Dec 20, 2020

Scott Morrison Press Conference Transcript on NSW COVID Outbreak December 20

Scott Morrison December 20 Press Conference
RevBlogTranscriptsPolitical TranscriptsScott Morrison Press Conference Transcript on NSW COVID Outbreak December 20

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison held a press conference on December 20, saying that swift action will be needed to contain the New South Wales coronavirus outbreak. Read the full transcript of the news briefing here.

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Scott Morrison: (00:00)
2020 is not done with us yet, that’s very clear, and nor should we be surprised. The events of the past few days, I have no doubt, are incredibly frustrating and disappointing for people all around the country who had plans in place to get together and moving between States, and the restrictions in Sydney of only 10 people in a home, all very sensible. But I understand that it will be disappointing and frustrating because of the disruptions that have taken place.

Scott Morrison: (00:32)
I have no doubt that the Premiers feel the same way. But the actions that are being taken are necessary. As we look around the world, we know what’s happening. And we know that we have to be cautious and the great gains that have been made at great sacrifice and at great cost over the course of this year, we intend to maintain them.

Scott Morrison: (00:52)
And that means that in circumstances like this, as we have done so now on many occasions, we need to act swiftly as is occurring. As the authorities get on top of this and ensure that we can preserve the gains and ensure that we can go into 2021 in a good state. The viruses have often reminded everyone, it doesn’t go anywhere. It’s still there. It’s a global pandemic.

Scott Morrison: (01:16)
And as a result, outbreaks will occur from time to time. You remember the Crossroads outbreak, Northern Tasmania, Adelaide just a few weeks ago. Of course, what occurred in Melbourne. Even smaller outbreaks have occurred in Brisbane and many other places. It’s how you respond to the outbreaks that matters.

Scott Morrison: (01:35)
The outbreaks are things that are going to continue to occur, and while great care is taken all around the country, then we can never fully rule out that an outbreak might occur at some point in time. In this case, what we’re seeing is both great cooperation as we’ve seen in other places before, but the geography, I’ve got to tell you is helping us as well. Those of you who know Sydney will know that the peninsula is a very cohesive community that tends to keep to itself, a bit like the shy, down where I’m from.

Scott Morrison: (02:10)
And that is certainly, I think, assisting in making sure that the Avalon outbreak is staying exactly where it is. And the Premier has already gone through at great length with the Chief Health Officer in New South Wales about where things are today. But we do welcome the fact that we’ve seen a reduction in those new cases, in that 24 hour period.

Scott Morrison: (02:31)
That’s no guarantee of tomorrow or the next day after that, but is certainly much better than the alternative. And as we go into these next few days, we’ll be watching carefully as we endeavor to understand whether there’s been further seeding. If there has been any seeding, I should say, there hasn’t been any at this point, in other parts of the city or other places.

Scott Morrison: (02:51)
And I’m sure Professor Kelly will make this point as well. If you’re from that affected area in the Avalon outbreak, in Northern Beaches of Sydney, if you were there over the past fortnight and you happen to be somewhere else now, if you’re in Adelaide, if you’re in Queensland, if you’re indeed here in the ACT or somewhere else, then the rules about isolation apply equally to you as they do to those of your neighbors who were back in Avalon, in the Northern Beaches right now. I think that’s a very important point, and we seek people’s cooperation.

Scott Morrison: (03:26)
I think the speed at which the New South Wales authorities have been able to get on top of this and understand the extent of the community transmission in all those places has been outstanding. And that is greatly assisting them in managing this outbreak, and that will continue. I should note, as Professor Kelly did on Friday, that the Avalon outbreak does qualify under the National Hotspot definition. And that’s been the case for several days now.

Scott Morrison: (03:55)
And so, therefore, the precautionary actions taken in other jurisdictions is understandable in that context. Let’s hope that they won’t be required for long. Let’s hope that what we see here in New South Wales, and I think there’s good cause for that hope on what we’re seeing, having just spoken again to the New South Wales Premier this morning, there is good cause. I think they have hoped that if they continue to apply themselves in the way they are, and the cooperation continues, then we can hopefully see things returned to COVID normal as soon as we possibly could hope to see that occur.

Scott Morrison: (04:29)
One of the very encouraging elements of the response so far has been the community response was some 38,000 tests conducted yesterday. That’s a record. What that shows is people are listening, and they’re coming forward. All of those test results are incredibly helpful to the authorities as they get on top of this and manage to map the impacts of this community transmission. We’re already seeing that some of those who are identified as having the virus are already in isolation. They’d already isolated themselves as a result of the precautionary approach that had been advised by the health authorities, and that shows you that the system is working.

Scott Morrison: (05:08)
The turnaround on testing, same day. We will know of anecdotal evidence of people getting turnarounds and tests and number of hours. For some, it’s taken a bit longer than that. But the same day turnaround, the ability to ensure that they’re running tracing to ground within those 48 hour periods, these are key metrics that are being hit and very essential to the response.

Scott Morrison: (05:32)
Just quickly, on the issue of aged care. There are no cases in any aged care facilities in these affected areas. In fact, there are none in the country. There is one case where there was a visitor, but I’m advised that that visitor was wearing masks when they were visiting that individual.

Scott Morrison: (05:49)
And at this stage, there is no suggestion that there has been any virus infection at that site or any other sites. That said, we have put in place the single- site working arrangements in support for the facilities in the effected areas. In addition to that, we’re also doubling down on the support provider for PPE, and other supports through the age care facilities to ensure that those facilities on infection control and the other matters are being well attended to.

Scott Morrison: (06:18)
I’ve already mentioned the testing on the Commonwealth funded GP Respiratory Clinics, all across New South Wales and the ACT with request to allow asymptomatic testing. And that will continue for as long as it needs to. That testing is proving, also, very hopeful with New South Wales authorities on tracking the course of the community transmission.

Scott Morrison: (06:42)
In defense, I should note, that we have some 1,298 defense force personnel who were deployed to supporting our priority, which is hotel quarantine. That includes 342 officers in New South Wales, 294 in Queensland, 150 in Victoria. And the other numbers I can make available to those who are seeking them. Some 1,600 ADF personnel are directly involved in the effort all around the country.

Scott Morrison: (07:17)
We will be providing response to the request, some additional logistics and other support to the Victorian government to support their border operations, but that does not extend to actual patrolling of the borders. That’s not something the defense force is doing any longer. That will be done by state officials, and supported through the ADF for their logistics and other planning experience. But our major priority for ADF is actually on the hotel quarantine. And that’s where I think we can add the most value in that, certainly, the view of the ADF and General Frewen, who was responding and assessing each of those cases.

Scott Morrison: (07:55)
I also note that the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment for those who are in New South Wales and having to take tests and have to isolate themselves, that continues to be available, as some $18 million has been paid out in that payment since it was first introduced to Australians and Australian residents. 16 million of that, I note, was actually paid in Victoria. And so, in New South Wales, for those who need to access that payment, they can access that payment, and hopefully that will be of great use to you.

Scott Morrison: (08:25)
The only other thing I was going to note today was that tomorrow’s swearing- in ceremony, we will be doing virtually, bringing people from around the country to the ACT, including from Sydney. We don’t think it’s a wise decision. And so, alternative arrangements had been made with the Governor General, and we will arrange another suitable time for a formal ceremony later in January. But the official swearing in to enable those changes to the ministry will take place tomorrow, and those arrangements will become active after that swearing in. So with that, I might pass over to Professor Kelly.

Professor Paul Kelly: (09:05)
Thank you, PM. So, just to add on a couple of extras to what the PM’s already said, the key element of what is now being called the Avalon outbreak, and that’s important to consider that this is very localized at the moment. And as the PM has mentioned, that part of the Northern Beaches is quite insular. Actually, they tend to stay where they are in that peninsula.

Professor Paul Kelly: (09:29)
So, all of the cases so far, all of them, the 83 locally acquired cases that have happened since the 17th of December in New South Wales, have been linked back to that cluster. So, most of them are living in Avalon, Newport, and surrounding suburbs. And almost all of them have had either a direct link or indirect link to those events that happened in the RSL on the 11th, and the Bowling Club in Avalon on the 13th of December. So, just to go through those numbers, and this is an important-

Professor Paul Kelly: (10:03)
… December. So just to go through those numbers, and this is an important thing to think about, not just the daily numbers, but the trend. So on the 17th of December, we had three cases. On the 18th of December, we had 15 cases. On the 19th of December, we had … Sorry, 18th of December, 15. 19th of December 23. 20th of December, 30, and today 15. So it’s gone up, it’s come down. It may go up again. We can’t absolutely guarantee that, but at the moment, the trend is good, and crucially, despite the fact that we had 38,578 tests yesterday, that’s all we found was 15, and they were all linked to that particular cluster.

Professor Paul Kelly: (10:49)
That’s a huge response from the community, and real shout out to the people of Greater Sydney, but particularly the Northern Beaches. It’s almost quadrupled the number of average daily tests as it was occurring two weeks ago, so that’s an enormous response, and people are coming forward, and that’s something we need to absolutely stress. Anyone who has been to any of those places that has been mentioned on the New South Wales health website, they should take on that advice. Isolate, get tested if that’s the case, and then that’s how we know whether it has spread further.

Professor Paul Kelly: (11:27)
For those, anyone in Sydney particularly at the moment but throughout the country, please download the COVID Safe app if you have not already done so. Make sure it’s switched on. And secondly, if you go to a place that has a QR code, check in. Use it. That’s how we can really get on top of these issues. If anyone has been to those, those venues, that’s how we know who else has been there, and we can get that done quickly. For those of you that are now not going to be able to share a family Christmas, it’s the same for me, and so make sure you check in on your family. Make sure they’re keeping well and look at virtual ways as the PM has said. If it works for the ministers being sworn in, we can have virtual Christmases. We’ve had that all through this year. We’re very, very good at that, so make sure you do keep in touch with your family. Don’t be separated at this time, even though you physically can’t be there. Thanks.

Scott Morrison: (12:27)
Thanks, Paul. So look, we’ve been here before. We’ve been able to overcome this before, including in New South Wales. New South Wales, I should stress, hasn’t sought any additional support at this point. They’ve got it covered, but the Premier is aware of what’s available to her if she needs it. I should note that in Victoria particularly, the support the defense is providing is in defense accommodation for those who are involved in addressing those broader issues. The medical expert panel is meeting every day. Paul will chair meeting again this afternoon. The transport ministers were meeting today pulled together by the deputy prime minister, and that’s just to ensure that the freight code continues to operate with these border changes coming in over the last sort of 48 hours.

Scott Morrison: (13:13)
The health ministers will be meeting on Wednesday, and if there is a need for a meeting of the national cabinet, we didn’t meet when specially when the Adelaide outbreak occurred. I think there’s a few more days of data and these other meetings I think are addressing the operational issues here. I haven’t had any direct requests from any of the premiers for that to occur. I’ve noted there’s been a bit of a commentary in the media, but that said, national cabinet can come together, but with the medical experts actually meeting and advising them, they’re getting all that information direct. They’ve made their calls when it comes to the precautionary arrangements on the border restrictions they’ve put in place, and I think after a couple more days, we’ll know a bit more, and if there is a need to do that, well, of course we can do that. Do it on Christmas Eve. The ministry can do it on Christmas day. But between now and then, I think we will allow those who have the job of advising and taking the operational decisions to just get on with it. John?

John: (14:11)
[inaudible 00:14:11] we’ve seen as a result of this other long cluster, state premiers closed their borders. We’re not going to have the vaccine widely available in Australia until the end of next year. Is it your expectation now that every time we see a cluster pop up in this country, state premiers are going to close their borders, restrictions will be imposed and the country will for a short time going backwards again?

Scott Morrison: (14:30)
Well, the vaccine will be available in March, not at the end of next year.

John: (14:33)
Widely available.

Scott Morrison: (14:34)
Well, it’ll take some months for it to work its way through the population, but I know, Paul, that still there hasn’t been the emergency authorization in the United Kingdom just yet, and I can assure Australians that I will not be putting their health at risk in the way we manage both the approval and the deployment of the vaccine. It must be safe. It must follow all of those rules. I note that in Australia, we have one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, and that is because of the trust they place in the system, and their expectation of me and indeed the secretary of the Department of Health and the health minister and Professor [inaudible 00:15:12] at the ATAGI is that we follow all of those processes very, very diligently.

Scott Morrison: (15:17)
Now, as I said before, we have a hotspot in Avalon. We have a hotspot in Northern Beaches, and when you have hotspots, then you respond to those with restrictions. That is the way this has been successfully managed anywhere in the world, and Australia is no different to that. The ultimate decisions that states make are sovereign matters for them. As I’ve said to you before, the states, they determine their own definition of a hotspot and what restrictions they put in place. We have sought to get a national approach to that. The states and territories have chosen that they want to retain their flexibility to set those issues for their individual states and territories. They have the constitutional power to do that. In the new year, if there is a way to get further streamlining of that and consistency, well, my door is always open to have those discussions, but I can assure you though the states have a very strong view about retaining their decision-making power over those issues. They are responsible public health in their states, and so that is understandable.

Scott Morrison: (16:21)
But as we deal with the virus, it is unpredictable. It does do this, and how you respond is very important. So as long as it does done transparently and efficiently and as quickly as the Northern Territory has been doing this now for months and months and months, they will have areas go on and off a hotspot list in a matter of days, if not weeks, and that process in the Northern Territory has worked extremely efficiently, and that’s what the Commonwealth view of a national hotspot has been based on that Northern Territory experience. You can’t ignore hotspots. You can’t pretend they’re not there and they don’t present a risk. Of course, they present a risk, and until we have a vaccine that is reaching the necessary levels that is required across the country, then these are the ways that we’ll have to practically manage these issues. But the difference between now and when we were dealing with outbreaks six, seven months ago is night and day, and I think that’s what we’ll continue to see in New South Wales in the days ahead.

Speaker 1: (17:24)
[crosstalk 00:17:25]. Prime Minister, are you disappointed that we won’t be able to buy Christmas as we formerly hoped?

Scott Morrison: (17:29)
I couldn’t quite hear you. Sorry?

Speaker 1: (17:30)
Are you disappointed that we won’t be open by Christmas as you’d formerly hoped? And also, do you think this most recent outbreak will have any material impact on the economic situation of the country?

Scott Morrison: (17:40)
Well, on the first point, I’m like any other Australian. Of course, we wanted everything to be open by Christmas, but the virus has had a different idea about that, and that’s just a practical reality. I should say though, in seven states and territories, we certainly will be having Christmas in this country like few countries in the world are, and so every Christmas is a time to be thankful. And while there are frustrations and disappointments and disruptions this Christmas, I think here in Australia, we have a lot to be thankful for and a lot to be grateful for, and those people who we are able to join with are the most important things we should be grateful for. And so that, that will go ahead either directly, or as Paul says, virtually. And so I think we have to keep that in some sort of perspective.

Scott Morrison: (18:25)
On the economic issue, well, I mean, it’s still too early. I mean, what we’re looking at here is an outbreak in one quite geographically defined part of Sydney, which at the moment is not suggesting broader seeding and having a broader impact. Now, as the chief medical officer says, he can’t guarantee it won’t take a different course. But that said, if it were to continue on that way just like we saw with the Adelaide outbreak a few weeks ago, then these things would have a minimal impact on those economic scenarios. In the short term though, of course. It’s highly disruptive. There’s no doubt about that.

Speaker 2: (19:01)
[crosstalk 00:09:04]. Just on the comments about Christmas, we’re still a few days away. Are you praying for a Christmas miracle? And also, is there a need to reconsider or even consider any travel restrictions from the UK, given the mutated strain?

Scott Morrison: (19:18)
Well, I’ll let Paul deal with that. Why don’t you do with that item first, Paul, and then I’ll share my prayer diary with the gallery.

Professor Paul Kelly: (19:26)
So on the new strain in the UK, I think we need to put it in context. Firstly, there has been thousands of mutations of this particular novel coronavirus when it was … Remember, that was what it was called at the beginning. It was a new coronavirus. It had the mutation to get to there, and there have been small mutations along the way, but thousands of them. The particular strain which is circulating, especially in the southeast of England at the moment, does have some particular mutations related to the spike protein. That’s important, because that is the way that the virus gets into the cells. It’s also the particular part of the …

Professor Paul Kelly: (20:03)
The virus gets into the cells. It’s also the particular part of the virus that the vaccines are attacking. All of the vaccines are related to the spike protein. Having said that, there’s no definite evidence at the moment that this is a significant change. There has been more transmission in recent times in Southeast of the UK. And that’s maybe associated with the virus. There is certainly more transmission going on, but that is also related to the few weeks before Christmas. So the way I look at this, as with every infectious disease, there are three things going on. There is an environment, a host, that’s humans, and the infectious agent.

Professor Paul Kelly: (20:41)
So the infectious agent has changed a little. There are a lot of people moving around in Southeast England, have been until this recent lockdown. It’s also winter. So those all three are important elements to consider. In terms of what that means for people coming from the UK here, everyone coming from the UK is going into 14 days of hotel quarantine, and they are no risk as that quarantine works so successfully, as it has done for the most part here in Australia since the beginning. PM.

Scott Morrison: (21:13)
Well, miracles happen every day in Australia and small and large. And I think Christmas is a time to give thanks for those that we know of.

Speaker 3: (21:20)
Prime Minister, the review into the problems with the hotel quarantine in Victoria, their findings are out today. They conclude that no person or agency claimed any responsibility for the decision to use private security as the first tier of security and all vigorously disputed the possibility they could have played a part in the decision. Do you think that’s a credible finding? Is there a problem now with the lack of accountability about the failures of hotel quarantine in Victoria?

Scott Morrison: (21:53)
What matters most is that we learn the lessons from what happened, not just on that occasion, but there have been many events and incidents that have occurred over the course of this pandemic. And my focus has been, along with my team, is to just learn from each and every occasion. On quarantine, we, as a national cabinet, at our instigation we initiated the Holton review that has gone round and checked right across the country. And there have been significant improvements. On the tracing, we had Dr. Finkel do something very similar and we’ve seen major improvements that have come from that. In the middle of a pandemic, you just have to focus on making sure you learn the lessons and you get it right going forward. And I honestly think the best way I can continue to do that job is just by keeping looking forward, learning whatever we can from those experiences.

Scott Morrison: (22:45)
I go back when we were dealing with the outbreak in Northern Tasmania, I was down in Tasmania. I was down in Devonport just a few days ago and reflecting on that with Premier Gutwein. And I spoke to a doctor who was involved up in that outbreak on that occasion. And there were things that were learned from that experience and that translated to the next one, and so on each occasion. We’re now here with what is of course a serious outbreak in Avalon, but with the tools and the capability to deal with it better than we have in previous outbreaks. So they’ve made their report, they’ve made their findings. Others will judge that in the Victorian context and for the Victorian government. That’s a matter for them. What I’m focused on is working and supporting every single government in this country, leading from our government to ensure we put in place the best possible response on each and every occasion. Paul, you’re being very patient today.

Paul: (23:45)
Prime Minister, what progress has been made to strengthen the standards for quarantine of international aircrew? And why did it take until December to decide that crews should be in fewer hotels closer to the airports?

Scott Morrison: (23:59)
Well, it’s been a combination of practices by the states, as you may know. Some states already were quarantining aircrews in one hotel. New South Wales is moving to that. I should stress though, New South Wales takes half the international arrivals to Australia every week. So New South Wales has been carrying the lion’s share of the burden of getting Australians home. 3,000 even now every week. Despite the challenges they’re facing now, New South Wales continues to do everything it can to get Australians home. And they’re not just from New South Wales. They’re from all the other states and territories. Victoria is still only at 1,000. We’d like to see them come up and discussions I’ve had with the premier, we’ll see that happen when it’s safe to do so. But New South Wales keeps carrying that burden. Great to see that in Queensland, they’ve got up to about 1,300 a week and then WA, it’s just over a thousand.

Scott Morrison: (24:55)
That’s great. But New South Wales continues to carry the heaviest burden on quarantining international arrivals into this country. And that means they have more aircrew, they have more pilots, they have more challenges in managing that than any other state or territory in the Commonwealth. And so the arrangements they’re putting in place now, I spoke to the health minister in New South Wales about this yesterday. And I support the moves that they’re making there across all those who are involved, aircrew, pilots, and others. And that will only further strengthen the system. There’s no doubt about that and that’s a welcome development. And we will continue to support them in those efforts.

Speaker 4: (25:37)
Prime Minister, on the hotspot definition, it sounds like you’ve all but abandoned the hope of actually getting a national definition. Do you not think that, as the federal government, it’s your responsibility to give some certainty to all Australians about what will happen in the event of outbreaks?

Scott Morrison: (25:53)
Well, I don’t agree with your assessment and I don’t agree with you’re summing up what the constitutional position is by implication. The national cabinet has been able to achieve things that hasn’t been achieved in so many other federated countries around the world. And the point I was making to you is that state premiers take their responsibilities for the public health of people in their jurisdictions very seriously. And if they feel that they want to have a stronger rule or a different set of rules to exercise their responsibilities, then that is understandable. That is their accountability. That’s the basis upon which they’re elected as governments. And where possible, we seek to make these things consistent.

Scott Morrison: (26:42)
But what we need to look at is what the result has been. And that is Australia has had one of the most successful outcomes in suppressing the virus in this country of almost any other country in the world. I haven’t finished. And so I would stress to you that where we can work together, we do. And where states want to exercise their responsibilities to have differing arrangements, well, that’s the Federation of Australia. And we will continue to make that as consistent as possible. But as I said in this case, the Avalon outbreak actually matches the national hotspot definition. It actually does. And we’ve seen states respond along those lines. So I wouldn’t take the same pessimistic view. Yeah.

Speaker 2: (27:28)
Is the COVIDSafe app being used in the contact tracing efforts for the Avalon cluster?

Scott Morrison: (27:34)
Sorry?

Speaker 2: (27:34)
Is the COVIDSafe app being used in the Avalon cluster?

Scott Morrison: (27:37)
Yes.

Speaker 2: (27:37)
Has it managed to track down any positive cases?

Scott Morrison: (27:39)
It’s provided the same use it has right across, but Paul might want to add to that.

Speaker 2: (27:42)
Has it managed to track down any positive cases?

Professor Paul Kelly: (27:45)
So it’s definitely being used. You remember that it’s really a tool that’s that’s to be used by the contact tracers. New South Wales has, I would hazard that they would actually have the best contact tracers in the world. And so with their manual processes, with the QR codes, and everything else that they’re using, as well as Opal card data, all sorts of other ways of getting that information. They’re getting a lot of information about the people from the people that are coming forward getting tested and being questioned. They’re putting the COVIDSafe app into that. At the moment, they haven’t gotten any extra information from that. But this is absolutely crucial, if this virus was to move outside of the Northern Beaches, this is the way we will find those people if they are in contact. So please download the app.

Scott Morrison: (28:34)
As we have in other cases with outbreaks. And so it is an important backstop measure that actually integrates with the other tools that are being used.

Speaker 2: (28:42)
[crosstalk 00:28:42] trade diversification, we’re looking at other markets other than China. What countries specifically are we looking to trade with? And how long will these new arrangements take?

Scott Morrison: (28:55)
Well, let me stress, already the government has increased the two way trade that is covered by trade agreements under our government from 26% to 70%. That’s the biggest diversification of our trade opportunities that this country has ever seen up to this point. And the next two big agreements we’re working on is with the UK and the European Union, which we’ve been working on now for some time. Ever since Brexit basically began with the referendum, we’ve been engaging with the UK on that matter, that we obviously have to have waited until they finalized their arrangements with the EU. But at the same time, we’ve been working with the EU and we would like to finalize that next year. And I’ve made that point in my discussions with the European leaders, that have been quite extensive over the last six months.

Speaker 5: (29:41)
A lot of the businesses in accommodation, tourism sector, rely on January, the income they earn that period to tide them over for the rest of the year. We’re looking at cutting JobKeeper from 10 days, I guess, effectively in the new year. Is there any thought given to maybe putting a pause on that or providing any sort of further assistance to those businesses that are going to be hit? And given-

Speaker 5: (30:03)
Providing any sort of further assistance to those businesses that are going to be hit, and given what you and Professor Kelly was saying about it being localized on the insular peninsula, do you think that perhaps the states, the other states, maybe our be in a position to lift those border restrictions quite quickly before the end of the Christmas holidays, for instance, the summer holidays?

Scott Morrison: (30:23)
Well, that all depends on the data. It all depends on the data over the next few days. It may well be that what we’re seeing in the Avalon outbreak goes the same way that the Adelaide outbreak went, and it all comes and goes in that sort of period of time. Then things can then restore to that where they were prior to that. We’re not at that point yet to be able to make those judgments, and hopefully in the next few days, next week, that will become clearer.

Scott Morrison: (30:49)
But what we’ve done all the way through, particularly managing in relation to the economic response to the pandemic is to ensure we’ve been driven and led by the evidence that we’re seeing. Australia’s economic response has been in the top tier around the world. I make this point that without Job Keeper, over the course of this year, the doubling initially of the job seeker payment, the job trainer initiatives, home builder, the apprenticeship support programs, all of this, then the health response that has been put in place around the country by the states and territories would not have been possible.

Scott Morrison: (31:33)
The economic foundation and support that was put in place by the Commonwealth government enabled the public health response at a state and territory level. The Commonwealth bankrolled, wrote the check that underpinned what has been an outstanding health response at a state and territory level. The two have gone together, and that’s a partnership that I think has made Australia’s response this year stand out at an international level. So we’re always careful how we apply these things, the dates and the transitions, are set. We’ve got no plans to change any of those. We’ll see what happens over the next week or so with the Avalon outbreak. But at this stage, I can’t see any reason why any of that would change

Speaker 6: (32:18)
[crosstalk 00:32:18] going around the New Zealand travel bubble. Has this outbreak delayed that further?

Scott Morrison: (32:24)
Well, the travel bubble with New Zealand is a matter for New Zealand, New Zealanders are welcome to come to Australia, and that arrangement has been going very successfully. The last figure I had, I think it was about 9,000 New Zealand has come through. It’s probably more than that now, Paul, and without any incident whatsoever, if New Zealand wants Australians to be able to travel to New Zealand in the same way, then that’s entirely a matter for New Zealand.

Speaker 6: (32:47)
[inaudible 00:02:50].

Scott Morrison: (32:47)
Well, the last check we had with her was exactly that. If New Zealand would like to do that, fine, that’s great. But it’s not a decision for Australia. It’s a matter for New Zealand. Australia has no role to play in that decision whatsoever.

Speaker 7: (33:03)
[crosstalk 00:33:03] where you would cancel flights from UK as a result of the new strain, following what’s happened in Europe and Canada? Or do you believe that hotel quarantine is as good a defense as canceling flights?

Scott Morrison: (33:15)
Well, we have no plans to go down the path you’ve suggested. We always take the medical advice on these things. In this, Professor Kelly has just sort of set out. At this stage, there’s nothing to suggest that such a significant action would be warranted. But we’re always mindful of the medical advice on these things. Our hotel quarantine system has been a very effective and important defense in the vast majority of cases. Now, of course, we all know what occurred in Victoria, and we all know what has occurred in New South Wales and a number of other places on occasions. But I’d stress this. It’s not just about the quarantine. It’s also then about the response and the behaviors that people follow.

Scott Morrison: (33:58)
So as we go into these last few days before Christmas, I think it is good to be mindful that the virus hasn’t gone anywhere. I think it’s important that we provide support to each other, particularly those who are most affected at the moment. I really feel for those small businesses and medium sized businesses who had their businesses disrupted again. But they know that the government has been supporting them all the way through. There’s not a place I go to in this country, and my colleagues, where business owners come to us and say, “Job Keeper kept my employees in jobs. Job Keeper kept my business in business.” So they know. They understand that the government has stood with them over the course of this year, and I think the Australian people understand that as well through the record levels of support that has been provided. We’ve been able to do that in partnership with the states and territories to ensure that Australia’s response has stood out all around the world.

Scott Morrison: (34:55)
So as we go into Christmas, while it’s frustrating, I know, and while it’s disappointing, deeply disappointing that some of the reunions that might’ve happened this Christmas for many families won’t happen. But they will happen in the new year. People will get together. We will get through this like we’ve got through so many other events. It’s important to stay calm, to follow the health advice, to follow the public health information that is available, to keep the COVID safe behaviors and practices in place. I think we’ve got a very good cause and very good reason to trust what is happening in New South Wales at the moment, they really are continuing to demonstrate their gold standard when it comes to managing these issues, and I’m very hopeful that that will play out even more positively in the days ahead. Thanks very much.