longer durations of annual leave at reduced rates. Those types of changes are absolutely critical. They would have saved tens of thousands of jobs. It’s not a matter of the government claiming credit for those changes, we are here to thank the parties that have facilitated those changes. That is the ACTU, [AQI 00:16:01], the Australian Industry Group, individual employer associations like the AHA, individual unions like the SDA have changed the terms and conditions for 2 million workers to ensure that tens of thousands of jobs have been saved.
And as I say, that’s been done quietly and cooperatively, but represents a massive reform to our employment relations system. Some next steps that are to be undertaken, and I should congratulate the president of the Fair Work Commission, Iain Ross for his remarkable work in facilitating those changes that I’ve just described and using his own motion power in the Fair Work Commission. It’s proposed that all 103 of the 121 modern awards will be changed to allow for two changes across 103 awards. The first is for two weeks of unpaid pandemic leave for all employees, and the second across those 103 awards is the allowing of the taking of double the duration of leave at half the pie.
Now you can see how those common sense changes would allow the flexibility in a number of businesses, which flexibility could, will make the difference between survival of the business and preservation of the jobs or the failure of the business and the loss of the jobs. So these are incredibly important changes that would have saved tens of thousands of jobs and I might also add they have been critical to ensuring and protecting the supply lines of the goods and services that Australians rely on. I’m now deep in drafting with the treasurer and treasury to ensure that our $1,500 JobKeeper payment is going to be facilitated in the simplest way legislatively and that is quite a task, but that is also a task that’s going to involve changes to a number of acts. So thank you, Prime Minister for that.
Scott Morrison: (17:44)
Thank you, Christian. And then we’re going to go to question. Another figure I should have been relying to you is Australia has now reached a testing rate of more than 1,000 tests per 100,000 population. That’s 1% of the population. We’re the first country to the best of our knowledge that has been able to exceed that mark. Our testing resources, and I’ll ask both of you guys to join me. The testing resources that we are putting in place have been absolutely fundamental to our tracing and other measures that we’re taking at a state level to ensure that we contain the growth and spread of the virus.
Scott Morrison: (18:23)
Those testing figures are the result of some incredible work that has been done by the health ministers at the securing of the testing materials themselves and their application right across the country. It has been an extraordinary mammoth testing effort, and that has put Australia on top when it comes to ensuring we have the best information on tracking this virus.