Apr 21, 2020
PM Scott Morrison COVID-19 Briefing Australia April 21
Prime Minister Scott Morrison held a press conference for Australia coronavirus today, April 21. He announced a lift on restrictions of elective surgeries. Read the full transcript of his statements right here on Rev.com.
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Scott Morrison: (00:01)
Welcome low levels. And we want to thank all Australians again for the great efforts that they’re putting in. It’s testing their patience, we understand that, and their patience is proving up to the mark, and we are still very much in the middle of combating this terrible virus, as we’re seeing all around the world.
Scott Morrison: (00:22)
But here in Australia we’re doing better than most, better than many, and we need to keep doing that. And so we thank Australians for the great support and the efforts that they’re putting in as we go through these very difficult times.
Scott Morrison: (00:35)
About two-thirds of the cases in Australia, they have now been able to overcome. And to recover from those cases. So we have active cases of less than about two and a half thousand, now. Overseas experience, even the most cautious and careful of nations such as Singapore demonstrates that none of us can be complacent about these issues, and we need to maintain the efforts that we’re putting in place.
Scott Morrison: (01:04)
Singapore now has, sadly, more cases than Australia, after some very strong early successes. And it’s a reminder that even a country as diligent and as careful as Singapore have been, that none of us can be complacent about this virus. As I’ve said on many occasions, it writes its own rules. And we need to ensure that we are continually up to the mark in our response.
Scott Morrison: (01:29)
It means we need to stick to our plan, and that was very much the view of National Cabinet today. We’ve got to stick to our plan. Our plan is working, our plan is saving lives, and it’s saving livelihoods. So we need to stick to that plan, and we need to stick together in ensuring we maintain the implementation of that plan right across the country.
Scott Morrison: (01:51)
For those who are asking when can we ease? Well, we’re pretty clear about that last week. We laid down some clear markers as to what the requirements would be. We said there needed to be an effective rate of transmission less than the score of one, and we said we need to get in place over these four weeks that we’re now, we’re almost one week down in that timetable, of testing, tracing, and a response capability on the ground.
Scott Morrison: (02:18)
National Cabinet will continue to look at those areas that may be able to be eased at the end of that period when we look at those issues. But they are the clear markers, they are the clear prerequisites. There’s no uncertainty about that. I think that’s very clear. An effective rate of transmission consistently under one, and putting in place the testing and tracing and response capabilities that are necessary for us to stay on top of any outbreak, or any risks that could emerge when we moved into a period where we may be able to ease those restrictions.
Scott Morrison: (02:50)
And States and territories in the meantime, where they have taken actions on restrictions that go beyond the national baselines, as we’ve already seen Western Australia do, then they will take decisions over the next few weeks that may see them ease back on some of those restrictions where they are above the national baselines in terms of those issues.
Scott Morrison: (03:11)
Today we considered a number of measures and areas, and the first of those was in relation to elective surgery, which I flagged at the last media conference. Today we agreed to lift restrictions on elective surgery, after Anzac Day, after the long weekend. This will not mean an immediate return to normal with elective surgery, but a gradual restart subject, of course, to capacity and other constraints that may exist in each jurisdiction, and minister for health will outline the one of the reasons why we’ve been able to do that, is the increase in the amount of personal protective equipment that we’ve been able to secure.
Scott Morrison: (03:54)
The chief medical officer will also make commentary on that, but we will be easing the restrictions on the following areas, and that is all category two or equivalent procedures in the private sector. And selected category three and other procedures, which includes all IVF, all screening programs where they have ceased, and I want to stress that the National Cabinet and indeed, HBPC, has never recommended any easing of screening tests or procedures.
Scott Morrison: (04:22)
But where they have been eased, then they can be restarted. Post-cancer reconstruction procedures such as breast reconstruction, dental, and level-two restrictions, such as fitting dentures, braces, non-high-speed drilling and basic fillings. All procedures for children under the age of 18, all joint replacements including knees, hips, and shoulders. All cataracts and eye procedures, all endoscopy and colonoscopy, and all of these measures will be further subject to review on the 11th of May to determine if all surgeries and procedures can then recommence more broadly.
Scott Morrison: (05:05)
We estimate that this will lead to a reopening of around 25% of activity in elective surgery in our private and public hospitals that have the capacity, that had been closed because of the earlier restrictions. Our priority will be given with this reopening on the basis of clinical determinations by the relevant health professionals, and that will occur in both the public and private system.
Scott Morrison: (05:36)
This is an important decision, because it marks another step on the way back. There is a road back. There is a road ahead, and the decision that the National Cabinet has taken today is evidence of that. This wouldn’t be possible if we were not able to secure the additional PPE, and it also wouldn’t be possible if we weren’t able to have confidence about the level of cases that have been identified in Australia, and the slowing in that rate of growth, down to very minimal levels. And so this is an indication to Australians that, when we do keep staying ahead of this, then we can make these changes and we can start heading back to where we’d all like to be.
Scott Morrison: (06:21)
On aged care, we reviewed recent events in a number of aged care facilities, and took the lessons from those cases. And an important one is, the finding was that we are very concerned about the impact of restrictions that have been put in place in aged care facilities over and above what was recommended by the National Cabinet, on the residents in those facilities.
Scott Morrison: (06:48)
There is great concern that the isolation of elderly people in residential care facilities, where they have been prevented from having any visits from loved ones and support people, is not good for their wellbeing. Is not good for their health. And so the National Cabinet agreed that there needs to be a strong reminder that the National Cabinet decision was not to shut people off, or to lock them away in their rooms. That was never the recommendation or the advice of the National Cabinet.
Scott Morrison: (07:24)
The advice, I think, was very clear about ensuring that there could be visits of two a day, close relatives and support people, that this would be undertaken in the resident’s rooms. But otherwise, residents would able to be in other parts of the facility. They could sit in common rooms, they could sit in outdoor areas of these facilities, and we would like as many freedoms to be extended to residents in aged care facilities as is possible. And there is no recommendation from the medical expert panel that they should be confined in that way.
Scott Morrison: (07:59)
Where further restrictions should be put in place in aged care facilities is where you may have an outbreak in that facility, or indeed an outbreak in the area in which the facility is located. So there are exceptional circumstances where further restrictions might be placed on people living in residential aged care facilities, in terms of access to visitors.
Scott Morrison: (08:24)
But those additional restrictions are the exception. They are not the rule. And we think it is a good thing for people to have those visits in accordance with those screening procedures and other things that are necessary to protect elderly residents in those situations. It shouldn’t be done out of the convenience of isolation, in terms of how these facilities are run. It should be done, always, only in the interest of the care of those who are living in those facilities.
Scott Morrison: (08:53)
I also stress that the same applies, as we confirmed today, around the states and territories. That for older people who are self isolating, that that doesn’t mean that for care and compassionate reasons, that they can’t receive visits from those who would normally provide that care. That might be a relative, that might be a carer, it might be a friendly neighbor who regularly looks in on someone. And Jen just went and visited someone the other day for that purpose, and the visit was well received.
Scott Morrison: (09:25)
And this is important, I think, for the mental health and wellbeing of particularly elderly residents in our community. I know that Australians are doing a great job. They’re ringing them up, they’re sending them notes, and they’re making them meals and things like this, and that’s wonderful.
Scott Morrison: (09:38)
And there should be the obvious constraints on that. We’re not saying there should be 50 people going through an elderly resident’s home on a daily basis. Of course not. Those visits should be limited just to those who would normally be looking in on people and taking good care of them. And so we just want to remind people that that is still a interaction that we think is positive, and that we also believe is safe.
Scott Morrison: (10:01)
On schools, National Cabinet was keen to reinforce the point, as was made last week, that the health advice is not, is not in relation to schools, that a four-square-meter per-person rule be enforced in classrooms. That is not the advice of the medical expert panel. And any suggestion that this is a requirement for schools is not the case.
Scott Morrison: (10:28)
The recommendation was smaller class sizes. Not smaller class rooms, smaller class sizes, and that those smaller class sizes is something that can be practically addressed at the school level. But there is no requirement from the Medical Expert Panel that they’re be a four square-meter per-person rule enforced in those classrooms.
Scott Morrison: (10:51)
Finally, we also, today, had the opportunity to brief at the National Cabinet on the app, which many of you are aware that we’ve been working on for some time. It was good to provide that update, and we’d been working closely with-
Scott Morrison: (11:03)
… the states and territories on that app and was pleased that it received in principle support from the national cabinet. There are a few more hurdles for this to clear as we address the many issues that are associated with this, but it was absolutely seen as an important tool of many to help health workers in states and territories in the important work of determining contacts of those who may have been in close proximity to people have contracted the coronavirus.
Scott Morrison: (11:31)
This does three things. It firstly protects Australians in their own health and those of their own family by participating in this process. Secondly, it helps other Australians to keep them safe. And thirdly, it ensures that we can more effectively get back to a more normal setting where we have widespread take up of this app and we’ll be saying more about that when we’re in a position to launch that app in the not too distant future.
Scott Morrison: (11:57)
Just finally before I throw to the Minister of Health and then of course Professor Murphy. I updated the national cabinet today that we’ve now processed since the 16th of March, 517,000 job seeker claims and by the end of this week we’ll have processed as many jobs seeker claims in six weeks than we will normally do in the entirety of the year. And I think that is an extraordinary effort by those working in the Department of Government Services in [center link 00:01:30].
Scott Morrison: (12:29)
As I said, some 6,000 people in addition have been put into that program to ensure that we’re able to move through that work. There’s still a fair bit of work to go there, but having now eclipsed more than half a million people, that is obviously of great concern and that’s half a million people who are needing that payment and needing that support. But what it does is it reinforces that both the job seeker and the job keeper payments work together to provide the necessary income support for Australians who find themselves out of work, or those who are on a reduced hours, or who are being stood down through the course of the coronavirus crisis.
Scott Morrison: (13:08)
Additionally, stimulus payments of some $4.5 billion in the $750 payments has been paid as of yesterday to just under six million Australians, and the rest will flow in coming days. And so with that I’ll pass over to the Minister of Health. And then Professor Murphy.
Greg Hunt: (13:27)
Thanks very much to Prime Minister and to Professor Murphy. Today’s an important day on the road back there is progress on all three fronts on containment, capacity, and recovery. And it’s the progress on those first two fronts of containment and capacity, which allow us to take these steps on the road to recovery through greater freedoms and opportunities for elective surgery, which will mean such an enormous amount to Australians in need of health assistance.
Greg Hunt: (14:02)
In terms of containment, with regards to our first pillar, our border measures, we reviewed and extended the current prohibitions on travel into and out of Australia yesterday. Secondly, with regards to our testing, we have, as of early this morning, 434,000 tests completed in Australia and as was noted by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine last week, it remains at the global forefront in terms of the accuracy of our testing, which is just a tribute to all of our pathologists and our state systems and territory systems and the cooperation with the commonwealth around the country.
Greg Hunt: (14:45)
In terms of tracing, we continue to follow up all of the cases that we possibly can. And the goal of the app of course is to assist with the protection of ourselves, our families, our health workers, and to assist that process of tracing, which has been going on since the very first case was found in Australia back on the 25th of January.
Greg Hunt: (15:09)
And then in terms of distancing, what Australians have been doing in a very consistent way across the country has led to a real flattening of the curve. I would say now, building on what I said on the weekend, that we now have a sustained and consolidated flattening of the curve, less than 1% growth in cases for nine consecutive days, and over the last three days we have averaged less than half a percent of growth in new cases.
Greg Hunt: (15:44)
This is a collective national achievement. It’s our doctors and our nurses, our pathology workers, but it’s every Australian that’s been contributing and I want to say thank you for what people have done. You’re the ones that have made this happen. You’re the ones that have helped Australia lead the world as well as with those other containment measures.
Greg Hunt: (16:04)
Those containment measures though are still important. As the Prime Minister mentioned, even a country as cautious, successful, and sophisticated as Singapore is seeing an outbreak on a very large scale and so we have to keep doing what we’re doing because these measures save lives and protect lives, but they also allow us to achieve the road back at an earlier time. If we can hold, practice, continue our distancing measures, it will put us in a stronger position to be on the road back earlier.
Greg Hunt: (16:40)
In terms of the capacity that the Prime Minister mentioned, with regards to our primary care, we’ve been very successful with over 4.7 million telehealth consultations. In particular though, what we’ve been able to do is to secure the masks and the PPE that are critical for the protection of our health workers, which in turn means that we can take steps such as the recovery on elective surgery.
Greg Hunt: (17:07)
We have secured and delivered into Australia, 60 million masks. That’s allowed for 22 million distributions with another 11 and a half million masks to be distributed over the coming week and we have secured a further 100 million masks over the coming six weeks. That means that we are in a position now to support elective surgery.
Greg Hunt: (17:32)
Equally, what the Prime Minister had mentioned with regards to aged care, making sure that there’s support for the residents with helping to decrease their isolation whilst there’s support for our aged care workers by increasing the testing capacity and focus on our aged care workers to give them that protection, to protect their residents that they care and work so hard for. And this is an extremely important combination.
Greg Hunt: (17:59)
And in terms of our hospitals, we have now had delivered 3,260 ventilators in the last week and a half from a great Australian company, ResMed, that’s 3000 noninvasive and 260 invasive ventilators. We have now achieved our national goal of full capacity of seven and a half thousand ventilators. That’s an extraordinary achievement across our hospitals, across the country.
Greg Hunt: (18:27)
All of this means we’re in a position to start the recovery and today’s announcement, the decision of the national cabinet, the announcement of the Prime Minister, that not only can all of category one elective surgery continue, but that category two and urgent category three can proceed on a one in four basis, approximately, will mean an immense difference for families, whether it’s in terms of IVF, whether it’s in terms of dental pain, whether it’s in terms of orthopedic procedures, or other procedures. It’s going to mean a real difference to their quality of life. It’s a result of what Australians have done with containment. It’s a result of what we’ve been able to do in assisting Australians with capacity. And it’s a very important day on the road back.
Scott Morrison: (19:19)
Thank you. Professor Murphy.
Brendan Murphy: (19:21)
Thanks PM and Minster. I’ll be brief. Just on elective surgery, one of the things that’s concerned the health profession generally during this pandemic has been the lack of attention to non-COVID related medical conditions. We have said previously, we’re really keen for people to not stop seeing their doctors for their chronic medical conditions, continue to get their clinical advice, whether it’s by telemedicine or if necessary face to face.
Brendan Murphy: (19:50)
And the same applies to elective surgery. Some people think elective surgery sounds like it’s something that’s not important. It is incredibly important. Some elective surgery is lifesaving. It really means all surgery that’s not urgent. So some people are seriously disabled with hip and knee problems. Some people can’t see because of their cataracts. Some people need surgery and have been waiting for it. And this is an opportunity in a safe and controlled manner to slowly restart, cognizant of making the process safe, cognizant of getting the facilities up and running again, cognizant of the need to preserve our PPE. This is a gentle careful start of normalizing what is so important, the general healthcare needs of the community.
Brendan Murphy: (20:41)
In the aged care space, just a couple of comments. We are all concerned about the terrible tragedies that happen when you have a big aged care outbreak, and of course we understand the need to protect the residents and that that protection is best achieved by ensuring that nobody enters an aged care facility if they’re in any way unwell. No staff member, no visitor, no one coming in for any other reason. You do not go into an aged care facility if you have the slightest respiratory symptom, a sore throat, or a tickle, you stay away.
Brendan Murphy: (21:17)
And anyone who works at an aged care facility is eligible for a COVID-19 test and can get them. That’s the most important thing. We’ve also really expanded our response in aged care outbreak so that every resident and every staff member can be tested.
Brendan Murphy: (21:36)
But as the Prime Minister has said, it is not reasonable in a situation as we are now across pretty much the whole country where the community outbreaks are not in existence to lock poor residents away from their family. We’ve made a series of recommendations at AHPPC previously that could make visits safe. We don’t want lots of visitors. We want…
Brendan Murphy: (22:03)
… limited visitors, no more than two a day, and not for a long period of time, and with appropriate health screening, and visits to occur in a safe part of the facility. But it’s not reasonable or fair to people who may have been used to getting their family coming every day, who may even have dementia in some cases, to be denied access to their families. So we’re encouraging all providers to be proportionate, of course protect the residents, of course screen everybody coming to the facility, but don’t lock residents away from their families.
Brendan Murphy: (22:38)
Thanks Prime Minister-
Scott Morrison: (22:39)
Thanks Brendan. I’m going to start here and then I’m going to move around, so thank you.
Reporter 1: (22:46)
Prime minister today we can see [inaudible 00:22:46] using [inaudible 00:22:49]. South Australia has, today, reported its third day with [inaudible 00:22:52], which has prompted calls for consideration [inaudible 00:22:58] community support [inaudible 00:23:01]. Where do you see community support seen, in terms of ease of restrictions such as [inaudible 00:23:08] requirements and things that [inaudible 00:23:10]?
Reporter 1: (23:15)
And just a question for Brendan Murphy, is it unreasonable for a small [inaudible 00:23:15] to think that they will be able to start up their community sports again in winter, given the additional risks that that poses?
Scott Morrison: (23:25)
Well let me just deal with your question first and then I’ll throw it to Professor Murphy. The baseline restrictions remain in place. That’s the view of the National Cabinet. We’re monitoring those key metrics that we said we would over the next four weeks. If we felt we were in a position to do something earlier than that then we would so decide, but the decision of the National Cabinet remains that we will keep the restrictions in place at a baseline level.
Scott Morrison: (23:52)
It is true, South Australia’s getting a great result, so is the Northern Territory. Western Australia’s had some great numbers. This is fantastic. It’s great, but you’ve got to keep them going and you got to stick to the plan. There’s a strong resolution amongst the National Cabinet to stick to the plan because the plan is saving lives and it is saving livelihoods, but what we’ve announced today shows that we are on the road back. Thanks to Australians we are on the road back and we want to stay on the road back. To do that you’ve got to move carefully and that’s what we’re doing. Brendan?
Brendan Murphy: (24:22)
So thanks PM. I think, as we’ve pointed out, a new outbreak can occur very quickly. As we’ve seen in Northwest Tasmania, brilliantly controlled by Tasmanian Health, one person can infect 40 people. So we have to have those systems in place, such as widespread sentinel surveillance, such as really good public health response, such as the app that we’ve been talking about, so that if an outbreak occurs we can get on top of it before we do more widespread relaxation. That’s one of the … We have only started elective surgery in a gentle way because we want to do it in a controlled way.
Brendan Murphy: (24:58)
Of course things like community sport, or those sort of things, will be considered. The National Cabinet will be given a range of potential options that can be looked at, once we feel that the situation is safe.
Brendan Murphy: (25:11)
We are, obviously, concerned about exercise in the community. And small cell community sport is one thing that could be considered, but we don’t want to preempt any of the decisions of National Cabinet. They have asked for a long list of the risks and benefits of a range of things that can be considered at the end of this four week period.
Scott Morrison: (25:29)
[inaudible 00:25:29] not seeing everyone today, there’s quite a few of you here today but yep?
Reporter 2: (25:35)
Obviously we’re seeing the best of Australians, arguably, during this crisis but also, at times, the worst of Australians. For example Asian Australians being spat on-
Scott Morrison: (25:41)
Reporter 2: (25:41)
… and bus drivers attacked. Is it time for a new anti-racism campaign? What is your message to people doing that sort of thing?
Scott Morrison: (25:48)
Stop it. That’s my message. I think that’s the message of every Australian. Now is a time to support each other. I remind everyone that it was Chinese Australians, in particular, that provided one of the greatest defenses we had in those early weeks. They are the ones who first went into self-isolation. They were the ones who were returning from family visits up into China and they were coming home, and it was through their care, it was through their commitment, their patience, that actually Australia was protected in that first wave. I mean within a week of our first case we’d shutoff travel from those from China, except for Australians returning home. So absolutely I deplore that sort of behavior against any Australian, regardless of their ethnicity, of their religion, or whatever it happens to be. I think that’s the view of all Australians, so we’ve got to call that sort of thing out. It’s not on. Yep?
Reporter 3: (26:40)
[crosstalk 00:26:40] thank you. The Chinese foreign ministry has rejected Marise Payne’s call for an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus. Saying things like, “We’re dancing to the tune of another country,” no surprises for who that would be. What’s your reaction to that and what sort of steps will you take in your talks with other leaders, perhaps, about trying to establish such an inquiry?
Scott Morrison: (27:03)
Well I think such an inquiry isn’t important and we can respectfully have a difference of view from that that’s been put by China. The virus began in China, in Wuhan, that’s, I think, well understood. It’s important that the WHO, and all parties that are part of the WHO, act with great transparency. I think this is important regardless of where a virus might breakout. If it happened in Australia, if it happened in China, if it happened in parts of Africa, or the Pacific, or the Middle East, or wherever it would happen to be, it’s important for public health globally that there is a transparency in the way that you can get access to this important information early. So it’s not pursued as an issue of criticism, it’s pursued as a issue of importance for public health. I think it’s important that all countries cooperate with that, regardless of who they are. We would be certainly pursuing something along those lines. I know it’s a view that the Foreign Affairs Minister has articulated with my very, very strong support. I think there is great support for that type of initiative more broadly.
Scott Morrison: (28:16)
Yep? [crosstalk 00:28:16] No just hang on, behind you.
Reporter 4: (28:18)
Prime Minister some reports this afternoon that North Korean Kim Jong-un is in a serious condition in hospital. Are you seeking clarification on that? And would his deteriorating condition concern you?
Scott Morrison: (28:31)
Well I can’t really offer any comment on that because I can’t provide any confirmation of it. So until these facts are more clearly determined there’s not really much I can offer.
Reporter 5: (28:44)
So you mentioned May 11 as the date when elective surgeries would be reviewed. That is also a date where Victoria, the state of emergency is scheduled to end. Where Solomon Lew says he’s re-tasked doors and reopen New South Wales, children will start to go back to school on a rostered basis.
Scott Morrison: (28:57)
Reporter 5: (28:58)
So is that date, May 11, potentially a turning point with how Australians can live while dealing with this crisis? Would you be hopeful that May 11 would be the date where we can see a further easing of the social distancing restrictions-
Scott Morrison: (29:14)
No, look I wouldn’t read too much into that. We’re already on the road back. I think we already have reached a turning point on these issues, provided we can keep the controls in place that keep the virus under management. It will continue to write its own rules and it’s provided we can continue to stay on top of it, then I think we continue to see further easing of restrictions. I mean today’s decision, the decision that other government’s have made, whether it be in Western Australia or elsewhere regarding schools, these are all turning points. They’re all turning points in the right direction and I look forward to more of them. Yep?
Reporter 6: (29:48)
Prime Minister does the provision that allows the compassionate visits to the elderly extend to any friend or relative that might be struggling mentally during the isolation process? If not, why? And did states give assurances that these kinds of visits to a grandparent at home, for example, wouldn’t result in an on the spot fine?
Scott Morrison: (30:06)
They simply reinforce what the original restriction was. And that always enabled those sorts of compare or compassion visits, and that’s always been the case. If that’s the nature of what the visit is then they just restated their commitment and support to that.
Reporter 7: (30:21)
[inaudible 00:30:21] there’s been a lot of commentary from people going through that process, who’ve obviously been quite upset. Do you hope that this will bring some relief to families that are going through that very personal struggle at the moment?
Scott Morrison: (30:34)
Well I have some familiarity with how they would feel about these sorts of things and I certainly hope that it would provide them with some of that comfort. I hope it, more broadly, is a message, as Greg was saying, to Australians more broadly that we are on the road back and these are the steps that we’re taking. They’re not all great leaps and bounds. This one’s a pretty significant one I’ve got to say though. Each step is important, I think, as an encouragement to everyone else for the good work that they’ve been doing. It’s why we’re always just thanking Australians every day and look forward to continuing to thank them. Yep?
Reporter 8: (31:08)
Yeah, just on those jobs numbers, that extraordinary jobless claim numbers. Are you confident that the rate of jobless claims is now slowing? The AVS put out some figures today just showing that the last week was actually the biggest in jobless claims over the last three weeks.
Scott Morrison: (31:26)
We have seen a slowing in the rate of claim and that’s welcome, but the levels of claim are still very high. They’re obviously deeply concerning to me because every one of those half a million Australians we’ve processed for JobSeeker claims is an Australian that’s lost their livelihood and that is deeply distressing to me. Terribly distressing. That’s why we doubled the JobSeeker payment effectively, through the addition of the COVID Supplement. We still have a lot more claims to get through.
Reporter 9: (31:53)
Scott Morrison: (31:53)
Reporter 9: (31:54)
[inaudible 00:31:54] COVID tracing up. Obviously Australians are [inaudible 00:31:57] the Commonwealth that kind of data, so what kind of assurances can you give people? We understand it could be released as early as this week, that the Commonwealth won’t stuff it up and that you will be able to protect people’s privacy.
Scott Morrison: (32:10)
Well there’ll be the privacy statement, which has been developed up with the Privacy Commissioner. There’s also the technical assurances that we’ve been working very carefully through. We have not been rushing to this solution. We’ve been listening carefully, since we first indicated that we’d be moving to use this app, to the various concerns that have been raised and ensure that they’re being addressed. We were able to work through quite a few of those today with the National Cabinet.
Scott Morrison: (32:34)
I want to be clear about a couple of things. The app only collects data and puts it into an encrypted national store, which can only be accessed by the states and territories. The Commonwealth can’t access the data. No government agency at the Commonwealth level, not the Tax Office, not Government Services, not Centrelink, not Home Affairs, not Department of Education, not Childcare, none. The Commonwealth-
Scott Morrison: (33:03)
… will have no access to that data. It will be locked in a data store, an encrypted data store, that can only be accessed by the state health detectives, if you like, the health tracers, those who are actually making contact with the individual whose phone they would be then seeking for them to unlock the datas for it to be released to them, so they can begin the contact tracing process. So that’s what it’s for. It’s for a process that is currently being undertaken manually. And this will speed it up.
Scott Morrison: (33:41)
Now I noticed, in New Zealand they are looking to ask people to keep diaries of these things. We think this is a more comprehensive and a more foolproof system of ensuring that we’re picking up as many of those contacts as possible. But it will keep people safe. It will keep them and their families safe. It will keep others they are coming in contact with more safe, and it’ll of course help Australia get back onto an economy which will be supporting more and more jobs. John.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that China has reached out to about a dozen countries in our region to canvas the possibility of re initiating very important business travel and diplomatic travel. Has Australia had any reach out from China or been in discussions about that? Would you be open to it?
Scott Morrison: (34:25)
We’ve just rolled over, again, the travel restrictions that we currently have in place, both outbound and inbound. And we have no plans to change any of those. There are some exemptions that sit around diplomatic travel and a few other very limited cases and they’ll remain.
Prime Minister, when-
Scott Morrison: (34:46)
Sorry. Sorry, Sam. You can be next.
Speaker 1: (34:47)
Prime Minister, when Brett Walter…
Scott Morrison: (34:50)
No, you go, you go.
Speaker 1: (34:51)
Prime Minister, when Brett Walker led the South Australia Murray-Darling Royal Commission, the Commonwealth went to the high court to block him compelling evidence from Commonwealth public servants. He’s now leading a commission of inquiry into the Ruby Princess, including the decisions and actions of Commonwealth agencies. Will you guarantee that the Commonwealth will provide full cooperation and won’t take those efforts to stymie him getting evidence from Commonwealth agencies?
Scott Morrison: (35:18)
We’ll always cooperate with Royal Commissions.
Speaker 1: (35:22)
So you’re ruling out going to the high court or trying to stop it?
Scott Morrison: (35:25)
We’re always cooperating with Royal Commissions. Sam.
Just in relation to Jobkeeper, are you concerned about these emerging reports of workers being exploited or even sacked when they request Jobkeeper? I’ve had many, many emails just in the last 24 hours. A woman’s saying that when she asked to be put on Jobkeeper as a casual and she was eligible, her boss said he didn’t like the tone, and he said that she was then sacked. Another worker who was told that she would now have to work up to $750 worth of hours to get the money, and she was sent a text message saying, “You work when I tell you, and if you don’t like that, you’re sacked.” What protection do these workers have? It seems to be very much at the goodwill of the employer.
Scott Morrison: (36:06)
Well, you’d be raising two separate cases. I’d be concerned about any behavior by employers that was coercive. And I’d be very keen for that to be relayed to Fair Work and the Ombudsman and others, and to ensure that we can take action on those cases where they’re presented. I think that’s important. On the second issue, in terms of if you’re getting paid $750 then the employer can obviously ask you to do $750 at your rate of pay of work. That’s what the act provides for. That’s not an unreasonable request that someone would work the hours that they’re being paid for. That is being paid by the employer, but obviously that is being met by the Commonwealth through the Jobkeeper program. But coercive behavior by employers in this situation is no more tolerable than it is at any other time. And I would expect those sorts of complaints to be raised formally, and I’d be keen to know the incidence level of that, and it’s something that I’d be happy to raise and have followed through on.
Speaker 2: (37:08)
Did you happen to catch Campbell’s interview last night? And what do you think about his criticism of the governor?
Scott Morrison: (37:15)
Well, on this issue, I’m just going to remain focused on the actual bigger picture, and that’s dealing with the coronavirus response. I’ve answered the question.
[inaudible 00:37:24] cabinet, given we’re in a better position than we thought we’d be a month ago, and we’re just thinking about lifting restrictions and getting people back to work in about a month, is there a possibility that the money you’ve set aside for Jobkeeper and Jobseeker, that we might not spend as much as anticipated in those rescue packages, and they might just take an edge off the cost of this in terms of budgeting terms?
Scott Morrison: (37:47)
Well, we’ll follow the estimates, and if there are estimates variations, then obviously we’ll note those at the time. When we costed this measure, it was based on some 6 million Australians being picked up by Jobkeeper. But similarly we need to understand that the automatic stabilizers, as they’re known, the supports that already exist within the welfare system that get called on at a time like this, they are also covered by estimates variation.
Scott Morrison: (38:15)
So what does that mean? So you would have directly budgeted for Jobkeeper to be at 130 billion over that period of time. And we had some budgeting about the additional cost of the COVID-19 supplement on the job seeker arrangements. But there’ll be many more who will be drawing on the original Jobseeker payment, and that would have just been accepted and absorbed by the budget. So we’re still a long way, I think, from knowing the full extent of all of these costs.
Scott Morrison: (38:45)
What we’ve always been prepared to do, though, is meet them. And the combination of the Jobkeeper and the Jobseeker payments means that we have put in a safety net for Australians by through their employer, and directly through the social security system, that Australia has never known before. And this is the platform that enables businesses and individuals to be able to get through better than they otherwise would. And it’s a very unique Australian program, the combination of these two things together, and it’s what’s going to help us all get through together. I mean, Virgin is very topical today for very understandable reasons, and we’re obviously concerned for those employees in Virgin, but those employees themselves, of getting support, some $15 million a fortnight through the Jobkeeper program. And then there’s the other supports that have been provided, and we look forward through the voluntary administration process, which as the Treasurer and the Deputy Prime Minister made very clear today.
Scott Morrison: (39:49)
That process is a road out. It’s a road out and forward into the future, to ensure that the airline can emerge on the other side and we can have the strong, commercial, viable competition between two carriers in Australia, which the government believes is very important. It’s very important in usual times, but it’ll be even more important as we emerge from the coronavirus economic crisis as ensuring that we have those carriers in place. It’s important for the jobs, which we’ve always been very concerned about. It’s important that the competition regulator also, particularly as we are coming out and as the administrator works with the airline to ensure that it can go forward in a viable way, that it is also not crushed by any anti competitive actions that might be put in place by any other player in the market. So we’re very keen to see that remain in place.
Scott Morrison: (40:44)
We’re very keen to have policies which are supporting jobs, which is going to support the resurgence of the economy. We’d obviously like that to be as quick as possible, but I believe it’ll be a challenging road ahead, and I think we all understand that. And I wish the administrator all the best, as you know, Nicholas Moore, and we’ll be doing that work on behalf of the government to engage with the administrator. I’m encouraged by the fact that there are already 10 parties that have expressed interest in working with the administrator regarding Virgin’s future.
Scott Morrison: (41:16)
I think if we’d not taken the actions that we have, and not demonstrated the patience that we’ve had, then all we may have ended up doing is sending $1 billion to foreign shareholders. And that was never part of my plan. Our plan was always about seeing two viable airlines on the other side, two viable airlines that would be there not just one year from now, but five years and 10 years from now. Thank you all very much. Sorry? 10 parties are showing interest, was my understanding, and we’ll welcome that announcement.
Speaker 3: (41:51)
Okay. That is where we’ll leave the Prime Minister.