Apr 6, 2021
Scott Morrison Australia COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript April 6: Normal Travel with New Zealand Resumed
Prime Minister Scott Morrison held a press conference on April 6, 2021 with COVID-19 updates for Australia. He announced that two way travel with New Zealand will resume. Read the full transcript here.
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Scott Morrison: (00:01)
Another big step today with the opening of the Tasman. It is six months ago almost that Australia opened up to New Zealand. And I’m very pleased that the New Zealand government has decided that that two way travel will commence Monday fortnight. Prime Minister Ardern called me last night and we had a very positive discussion about this. It’s something we’ve been talking about for some time. And this is the first of many more steps to come, I believe, as we get back to a more normal position, not only over the course of this year, but beyond. This is an important first step.
Scott Morrison: (00:39)
Australia and New Zealand have led the way when it comes to managing COVID. We have ensured that both our countries, despite dealing with the virus, have not suffered the same types of virus impacts that we’ve seen in so many other countries around the world. And the fact that we now can combine again will mean jobs. It will mean people reunited. It will mean many opportunities as those normal relations are restored between Australia and New Zealand. And so, I very much appreciate the arrangement that the New Zealand government has come to today. We welcome them back as indeed Kiwis will be welcoming Aussies and all in time for Anzac Day too, which is tremendous to see that occur in the true Anzac spirit of our two nations coming together again.
Scott Morrison: (01:28)
This will mean importantly jobs for Australia. I’ve already made major announcements about our travel sector. And it is true that the trans Tasman route is one of the most busy in terms of volume. That means more planes in the air, it means more jobs on the ground and in the air as well for our airlines. It means further support for our travel agents who booked many of the first of the international travel that we’ll see for Australians. And so, I’m sure that will be welcomed by those in the travel sector and in the aviation sector.
Scott Morrison: (02:01)
On jobs more broadly, more good news today with wonderful news of 7.4% increase in A and Z job ads today at 190,542 jobs that are out there right now. This is the highest level in over 12 years. And it’s further positive news, further good news that demonstrates the comeback of the Australian economy. When you combine these events together, what we’re seeing is Australia continue to move forward and our own part of the world moving forward between Australia and New Zealand. And we can welcome that into the future. Happy to take questions.
Speaker 2: (02:36)
Prime Minister, what’s the update today on the number of vaccinations that’s been done across the country? And why isn’t that information being provided daily as you do with the number of COVID cases, for example?
Scott Morrison: (02:47)
Well, the figures I have is at the 5th of April is 854,983. And of that there are some 280,943 that have been done through the GP clinics and the GP [inaudible 00:03:02] clinics and the other federal agencies. And that’s in addition to those that have been done through age and disability facilities, which is around 112,830.
Scott Morrison: (03:12)
Now, I agree with you. I think it is a good idea for us to have even more data transparency on these issues. And that’s what I’ll be discussing with the premiers and chief ministers on Friday. But I’ll be taking that to them on Friday to discuss. Now, I think there is an interest in and a keen appetite for more regular information. We are providing that weekly information, but there’s no reason why these figures can’t be done on a more regular basis. And we welcome that. And so, I’ll talk those issues through with the state premiers and chief ministers on Friday. They have also, I think, indicated that they’re keen for more data transparency on these things. And I look forward to being able to satisfy that on Friday.
Speaker 3: (03:53)
Speaker 4: (03:54)
What do you say to Australians who are frustrated or disappointed at the slow pace of the roll out?
Scott Morrison: (03:59)
Well, I think it’s important when we provide even more information that, just before Easter, we hit 79,000 vaccinations in a day. And it is true that at this stage of our rollout it’s actually better than where Germany was. It’s better than where New Zealand was. It was better than where South Korea was and Japan was. And so, I think there’ll be some important context in the weeks ahead as we see the significant ramp up of the distribution network. And already we’re around about 1,500 or thereabouts GPs that are in the network at the moment. But we’re expecting that to grow even more by the end of this week. And what this means is that we’re getting more points of distribution closer to people in their communities.
Scott Morrison: (04:45)
I want to stress this point, and that is, in the phase we’re in currently, we’re dealing with Australians who are more vulnerable. And so, the best place for those Australians who may be elderly, or may have disabilities, or are in any of these sorts of groups, is to get that health care support of their vaccination through their GP. Their GP knows their medical history. Their GP has built up confidence with them over a long period of time. They could talk to them about any questions or issues they might have about the vaccination. And so, the strategy has always been to use the primary health network to ensure that we can do the bulk of the vaccinations that are done for this important program. Now, that’s no different to many other vaccinations that are done. I mean, our GP network does hundreds of thousands of vaccinations every week at normal times. And this is added to that load, and they’re doing a tremendous job. And more and more are signing up. And so, in the weeks ahead, I think you’ll see that continue to improve.
Scott Morrison: (05:50)
The challenges Australia has had has been a supply problem, pure and simple. There was over three million from overseas that were contracted that never came. And that obviously resulted in an inability to get three million other doses out and distributed through the network. And I think it’s really important that these points are made very clearly when we’re talking about the rollout of the vaccine.
Scott Morrison: (06:15)
Now, as CSL are ramping up their production and their systems are becoming even more efficient as they get into the rhythm of their production systems, there is also the approvals that must follow once batches are produced. That involves both AstraZeneca internationally. It involves the TGA batch testing as well.
Scott Morrison: (06:39)
I think it’s very important that people understand that the fill and finish process doesn’t involve the little vial coming off the production line, and it goes straight to a courier and goes to the GP or the hospital where the states may be administering doses. That’s not how it works. The way it works is, once the vials are produced, they have to go through an approval process. And that’s important because Australians need to be assured of these vaccines and that they are ticking all the boxes. It’s not just a matter of having the vaccine approved initially by the TGA. They have to test the batches as well. That’s about Australian safety. And I don’t intend to rush that process and put people’s health at risk.
Scott Morrison: (07:24)
So, the capacity to distribute, the capacity to administer, the production of the vaccines are starting to increase. And, as that occurs in the weeks ahead, then we’ll see ourselves progressively working through what is a very large group of people who are still looking to get vaccinated. Rosie.
Prime Minister, can you confirm which countries were looking at announcing travel bubbles with next? And Jacinda Ardern said in her presser that she expected to get about 80% of the Australian market back by early 2020, because of today’s announcement. Is it the same arrangement for Australia?
Scott Morrison: (07:56)
Well, we’ve been getting 100% of the New Zealand market because they’ve been the only ones who could come to Australia for the last six months. And we’ve welcomed that. And I think that will only increase now with the Kiwis not having to do the return quarantine at the other end. I mean, the New Zealand, Australia travel market is a very high volume market and it works really well for people on both sides of the Tasman. And, after spending all that time in New Zealand for the past year, I’m sure that so many will be keen to get on that plane and come across to whether it’s Queensland, New South Wales, WA, Tasmania, wherever they’d like to go. So look, it is a win-win outcome for the trans Tasman travel to be open. Both countries benefit from that occurring.
Speaker 6: (08:39)
Prime Minister, can you answer the question about where you’re looking to next? Where can we expect the next travel bubble to be?
Is it Singapore?
Speaker 6: (08:46)
Scott Morrison: (08:47)
Well, no. I can’t confirm what they are at this point. We’re not in a position to be outlining where the next ones will be. These things are regularly assessed by the chief medical officer. And we have looked at patches like Singapore, and Japan, and South Korea and countries like this. But, at this stage, we’re not in a position to move forward on any of those at this point.
Speaker 6: (09:06)
And Prime Minister-
Janet Yellen said that she is pushing for-
Scott Morrison: (09:08)
Janet Yellen says the U.S. will push for G20 nations to adopt a minimum corporate tax rate. Is this something you-
Scott Morrison: (09:17)
I’m happy to move to another topic, but while we’re on vaccines, why don’t we stay there?
Speaker 8: (09:21)
Prime Minister, do you have comments about the need for particularly vulnerable groups to talk to their GPs, suggest that later down the track, as more supply becomes available, mass vaccination centers might be an option for the broader population?
Scott Morrison: (09:36)
Well, right now we’re dealing with vulnerable populations. And that’s why we believe particularly the way we’re doing it at present provides the most care to those Australians. When we move into the balance of the population, when we’re talking about people in their thirties and their forties and so on, then there are other options that open up. And that is the stage at which, in mid year and beyond, we were looking at things like pharmacists being involved in those distribution mechanisms. We were never looking at it at this stage of the rollout. That was never part of the plan, and that was always very clear.
Scott Morrison: (10:11)
Working with the states, in terms of more high volume facilities, well we certainly haven’t ruled that out. But the nature of that will depend on where is the best and most effective way we can distribute those vaccines. We will learn a lot with the rollout through the GP network, particularly over these next few months. And we’re already seeing it ramp up considerably. I mean, in just two weeks, the GPs vaccinated 280,943 people. That’s not a bad effort in their first couple of weeks and they’re just getting started. And that will continue to roll out as we ramp up the number of GPs that are directly involved in this program. Ultimately, we’re looking to get to around 4,000, as I mentioned some weeks ago. And we’re making steady progress towards that goal. But working with the states where they have the ability to assist further, and as many of them have, I’ve indicated our willingness to work with new South Wales. We’re already working with all the other States and territories on that. And I’m pleased that they’ve joined that group. And I’m sure that’s something we can discuss further this weekend.
Scott Morrison: (11:15)
But what is ultimately important is that we do this safely, that we do this progressively. And the key issue that we need to keep focusing on is the supply of the vaccines. And I can’t stress enough again, were it not for our domestic manufacturing production capability of the AstraZeneca vaccine, Australia would not have a vaccination program. We wouldn’t be talking about anyone getting vaccines. And that’s why the decision we took to put that in place wasn’t just important last August. It’s important right now because it is those very vaccines that are that coming out of the CSL plan and going through the approval process. They’re the vaccines that our vaccination program depends and relies upon.
Speaker 9: (12:00)
But, Prime Minister, so do you agree though that, if you had gone down the mass vaccination route, more people would be safe right now and vaccinated?
Scott Morrison: (12:10)
No. I don’t. Because you’re assuming a supply of vaccines that was not there. You’re assuming that there were three million vaccines that were here that were not here. I mean, the vaccines that we have available to us are being distributed and they’re being administered. And so, you’re suggesting that there would have been other vaccines that could have been used at a larger scale. Well, the supply of those vaccines were not there. And so, your assumption is based on a false premise of supply that was not there.
Speaker 9: (12:41)
I’m just thinking about the vaccines we have now though.
Scott Morrison: (12:43)
Yes. But those vaccines that we’re producing now are matching the distribution network that we have.
Speaker 10: (12:49)
How many doses-
Speaker 11: (12:51)
CSL actually rolling out every week at the moment. The acting chief medical officer and CSL both can’t say how many doses they’re providing to government each week.
Scott Morrison: (12:58)
Well, it varies from week to week and we’re still in the early phases. So, it would be misleading, I think, to give you an average at this point. We know what was hoping to achieve. But, at this point, we are hoping to achieve the figures that have been already realized to some extent. And that’s around the 800,000 mark. That is achievable. And we want to be able to try and keep achieving that. And, if we can do better than that, then we will.
Speaker 12: (13:27)
On the travel bubble, Prime Minister Ardern mentioned that the risk of disruption for people’s travel plans, if there’s an outbreak. Have you sought any assurances from the premiers that they won’t be hasty to shut their borders to New Zealand if there’s an outbreak in Auckland, for instance. Because we saw at Christmas when Daniel Andrews gave very short notice to get home to Victoria, and [inaudible 00:13:49]. Is that threat of disruption perhaps going to impede the flow of two-way travel at all?
Scott Morrison: (13:57)
Well, it’s a standing request that I have of the states to have proportionate responses. But ultimately, they’re the ones who make those decisions about how they respond in those specific cases. I was pleased to see that the restrictions that were introduced in Queensland were just as quickly removed, and that’s very welcome.
Scott Morrison: (14:17)
Now, I think we all understand, whether it’s Prime Minister Ardern or myself, that we’re still not living in a COVID free environment, despite the success of both countries. And that, from time to time, the steps might have to be taken to protect both countries if there is a sizeable outbreak. And so, I think that’s just assumed as part of how we all live with COVID. But where that can be minimized in terms of the size of the area we’re talking about and particularly to quite defined hotspots, then that is an approach that we’ve taken to New Zealand in the past when there’s been outbreaks in Auckland.
Scott Morrison: (14:55)
So, we will continue to follow what I would call a proportionate response. And I would be always encouraging states to follow the same process. And I think increasingly that’s what we’re seeing this year, compared to what we saw last year.
Speaker 9: (15:08)
Scott Morrison: (15:10)
Given what we’re seeing with vaccine rollouts here-
Scott Morrison: (15:10)
Given what we’re seeing with vaccine rollouts here and around the world.
Scott Morrison: (15:15)
What’s your view on the likelihood of any international travel beyond New Zealand this year?
Scott Morrison: (15:22)
Yeah. Well, I can’t really speculate on it, Chris. And I’m not about to. I don’t think that’s fair. We are seeing populations around the world increasingly being vaccinated. But the important piece of information, which I’ve told you all on many occasions, is that while we know absolutely that the vaccines that we’re using and that other countries are using a very effective in insuring against serious disease and protecting, obviously can’t and all cases, particularly where people have co-morbidities, against fatalities. But, as more of the world, and particularly more of our own country is vaccinated, then obviously we can start moving to managing this virus a lot more like other viruses that we do within a more standard way. That’s our objective. But we’ll let the evidence lead us on that. And, at this point, the evidence is not strong enough to give us a good pointer about when we will arrive at that point.
Speaker 14: (16:19)
I have a question, Prime Minister.
Scott Morrison: (16:20)
Yes, Michelle. Michelle.
Speaker 4: (16:21)
Originally you said that-
The cohort that you’re now dealing with in terms of vaccinations often visits chemists, these people. And the chemists are saying today that they’re absolutely ready to go. They’re worried about their timetable slipping. Wouldn’t there be a case for bringing them forward in the progress? Or is the supply the restraint on doing that?
Scott Morrison: (16:49)
Well, the supply is the major restraint and always has been, whether it’s been the non-delivery of vaccines from overseas, some three million that we were relying upon. And we all are aware of the situation in Europe and other places that has frustrated that supply. There are circumstances that are outside Australia’s control.
Scott Morrison: (17:08)
What was inside our control was ensuring that we had the capacity to make the vaccine in Australia. And we’ve done that. And that supply is what is supporting the distribution network through our GPs and the states and territories that is in effect now. It was never ever the plan that pharmacists would be involved in the vaccination program at this point. So, there’s been no slippage. There has been no delay. And the medical advice is, it is not the time for pharmacists to be involved at this point. There has always been the plan to involve them at a later point with the more general population, and that is still the plan. And we have arrangements that are in place to achieve that.
Scott Morrison: (17:46)
But right now the supply is supporting the distribution network we’ve got through the GPs and the states and territories. And we are seeing that ramp up week, after week, after week. To give you an example, I mean, when we were first starting, we’d hoped to get to around 80,000 a week. And we were achieving that in the first couple of weeks. In the seven days prior to the Easter break, and obviously over the Easter break there hasn’t been many vaccinations over the course of the last four days. That will ramp up again as this week commences. We got to around 350,000 in a week. And now, that is a significant increase in just a matter of weeks. And we can continue to expect to see that increase over the weeks ahead as the distribution network expands, more GPs are involved.
Scott Morrison: (18:34)
And I want to stress, it’s important that we get as many GPs involved as possible, because that is more points of contact with the public, more points of contact. And they’re receiving anywhere between 50 and 2,000 doses. And so, the fact that those doses have been getting out and they’ve been getting in the jabs and the arms I strongly welcome. And there will be more rollout as they come off the production line and as they go through the necessary approval processes. And that is the phase that we’re dealing with now. And then, when we get to the next phase, then there’ll be a role for pharmacists. And there’s the potential for other ways that we can do that to ensure that we can move the vaccines across the balances of population as safely and reasonably as possible. Sam. Sam. I will come back. I’ll come back to you. I’ll come back to you, but Sam had her hand up.
Originally in January you were hopeful that you could vaccinate four million people by the end of March. That hasn’t happened. We’re at about a quarter, I think that 800,000. And you said partially that’s in relation to exports. But, in relation to CSL, in relation to-
Scott Morrison: (19:37)
Import, you mean.
Scott Morrison: (19:38)
Sorry. In relation to CSL, they’ve got about 800,000 that are on the ground. And there’s also around two million that are awaiting further checks. And you’ve said that’s important. Given those sorts of holdups, how many people would you expect to be vaccinated by the end of April?
Scott Morrison: (19:56)
Well, Sam, a couple of things. There’s not a holdup. The release of vaccines has always been based on them completing those processes. So, the fact that they actually have to get approved by the relevant authorities and do the batch testing is not a holdup. It’s a necessary part of the process to guarantee Australian safety. So, I think to describe that as a holdup would be incorrect.
Scott Morrison: (20:20)
Secondly, you talked about the four million figure. Well, the simple explanation of that is 3.1 million vaccines that never came to Australia. And so, that is the reason. Back in early January, we had anticipated we would have those 3.1 million vaccines. Those 3.1 million vaccines were not supplied to Australia. And that explains the difference between the numbers you’re referring to. And we made that very clear back in February. And we made it very clear that they were indicative figures that we were working to at that time based on the information that we had.
Scott Morrison: (20:56)
So, I think it is important that, as the government puts information out about the program, it will be subject to change from time to time. There will be factors that come into play, such as the disruption of suppliers. That can occur even with domestic production. And we need to work to the supply that we have. And I think that’s only reasonable to consider it in that way. And that’s what we’ll continue to do. Last one. I’d said I would come back to Greg. And then-
The pharmacists say that they were initially supposed to get advice on what clinics would administer doses by March 12th. That’s been pushed back to April 12. And they say that their initial advice was I would actually be administering them by May. And that’s been pushed back to June.
Scott Morrison: (21:45)
That was always midyear. We were always working to midyear.
In what world was that-
Scott Morrison: (21:45)
Pharmacists were not coming in until the next phase. And so, I welcome their enthusiasm and willingness to want to be involved in this. And, when we reached that stage where they are able to be involved, then they’ll be involved. But you had another question on another matter.
Yeah. It’s just Janet Yellen said she’s pushing for a minimum corporate tax rate for the G20. Is this something you’d consider supporting? And are you concerned Australia has been at the losing end on an international bidding war for lower business tax rates?
Scott Morrison: (22:11)
Well, in Australia, not only have we reduced the corporate tax rate and it’s on that path to 25% for businesses of less than 50 million in turnover, but I’d also add this. In the most recent budgets, we’ve introduced some of the most effective investment allowances and instance expensive initiatives, as well as research and development, taxation, concessions, and a whole range of other measures that effectively lowers the corporate tax rate for Australian companies.
Scott Morrison: (22:41)
And so, the like-for-like assessment, I think you will find would see Australia in a lot more competitive position than you would give Australia credit for. And we’re seeing that through the work that is being done currently in Australia’s efforts to attract more companies to Australia. And particularly when you take into account in key sectors, like in the space sector, or the technology sector, or the minerals resource processing, or AgriFood, or any of these key biomedical industries where our manufacturing strategy is also being supported by grant programs and others to boost that, then Australia’s overall system is proving to be incredibly competitive and a lot more competitive than that analysis would suggest.
Scott Morrison: (23:28)
And Australia does have an opportunity right now, and we are seeking right now to realize that opportunity. Companies from around the world, the best and brightest minds from all around the world are working out that this is where they want to be. And they want to be here and be part of what’s here in Australia. And our success in managing COVID compared to other countries is a great endorsement of what Australia is putting forward to them. So, I’ll have a bit more to say about that in the weeks ahead. But what I can tell you is Australia is leading the world out of the COVID-19 pandemic and recession.
Scott Morrison: (24:07)
Today’s job vacancy numbers, they demonstrate that. Our vaccination program continues to upscale and continues to roll out. Unlike in many other countries where they have had to move at a great pace, it has been because of the dire situation they are in. Australia is not experiencing the dire fatal consequences that so many other countries are experiencing. And neither is New Zealand whose vaccination program is, I’d say, at a lower level than Australia’s is now. It’s not a criticism. It’s just they don’t have access to a domestic vaccine production. Australia does. And that enables us going forward in the weeks and months ahead to scale all that up.
Scott Morrison: (24:48)
So, I’m very pleased about those job numbers. I’m very pleased that the trans Tasman route is opened up again. It’s another big step in our way back. Thanks very much.