Aug 3, 2020
Scott Morrison Australia COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript August 3
Prime Minister Scott Morrison held a press conference on August 3 with COVID-19 updates for Australia. He addressed the new curfew and lockdown rules meant to slow the outbreak in Victoria. Read the full transcript here.
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PM Scott Morrison: (00:00)
I just want to assure Victorians again, that I know it’s a really tough day for you and I know you’ve had some really heartbreaking news. The idea that in this country we would be living at a time where there would be a night curfew on an entire city of the size of Melbourne was unthinkable. But frankly, as we’ve moved through this pandemic, we’ve had to deal with a lot of unthinkable things. But I’ll tell you what, we will deal with it. Victorians I know are up to it. I know they will support each other and I know that other Australians will support Victorians. I just want all Victorians to know that here your Australian government will continue to stand with you with all the support we can provide because you will get through this and we will get through it together once again. Thank you, Professor Kelly.
Prof. Paul Kelly: (00:50)
Thank you, Prime Minister. This pandemic continues to reverberate around the world, not only here in Australia and not only in Victoria, but particularly today with our hearts with our Victor Victorian family and friends and colleagues. Globally, almost 18 million cases now, close to 700,000 deaths. This is a huge, huge thing in terms of health disaster or a health emergency. Here in Australia, 18,318 cases now, including sadly 221 deaths. 444 new cases since yesterday and 13 deaths, most of those related to aged care. We continue to have therefore almost 7,000 active cases. Most of those, almost all of those are in Melbourne and other parts of Victoria, mostly in Melbourne and a growing number of unlinked cases. These are ones that we can’t make clear connections to known clusters or outbreaks. These are the reasons why these new restrictions have been announced today.
Prof. Paul Kelly: (02:02)
I can say that I had a very good and fruitful conversation with my colleague Professor Sutton on Friday night together with Professor Murphy and also Professor Ellen Chang from Victoria, the deputy chief health officer down there. In that conversation, they laid out exactly what they were seeing from the first three weeks of the lockdown in Melbourne and considering what we knew from the modeling and particularly that R effective number that we’ve talked about many times before, and that’s hovering around about one. It shows that those Stage Three lockdowns have been effective to a point, but if we were to continue in the way we are continuing in Melbourne at the moment, those large numbers that we’re seeing every day would continue, on average every person that has the infection infecting one other person. Because that would mean that this would prolong those Stage Three lockdowns, it would prolong the issues of large numbers of cases and what we’re seeing there in terms of unacceptable illness and even deaths, as well as the seeding into other jurisdictions and the rural areas of Victoria. There was a need to do something else.
Prof. Paul Kelly: (03:17)
What was announced today was very proportionate and based on the general principle that the virus does not move by itself. It moves with people. If you decrease the movement around a city like Melbourne, you will get on top of this virus spread. Decreasing that mixing of people and that close interaction, that is the way we stop the spread. We flatten that curve by decreasing that R effective number.
Prof. Paul Kelly: (03:41)
I’m really convinced that this will happen. It will take time. These things always take about two weeks or so, sometimes longer to show that they are effective, but this will be effective. It has to be, of course, related to all those other things we’ve talked about in terms of that personal issues of hygiene, cough etiquette, if you’re sick stay at home, everyone should be staying at home, particularly those who have tested positive. Seek a test, if you are sick, make sure that isolation is really taken into account. That together with the ongoing engagement and with the community, I’m sure that the Victorian authorities have done the right thing today. The Australian Health Protection Committee is absolutely behind that.
Prof. Paul Kelly: (04:27)
I’ll leave it there, PM.
Speaker 3: (04:31)
On the pandemic relief payment, is this something you’re prepared to make available for other states, even though they’re not in crisis like Victoria?
PM Scott Morrison: (04:38)
No, this is a disaster payment. If another state were to be in a position, and God forbid they were, that there was a disaster of the scale that we’re seeing in Victoria, then a disaster payment of this nature on pandemic leave would be entered into, but that would be done on the same basis of what will be established with Victoria. This is to do with a disaster.
Speaker 3: (05:01)
Wouldn’t it be a preemptive element to make it available to other states?
PM Scott Morrison: (05:04)
Speaker 3: (05:05)
Wouldn’t it be a preemptive element? You could head off outbreaks in other states by having this available. Stopping [Crosstalk 00:05:10]
PM Scott Morrison: (05:10)
The advice we have is, and Paul can come on and this as well, the number of cases in other states and the way that’s being handled, and remember there are other payments available under the JobSeeker program already to persons who find themselves in this situation. I should also note, this dates from the time of them getting the notification that they need to self-isolate. There is already a payment the Victorian government makes in relation to the period waiting between when you take your test and when you get your test results back, that’s already in place. What we’re seeking to do is supplement the support. I’ll be proposing to the Premier, it’s up to them whether they wish to take this up, that we can consolidate what the Victorian government is doing and what we propose to do into one single payment process. But the first step is to ensure that we roll this out as well. Those two systems will run in parallel at first, but I imagine that we can move fairly quickly to streamlining those as quickly as possible.
PM Scott Morrison: (06:09)
Prime Minister, will this payment only be available for the six weeks of the Stage Four lockdowns? Also, given the devastating situation in Victoria, do you concede that it is correct for the WA border to remain closed, given 96% of West Australians want it to remain closed?
PM Scott Morrison: (06:29)
Well, I just [crosstalk 00:06:29] weekend, Lonnie. I’ve got nothing further to add to the letter that I’ve put in writing to the Premier.
PM Scott Morrison: (06:35)
But in relation to the other matter, you just have to remind me the first part of the question.
Will this only be a [crosstalk 00:06:41].
PM Scott Morrison: (06:42)
It’ll be there for as long as the government says it is there as a disaster. We’ve left it open-ended at this point. Once the pandemic disaster has, we hope, returned to the sort of situation you’re seeing in other states currently, then that’s when disaster payments traditionally are no longer applied. But we anticipate that this payment will be needed for some time and it will be made available for as long as it’s necessary.
PM Scott Morrison: (07:10)
Prime Minister, there’s been a steady rise in the unlinked cases. Have you got a stronger handle on what’s gone wrong with the contact tracing in Victoria? Perhaps Professor Kelly jump in there as well?
Secondly, Prime Minister, I understand you intend to bring Parliament back for two weeks. How’s that going to run given that you’re going to have potentially scores, if not hundreds, of people coming from a pandemic disaster zone into the ACT?
PM Scott Morrison: (07:39)
Well, to answer your first question, we’ve been focusing on how we can help to make it right and to make it as effective as possible, and that’s where we’ve been applying our efforts, particularly through the Australian Defense Forces and the work that Commodore Hill has been doing directly with the public health officers in Victoria. That work I know has been improving the situation, particularly the work also that the ADF have been doing in the direct door knocking, which that presence has been expanded. That’s also been very effective. But it is also highlighting weaknesses of even where people have been tested, have been traced that isolation is not necessarily being complied with. We’re supporting them. I mean, our job is to help them do it as effectively as possible with all the supports and resources we’re providing them. It’s for the Victorian government to be responsible for the overall management of that program.
PM Scott Morrison: (08:32)
But Paul, did you want to …
Prof. Paul Kelly: (08:34)
Yeah. On contact chasing, the numbers are enormous. Any contact tracing effort anywhere in the world would struggle with the sort of numbers we’ve seen in Victoria over the last little while to make that very detailed forward and back assessment about where people might’ve been before they got sick and the ones that may have been in contact afterwards. It doesn’t surprise me that they are now finding ones that they can’t make those links.
Prof. Paul Kelly: (09:00)
In terms of Parliament, would you like to …
PM Scott Morrison: (09:01)
Yeah. Parliament, I’ll offer a comment on this as well. There has been a working group working with the presiding officers and the government has been contributing to that. I’ll be providing further information, advice to them tomorrow. Parliament will come back. It will meet. I always said it would meet, and I meant that when I said it. We’ll be putting in place arrangements that would comply with the advice that we receive, both from the chief health officer here in the ACT, and we’ve also sought further advice from the CMO. Ultimately, the commonwealth government will respond to the advice of the CMO. They’ve been working closely together to ensure the appropriate protections are put in place for any people who would be coming here from Victoria.
PM Scott Morrison: (09:43)
There are two issues here. Most importantly, the public health. If you bring together over 200 people plus staff into one place from all around the country, then obviously you’ve got to be very careful about the onward transmission from infected parts of the country and how that could then potentially operate going out into other states. We will have some very strict protocols around that and we’re seeking the full compliance of all members with that process. But it is important that parliament continues to meet.
PM Scott Morrison: (10:13)
When we made the decision about parliament not sitting when it was next scheduled to meet, there were a lot of uncertainties. We’ve got a clearer view now. We know the situation has actually become even more serious, but we believe we can put arrangements in place.
PM Scott Morrison: (10:27)
Prof. Paul Kelly: (10:28)
Yeah, so the Prime Minister is correct. I’ve had a lot of discussions with my colleague in the ACT, Dr. Coleman and others. We’ll have to work through those issues. But it is a risk within the building to ACT and also as parliamentarians come from other parts of the country and back to their parts. But that that risk can be mitigated and it will be mitigated.
Speaker 6: (10:52)
Prime Minister, just in relation to what we’ve seen in Victoria, how is that impacting what you’re planning on doing with JobKeeper beyond September? Does it make any changes to what you’re considering?
PM Scott Morrison: (11:02)
Well, what’s important is that those businesses and employees who’ve been impacted particularly by these decisions will continue to get the support of JobKeeper, and I believe they will. I mean, they’ll qualify for JobKeeper now. I’d encourage them to make those applications if they’re not already on JobKeeper. We have a large number of businesses that are on JobKeeper in Victoria already, and so they will continue to get that support. Those who haven’t required up until now and will need it will be able to apply immediately for it and get access to it. The same goes for JobSeeker as well, and those supports being in place.
PM Scott Morrison: (11:37)
If there are any issues around eligibility that need to be looked at more closely, the treasurer is already doing that. I flagged that with you last week. That process will continue. But remember that is at the end of September.
Speaker 6: (11:53)
Do you delay reducing the rate?
PM Scott Morrison: (11:54)
Speaker 6: (11:54)
Do you delay reducing the rate, given what we’re seeing in Victoria?
PM Scott Morrison: (11:56)
Well, look, we’re talking about something two-and-a-half months from now. Two-and-a-half months from now. Sorry. Well, two months from now. We’re into August, it’s the end of September. We’re talking about something many weeks from now and we’ll be making further assessments of that.
PM Scott Morrison: (12:13)
But the JobKeeper program is a national program. It applies in Cairns. It applies in Bunbury. It applies in Brunswick. It will continue to run as a national program. Any specific issues that are relevant to Victoria, we would seek to meet together with the Victorian government.
Speaker 7: (12:30)
Prime Minister, can I ask you, on Hydroxychloroquine can I ask you both if I might, first, Professor-
PM Scott Morrison: (12:36)
Not a subject I’m an expert in, so I have to leave it to the Chief Medical Officer.
Speaker 7: (12:42)
Chief Medical Officer, if I could ask you, Professor, whether you are happy with the current settings that prevent prescription of the drug in Australia?
Speaker 7: (12:50)
Prime Minister, can I ask you if you’re happy with your MP, Craig Kelly, promoting it to the point where he says Dan Andrews could be jailed because he bans the drug in Victoria?
PM Scott Morrison: (13:03)
Well, I’m not going to get onto what people talk about on Facebook on a day like this. But on the medical issues, I’m happy for the Chief Medical Officer to speak to it.
Prof. Paul Kelly: (13:12)
Hydroxychloroquine has been used for many, many years for various things, including for malaria prevention. I took it myself for many years when I worked in Africa. Very safe for that particular way of using that drug and other things currently involved in terms of arthritis and other matters. But in terms of it’s use for this particular disease, the jury is pretty much out. It doesn’t work.
PM Scott Morrison: (13:40)
Speaker 8: (13:42)
[crosstalk 00:13:42] free childcare for essential workers in Victoria.
PM Scott Morrison: (13:44)
Speaker 8: (13:44)
Does there need to be a reintroduction of JobKeeper for childcare workers?
PM Scott Morrison: (13:48)
Well, I spoke to the education minister this afternoon. It’s still a little unclear what is meant by permitted worker in the table that was released this afternoon. We’re seeking some further clarity around that. It’s very important that we keep these facilities open so they’re available to people who will need them. There are a number of ways we can do that. That’s what the Education Ministry is working through right now. We’re very committed to ensuring that those facilities remain available. They’ll be very important for especially those who are health workers or otherwise unable to provide arrangements for their children as they’re earning income, even if that means they’re working at home.
PM Scott Morrison: (14:30)
There are a lot of questions that are still unanswered. We’ll be seeking those answers from the Victorian government so we can work with the sector to ensure that we can keep those facilities open, support the workers who are in those facilities in the same way we’d be seeking to support workers in all facilities and all businesses that are impacted by the announcements today. It’s obviously a change to the set of factors we’re dealing with when we made those last set of announcements. I mean the rest of the country, the situation is unchanged. But in Victoria, I suspect we’ll need to make some changes, but I won’t be announcing those until they’ve been properly worked through and we get some greater clarity from the Victorian government about who permitted workers are and what that will mean for demand at facilities and then how that can be worked through with the sector to ensure that they remain open, their businesses remain viable, and that their workers are supported.
PM Scott Morrison: (15:23)
Speaker 9: (15:24)
[crosstalk 00:15:24] Victoria, some of your national colleagues have today, have expressed dismay that they’re now under Stage Three restrictions when just a few weeks ago, or yesterday they weren’t, but just a few weeks ago they had almost no cases. They’ve said that they’re concerned that the government was unable to stop Melbournians moving across the border of metropolitan Melbourne into the country and spreading the virus. As Paul Kelly said, the virus only spreads with people.
PM Scott Morrison: (15:48)
Speaker 9: (15:49)
Are you at all concerned that the Victorian government wasn’t able to stop that virus? Do you still have confidence that they can stop the spreading further?
PM Scott Morrison: (15:56)
Well, I understand people’s frustration. I understand their anger. In some cases I certainly understand their fury, but I also understand their tears and their deep disappointments. I think that is the array of very difficult emotions that people are going through, whether they’re in metropolitan inner Melbourne or they’re out in regional Victoria, where there are very few cases. The challenge of dealing with this pandemic is not fair to people. It’s very unfair what’s happening to people. It’s the pandemic and the virus that is doing that.
PM Scott Morrison: (16:34)
It means that the Premier obviously have to make some difficult calls and not everybody’s going to agree with every call he makes and he will have to apply his best judgment to the decisions that he made. I have no doubt he understands that and understands the accountability for those decisions. I am absolutely sure that he hasn’t taken any of them lightly in the many conversations that I’ve had with him. They’re tough calls, and he knows he has to make them. He sought to consult. He sought advice, including from the commonwealth. We’ve offered our views, and I think the challenges in Victoria going to be hard to call, but they’re going to be necessary.
PM Scott Morrison: (17:12)
There’s been so much. In fact, everything people have had to do is hard to call over these many months, but it’s what we have to do. It’s what’s necessary. Even if we find it hard to agree with on occasions, or can’t understand it, or wish it wasn’t happening, or say this didn’t need to happen if X and Y were done, none of that really at the end of the day, stacks up to what has to be done. We know what we need to do now, and I know Victorians know what needs to be done now. I know many will find it really hard, but we’re all counting on them to do it. We’re all in it with them, as best as we possibly can.
PM Scott Morrison: (17:56)
What I’ve announced this evening on this disaster payment support with pandemic leave the $14 billion that have already been put in the many other measures that have been there to support, it’s all there to help them get through. I’m backing Melbourne, I’m backing Victoria, and I know they will get through this.
PM Scott Morrison: (18:13)
Thank you very much.
Speaker 10: (18:20)
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