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  • Written by Scott Morrison and Alan Jones



ALAN JONES: On the line from Canberra, I hope he’s had a sleep, Prime Minister, good morning. 

 

PRIME MINISTER: Yes. I have Alan. I'm feeling very fresh. 

 

JONES: Well, I just want to thank you on behalf of people who want to thank you for the work you and Greg Hunt and Josh Frydenberg. People mightn’t agree with everything, but by God, you've worked night and day. We're very grateful for that. Mind you, mind you, I'm not sure that, I'm not sure that I really should be talking to you, because I understand from a member of the Liberal Party that you are always white-anting people and you're a troublemaking treasurer and you're trying to, shouldn’t have won the election either, I think he said, shouldn't have won the election. There's a book. I'm told the book is somewhere in the toilet section in the supermarkets. There might be a reason for all of that. Can you handle all this?

 

PRIME MINISTER: I think I'll just let that go through to the keeper, Alan. I’ve got other things to focus on.

 

JONES: You're absolutely right. You're absolutely right. Look, at the National Cabinet meeting yesterday. 374,500 tests, 6,400 confirmed cases. So 1.7 per cent of all tests turned into a positive outcome. The number of deaths, every death diminishes, as you say that, I say that, 0.016 of all tests completed. Out there they're saying, the public is saying to you, look, and the polls today, they do support what you've done. At what point do we change direction and just open the door a bit? A bit? 

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, two things. First of all, as the National Cabinet agreed yesterday that where states and territories have gone beyond in their own judgement, what were the baseline sort of levels of restrictions that will be put in place, and some states and territories went further than that. They'll be looking at those over the next few weeks, over the next month. In four weeks from now, the National Cabinet is going to look at those formal baseline restrictions we put in place. So there were a lot of businesses and these sorts of things and restrictions around those, and they're going to be looking at those at that time. But there are three things that have to happen first to enable those considerations in four weeks’ time to be successful. First of all, we've got to broaden the testing even further than it is now. It's called sentinel testing, it’s also surveillance testing and it's a much broader range of testing. So we can find out more quickly where there are hotspots that we need to go and address. Secondly, we need to get an automatic industrial level tracing of the coronavirus. Now, we've just seen one of the reasons why we need that down in north west Tasmania, you might have heard those reports. There was someone, they had coronavirus, they didn't tell the truth to the health authorities who were seeking to trace that and they've put many people at risk. Now, we've been working on this automatic process through an app that can ensure that we can know where the contacts were over that infection period and we can move very quickly to lock that down. 

 

JONES: The Tasmanian Government did that well, didn't they? They were quarantining everybody, locked the whole show down, it was a good response.

 

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah and they’re going even further now. I was speaking to Peter Gutwein last night. I mean, as you know, premiers and I, we're talking all the time when these issues come up. And it's a big challenge for them down there and he's doing a great job. So we've got to get that in place. And the third thing, Alan, is we sort of need like a flying squad, sort of SWAT team sort of approach that where there is an outbreak in a particular area and wherever that might be, let's say it's in Sefton or something like that, that you can move in quickly and put in measures in place which can stop the spread in that particular community. A lot like what Peter Gutwein is doing now in north west Tasmania. Now, if we can get those three things in place, it means we've got the protections there to actually start to ease some of these restrictions. If we don't do that, we would be rushing to failure. And if we fail now, we could put ourselves in an even worse position than when we started.

 

JONES: You're being very diplomatic. They weren't your restrictions. In fact, you didn't recommend this stuff. There are some rogue premiers here in relation to schooling, in relation to lockdowns. And that's angered many people, not you and Frydenberg and Hunt, but it's angered a lot of people. I mean, what they want to know is what is the sign of success that you're looking for before the stay at home laws can be eased and indeed, if you find those signs, what's to say the states are going to step in alone? 

 

PRIME MINISTER: I'm very confident that the National Cabinet is working together. And it is true, Alan, there are some states and territories that went further than the agreed baselines. That was allowable under the discussion that we had and I'm working closely with all the premiers and chief ministers. So I'm not going to make criticisms.

 

JONES: But Daniel Andrews says kids stay at home and Annastacia Palaszczuk says to the kids stay at home. Gladys is not sure whether they should stay at home or go to school. 

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, yesterday... let me come back to that in one second. But you asked me…

 

JONES: What is your sign of success? 

 

PRIME MINISTER: Yep. The key measure isn't just seeing that the curve flatten on the rate of growth of cases, particularly for local transmission. It's what's called, it's this number that looks at how one person, when there's one case, how many people are transferred to another. Now, when that number is less than one, and it is below one now in all states and territories except for Tasmania, if we can hold that number consistently under one, then that means that the virus is going down, not up. Now, if we can do that, then we can get these protections in place. That means we can move back towards the sort of economy we want. We can have kids being taught in classrooms, and there's no reason why kids can't be taught in classrooms on the health advice. There are clear issues you've got to address for teachers, as teachers are more likely... teachers are more at risk in the staff room than the classroom. That's what the health advice says. So we've got to get those arrangements right and I think the states will be moving in the right direction there. We agreed on a set of principles yesterday amongst all of us, which said the best place for a child to get an education is in the classroom in front of a professional teacher. And that is the gold standard that we need to move back towards and it will take more time to get there for some than others. In the Northern Territory, they'll be there on Monday. They'll be doing that on Monday. 

 

JONES: Yes. I mean, you've got to look, you've got this job of looking at the now and the tomorrow. And I'm sure you're getting heaps of correspondence and so am I that where these restrictions have cost hundreds of thousands…

 

PRIME MINISTER: [Inaudible]

 

JONES: Well, like I stay up answering the damn things, I can tell you. But hundreds of thousands of Australians have lost their jobs, their savings, their lifestyle. 

 

PRIME MINISTER: True. 

 

JONES: And it's difficult to know if they'll get any of them back. 

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that is certainly our objective, and that's why the JobKeeper program was put in place. Some 6 million Australians are estimated will keep connected to their jobs. The work we've sought to do with tenants so that they don’t get kicked out of their tenancies, to ensure that the banks are doing the right thing…

 

JONES: Sorry to interrupt you there, but you know what's going on in Queensland I take it? I mean, you can't be across everything here. But in Queensland, there are these unbelievably draconian laws which are going to be passed by the Parliament, I understand, where the landlord can't inspect his property, the landlord can't ever retrieve rent. Any rent forgone has to be foregone forever, where the landlord can't evict. We know that. So therefore, the tenancy can be increased. I mean, these are unbelievably draconian provisions and this is what I'm saying, is you’ve got these rogue states and people are suffering badly. 

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, people deal with their states, there’s no doubt about that. What we agreed on commercial tenancies as a country with all the states and territories, the code was very clear about this, that there should be a proportional reduction in rent to reflect the reduction in trade. And that reduction, half of it, should be in a waiver. So that means forgone. And the other half would be in deferral.

 

JONES: But, Prime Minister, in Queensland this stuff is going to be introduced to the Parliament in Queensland. Tenants will not have to pay back any rent. Landlords can't ask a tenant for proof of financial hardship, but tenants can request a rent reduction without proof. Landlord insurance won't cover you for rent in arrears. The tenancy will automatically be extended for six months if it expires during the six month freeze on evictions because there's a moratorium on evictions so the landlord could go for 12 months without any rent. Tenants can refuse entry to the owner for anything apart from emergency repairs. They don't have to participate in inspections. Someone wants to buy the property, they can't show the prospective owner. I mean, where's this coming from? 

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the Commercial Tenancies Code agreed at National Cabinet should be the guide for the legislation.

 

JONES: Yes, I know, but it's not. 

 

PRIME MINISTER: That's what the benchmark should be. That's what everybody agreed to do and that's what I would suggest should be the standard. But what the whole point behind that, though, Alan, was this is. And remember, you raised one of these issues with me, I think it was on air. 

 

JONES: Yep.

 

PRIME MINISTER: What we wanted is landlords and tenants just to sit down and work it out and do it in a sensible way. And there were landlords who were, frankly, being terribly unreasonable to tenants, as you told me. 

 

JONES: Yep.

 

PRIME MINISTER: But equally, that the code puts obligations on tenants too to turn up at the table. And the key, the test for whether someone should be covered by these arrangements is that they are on the JobKeeper program. 

 

JONES: I know.

 

PRIME MINISTER: If you're on the JobKeeper, that is the evidence that you should be able to access these arrangements. 

 

JONES: But, you know, you issue a national... I read that press release yesterday and the National Cabinet, all the premiers are there. And you didn't, it wasn't Scott Morrison. It was this outfit that advises you, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee and the press release said, ‘On current evidence, schools can remain fully open.’ 

 

PRIME MINISTER: That's right. 

 

JONES: Now, Annastacia Palaszczuk and Daniel Andrews and Gladys to some extent walk out of the room and they don't abide by any of that. This is what's getting people out there.

 

PRIME MINISTER: What I think you'll see on schools over the next month, and Gladys was making this point yesterday, I think very helpfully, and I wouldn't be surprised to see something go similarly up in Queensland ultimately as well. It’s already there in the Northern Territory and South Australia, they have 50 per cent school attendance going into the break, and I know Premier Marshall is very keen to see that improved on when they go back. Western Australia, I think you'll see some…

 

JONES: Yeah, I think South Australia and Western Australia are doing a good job on this.

 

PRIME MINISTER: They’re doing a fantastic job and Tasmania, I think they'll do the same. So, look, you know, the federation is working better than it's ever worked. But you know, we'll keep trying to work towards those standards and I'll keep seeking to set them and say we're getting a level of cooperation that I don't think we've ever seen before. 

 

JONES: But what the other thing I’m saying is, at this point now you're getting health advice, health advice, health advice. Have we reached the point where we need to get some economic advice and some social advice? 

 

PRIME MINISTER: All the time. We had Dr. Stephen Kennedy, who is the Secretary of Treasury, Phil Lowe, Governor of the Reserve Bank, and they were back again at National Cabinet yesterday. That was the first hour of the meeting yesterday was on the economics and that is occurring regularly. So we're drawing advice from them. We're also drawing advice from Nev Power and that coordination commission, which has, you know, some fantastic business people on there. David Thodey, Catherine Tanner, a bunch are in there to ensure that we're getting that private sector industry advice coming through of the decisions being made by our Cabinet federally and in the National Cabinet. So I've always said, Alan, it’s a war on two fronts. 

 

JONES: Yeah, I know that.

 

PRIME MINISTER: The impact on people's livelihoods is very significant.

 

JONES: Right, and just coming to that, PM. David Katz, Professor Katz, the founding director at Yale University says, ‘I'm deeply concerned that the social, economic and public health consequences of this near total meltdown of normal life will be long lasting and calamitous, possibly graver than the direct toll of the virus itself. The unemployment, impoverishment and despair likely to result will be public health scourges of the first order.’

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, look, we've got to balance that view with them digging mass graves in New York, Alan, and that's real and we're not immune from that. It can happen here. That can happen here and any Australian who does not think that we cannot see what's happening in other parts of the world happening here is kidding themselves. And so we need to protect against that. That's why those three things I've set out and need to be put in place. I don't want to have a restriction in place for a day longer than it needs to be. I want the economy to come back to a level of activity, which means people don't need welfare, that they don't need JobKeeper. And if the economy can start supporting them again, I want to see businesses at the centre of the economy, not government, I want businesses at the centre of it and businesses at the centre on the other side as well. 

 

JONES: Good on you.

 

PRIME MINISTER: The idea that somehow we're going to have nationalisation into the future and government subsidies forever and this is a watershed change in how Australia operates, that's nonsense. We've got an emergency response now and governments have to do that. 

 

JONES: That's right. But you've got to get to the Parliament. You've got Labor and the Greens joining up and they'll tell you you're a callous and uncaring person because you're going to unwind all this. Just quickly before we go on JobSeeker. You would have heard the comments from Peter Strong from the Council Small Business Organisations who said up to 20 per cent of employers eligible to employ are considering not applying because of the attitude of employees. He said, ‘These employees are saying, it's my money, you have to give it to me and you can't tell me what to do.’ And he said, well, a lot of employers are saying, well, I'm not going to do it. 

 

PRIME MINISTER: We changed the Fair Work Act, which meant that the employer can make a whole range of instructions to employees.

 

JONES: That's it. 

 

PRIME MINISTER: And that meant, let’s say you were only on the JobKeeper payment and you can't change someone's wage rate but you can say, well, if there's $1,500 a fortnight, that means you need to work one day a fortnight or three days a fortnight or, you know, a week, five days a fortnight or even a whole fortnight. The employer can do that under the changes to the law that we made. 

 

JONES: But is the employer obligated to give all of the $1,500 to the worker? 

 

PRIME MINISTER: Yes, of course they are. 

 

JONES: All of it. So he might be on $200, so he gets another $750? You might get $200 a week because you're casual.

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well Alan,  you can only access it from one employer. So many people are with many employers. So that means they may have been working as a casual for many employers. They can only get it from one. 

 

JONES: No, no, I’ve got to say, just say I’ve got a casual working for me. He meets the criteria, been with me for twelve months, but he only does five or six hours a week. He gets about $200 a week. Do I then, am either obligated, to keep him and give him another $750? 

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, you're not obligated to keep him. 

 

JONES: I know, but if I keep him.

 

PRIME MINISTER: If you decide to keep him…

 

JONES: He gets $200 and another $750.

 

PRIME MINISTER: It averages out over the entire workforce and this a complicated system. You're trying to get the six million people. And that means there are some things that we've had to do which are not ideal, but that means it works for everybody.

 

JONES: Come on. You're not normally evasive. Does he get my $200 and your $750? Does he get $950? 

 

PRIME MINISTER: No, no, no, no. They get $750 a week. 

 

JONES: And my $200's. I'm already paying him $200. 

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, you don't have to pay him $200. 

 

JONES: So gets three times more than he's already getting.

 

PRIME MINISTER: The max you can get is $750 a week. That's the max you can get.

 

JONES: I know, three times more than he's getting already. Ok, I’ll let you go. Thank you so much. We'll talk again next week. Have a good weekend, if that's possible. 

 

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks a lot, Alan, good to talk to you and thank you to your listeners for their support. I appreciate it very much, all of the team does.

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