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  • Written by Scott Morrison

DAVID KOCH: Joining me now is Scott Morrison. Prime Minister, thanks for your time.

 

PRIME MINISTER: G’day David.

 

KOCH: I know it’s un-Australian to acknowledge anything we do well in this country, how proud are you of the way all levels of government, health authorities and the community worked together on this, it’s extraordinary.

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well everyone has pulled together and I am particularly proud of those who are on the frontline whether they’re our health workers or people out there processing claims for JobSeeker and JobKeeper, the country has pulled together and I particularly want to thank all Australian’s for their great effort over the Easter weekend. All of us urged people to stay at home, I know it was a very different Easter, it was for our family too. But everybody responded to that call on the weekend and we want to thank them very much for that because the level of activity was very low and that just means that what we have seen in the rate of increasing cases has remained low, and so well done, Australia.

 

KOCH: Yeah and as a result we’ve seen this flattening of the curve, and everyone I suppose is thinking quite naturally, hey we put in the hard work, when can we get, expect these easing of restrictions, and for life to sort of get back to a bit of normal? What will the National Cabinet decide later this week?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it is a fair enough question and I can understand the anxiety that is there, but as I said last week, patience has got to be our virtue here. The National Cabinet is in the process now of looking ahead but we can't get ahead of ourselves. The vast majority, two thirds of the cases that we’ve had thereabouts has been internationally acquired and we have to be careful, we can't be complacent. We have seen what’s happened in Singapore most recently, we’ve seen what happened in Sweden and other countries. If you take your eyes off of this thing, and it gets away from you, it writes its own rules, so we do need to understand what the prerequisites are, the things that we have to achieve before we can start to ease some of those restrictions. We will be having that discussion on Thursday and a lot of scientific work is being put into that and we have looked at the experiences of other countries and so we are hopeful that at some point, we can move from the phase we are currently in, to a new phase, but I do want to caution Australians that we're not in that phase yet we're many weeks away I think from being in a phase like that. We have got one of the best testing regimes in the world but it needs to be more comprehensive, our response capacity to outbreaks needs to be even stronger. No country has found their way out of this yet and Australia is in a better position than most, in fact many, and we want to keep it that way and that means being patient and careful in our planning, and listening, carefully to the medical advice and the economic advice.

 

KOCH: Yep, so from what you are saying, a lot of states are on this level 3 lockdown stage at the moment, and you are saying it will be many weeks before we can reduce that back to level 2?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Before we can actually start easing up here, David, we need to lock in the control that we are currently exercising over this virus, but it can get away, and you need to have the mechanisms in place, the tools in place that can keep on top of it and deal with any outbreaks that come, and when we have greater confidence about that, then we will be able to look at things like that, but kids are going back to school in Victoria today, obviously in a very different mode and many of them will be staying at home, just like they were in NSW last week. But as we know the health advice on schools is very clear. That children aren’t at risk by going to school. The schools issue is very much about a safety issue for the teachers and their workplace which we are continuing to address this Thursday as well.

 

KOCH: Because that is a tough thing for many Australian families to say, hey work at home where you can, but also, learn at home where you can. The two don't mix - you can't work at home and supervise the kids with online learning. You can't do both.

 

PRIME MINISTER: It's tough. It's very tough on those parents and that's why we have always said that if you can't provide a suitable learning environment for your child at home, and in most cases that's because people have to go to work, and every job in this economy is an essential one, then obviously no child can or should be turned away at schools or at childcare centres for that matter, where we put those arrangements in place for free childcare, so we’ve put a lot of those supports in place. But it is tough, it is very tough, David, and I understand that, and that's why we have to be very careful because we do not want to see the horror show that we have seen in so many other parts of the world visited upon Australians. And I think Australians are very aware of that risk and that's why I think they have been so patient and they’ve been so diligent. So we’ve got to keep going, Australia. We have to keep going with this. We're doing well but we can't get complacent.

 

KOCH: Okay so when you are sitting in National Cabinet with the Chief Medical Officers, what are the indications you are looking for, and what’s the advice from them, on say, the first steps of reducing a lockdown? Obviously, the big socialising sort of parts of the economy, like nightclubs, we can all understand that, are probably further down the track, but travelling between states, going away for a weekend; are they some of the early phases we can look at?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Broader travel I think is also very dangerous, but we need to get our construction industry going, our infrastructure programs, our manufacturing industries. All of these industries, I mean our agricultural sector. We have finally seen some rain and we are seeing a lot more activity out there in the rural sectors in our agribusinesses, we have got to look to those areas of the economy that can start picking up again, without creating great health risks. So it is a real trade-off about getting the best value of the restrictions that you can lift and at the same time, not put the health situation at greater risk. So, there are lots of trade-off decisions here David, and not one country in the world has been able to plan a path out of this at the moment. Australia is better positioned than many and most to ensure we can do that. We have bought ourselves important time. Six months, we have literally bought ourselves, through the JobKeeper programme, the doubling of the JobSeeker allowance, the free childcare, support for the universities. All of these arrangements means we have bought valuable time to plot our way out and that is what the National Cabinet, that’s what my Cabinet here federally is working to achieve.

 

KOCH: Okay so I'm getting a sense, if you look at priorities, the first priority is work, getting people back to work to school, and then leisure activities, let's wait and see?

 

PRIME MINISTER: That is a very good summary of it. Getting the economy back to a position where it can support more and more people is vitally important and getting schools ultimately back to a position which is more usual, I think that is vitally important, but the broader social restrictions that are in place, these things are incredibly important to stay on top of the virus. But there’s the other side of this David and that is to continue building up our health response capabilities. We’ve seen down in Tasmania, what can go wrong when some practices aren't followed. The ADF, the defence forces are down there and our AUSMAT teams are down there, I spoke to the Tasmanian Premier on the weekend, I want to thank him for his fast action in dealing with that and we’re very happy to help him and support him there. That's another way the National Cabinet is working David. It’s, Premiers and I, we’re talking all the time dealing with issues that are coming up and just getting all of governments; state and federal, to focus resources on these problems. I mean I have got 6,000 extra people involved over in Centrelink and government services just getting through the backlog of these claims. As we know unemployment is going to rise, but if it weren’t for the JobKeeper Payment, we would have seen that rate of unemployment rise even higher, by an extra 700,000 or so.

 

KOCH: Yeah, the National Cabinet has certainly been a massive success. The other extreme, the Ruby Princess has been a flamin’ nightmare, hasn't it? And is seen as the cause for this outbreak in Tasmania, is that what we have got to prepare ourselves for? That we're going to get sort of clusters of breakouts that we have to come down hard on?

 

PRIME MINISTER: I think that is very likely and I think we’ve got to acknowledge also David, that there are going to be some failures along the way and we can't have ourselves get dragged down by those. We have got to learn from them quickly, and we have to get on with it because the problems we face today and tomorrow will be there, and we can't spend all of our time just going over those issues. There will be proper processes to do that and you know people are doing the best job they can in the circumstances they’re under. These are extraordinary times and people are under a lot of pressure, so when things don't go the way we would like them to go, we have got to pick ourselves up and just keep going forward and working together. 

 

KOCH: You have thrown a lot of money at the economy, but it’s fair to say the economy is in better shape than most other first world economies in the world to really be able to afford this, isn't it? We have relatively low government debt to the size of the economy, so let's just focus on keeping businesses going, and people in jobs?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well that's exactly it. We did come into this crisis, and it is a dual crisis, a health crisis and it’s an economic crisis, and the two work against each other which is why this is one of the most complex issues Australia has ever faced, and we did come into this with a strong balance sheet in the position to do exactly what we have just done. By getting the budget back into balance and by keeping our debt as a share in the economy significantly lower than other countries around the world means that we have had the capacity to respond, but I have got to say, David, it has been the actions of the Australian people - our frontline health workers and others out there on the frontline doing things every day that are putting us in this position and keeping us in this position, and we have got to continue to show the diligence and the patience and application to keep it that way.

 

KOCH: Yep hear hear, just quickly, I know you have got to go, when is footy likely to come back?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I noticed the plans that they have to bring it back, and look I like it that people are planning to try and get Australia back to normal, but obviously, all of these things will be subject to the health advice and the health clearances that are necessary, whether it is opening up football or whatever it happens to be; the health advice has to be paramount. And I have no doubt that the NRL and the other codes understand that and they will comply with that. But I welcome the fact that people are thinking ahead and working out ways they can get things back on a stronger footing. That is certainly what we're doing as a National Cabinet, whether it is on the economy or on health, or any of these other issues, we have got to look forward to the other side, because there is another side, and Australians are helping us get to that other side, but there is some work to do yet and we are very focused on that, and ensuring we can take Australia there as soon as we can, but we have to be careful not to get ahead of ourselves.

 

KOCH: Yep, Prime Minister, appreciate your time. Thank you.

 

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks a lot David, thanks for your time.


DAVID KOCH: Joining me now is Scott Morrison. Prime Minister, thanks for your time.

 

PRIME MINISTER: G’day David.

 

KOCH: I know it’s un-Australian to acknowledge anything we do well in this country, how proud are you of the way all levels of government, health authorities and the community worked together on this, it’s extraordinary.

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well everyone has pulled together and I am particularly proud of those who are on the frontline whether they’re our health workers or people out there processing claims for JobSeeker and JobKeeper, the country has pulled together and I particularly want to thank all Australian’s for their great effort over the Easter weekend. All of us urged people to stay at home, I know it was a very different Easter, it was for our family too. But everybody responded to that call on the weekend and we want to thank them very much for that because the level of activity was very low and that just means that what we have seen in the rate of increasing cases has remained low, and so well done, Australia.

 

KOCH: Yeah and as a result we’ve seen this flattening of the curve, and everyone I suppose is thinking quite naturally, hey we put in the hard work, when can we get, expect these easing of restrictions, and for life to sort of get back to a bit of normal? What will the National Cabinet decide later this week?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it is a fair enough question and I can understand the anxiety that is there, but as I said last week, patience has got to be our virtue here. The National Cabinet is in the process now of looking ahead but we can't get ahead of ourselves. The vast majority, two thirds of the cases that we’ve had thereabouts has been internationally acquired and we have to be careful, we can't be complacent. We have seen what’s happened in Singapore most recently, we’ve seen what happened in Sweden and other countries. If you take your eyes off of this thing, and it gets away from you, it writes its own rules, so we do need to understand what the prerequisites are, the things that we have to achieve before we can start to ease some of those restrictions. We will be having that discussion on Thursday and a lot of scientific work is being put into that and we have looked at the experiences of other countries and so we are hopeful that at some point, we can move from the phase we are currently in, to a new phase, but I do want to caution Australians that we're not in that phase yet we're many weeks away I think from being in a phase like that. We have got one of the best testing regimes in the world but it needs to be more comprehensive, our response capacity to outbreaks needs to be even stronger. No country has found their way out of this yet and Australia is in a better position than most, in fact many, and we want to keep it that way and that means being patient and careful in our planning, and listening, carefully to the medical advice and the economic advice.

 

KOCH: Yep, so from what you are saying, a lot of states are on this level 3 lockdown stage at the moment, and you are saying it will be many weeks before we can reduce that back to level 2?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Before we can actually start easing up here, David, we need to lock in the control that we are currently exercising over this virus, but it can get away, and you need to have the mechanisms in place, the tools in place that can keep on top of it and deal with any outbreaks that come, and when we have greater confidence about that, then we will be able to look at things like that, but kids are going back to school in Victoria today, obviously in a very different mode and many of them will be staying at home, just like they were in NSW last week. But as we know the health advice on schools is very clear. That children aren’t at risk by going to school. The schools issue is very much about a safety issue for the teachers and their workplace which we are continuing to address this Thursday as well.

 

KOCH: Because that is a tough thing for many Australian families to say, hey work at home where you can, but also, learn at home where you can. The two don't mix - you can't work at home and supervise the kids with online learning. You can't do both.

 

PRIME MINISTER: It's tough. It's very tough on those parents and that's why we have always said that if you can't provide a suitable learning environment for your child at home, and in most cases that's because people have to go to work, and every job in this economy is an essential one, then obviously no child can or should be turned away at schools or at childcare centres for that matter, where we put those arrangements in place for free childcare, so we’ve put a lot of those supports in place. But it is tough, it is very tough, David, and I understand that, and that's why we have to be very careful because we do not want to see the horror show that we have seen in so many other parts of the world visited upon Australians. And I think Australians are very aware of that risk and that's why I think they have been so patient and they’ve been so diligent. So we’ve got to keep going, Australia. We have to keep going with this. We're doing well but we can't get complacent.

 

KOCH: Okay so when you are sitting in National Cabinet with the Chief Medical Officers, what are the indications you are looking for, and what’s the advice from them, on say, the first steps of reducing a lockdown? Obviously, the big socialising sort of parts of the economy, like nightclubs, we can all understand that, are probably further down the track, but travelling between states, going away for a weekend; are they some of the early phases we can look at?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Broader travel I think is also very dangerous, but we need to get our construction industry going, our infrastructure programs, our manufacturing industries. All of these industries, I mean our agricultural sector. We have finally seen some rain and we are seeing a lot more activity out there in the rural sectors in our agribusinesses, we have got to look to those areas of the economy that can start picking up again, without creating great health risks. So it is a real trade-off about getting the best value of the restrictions that you can lift and at the same time, not put the health situation at greater risk. So, there are lots of trade-off decisions here David, and not one country in the world has been able to plan a path out of this at the moment. Australia is better positioned than many and most to ensure we can do that. We have bought ourselves important time. Six months, we have literally bought ourselves, through the JobKeeper programme, the doubling of the JobSeeker allowance, the free childcare, support for the universities. All of these arrangements means we have bought valuable time to plot our way out and that is what the National Cabinet, that’s what my Cabinet here federally is working to achieve.

 

KOCH: Okay so I'm getting a sense, if you look at priorities, the first priority is work, getting people back to work to school, and then leisure activities, let's wait and see?

 

PRIME MINISTER: That is a very good summary of it. Getting the economy back to a position where it can support more and more people is vitally important and getting schools ultimately back to a position which is more usual, I think that is vitally important, but the broader social restrictions that are in place, these things are incredibly important to stay on top of the virus. But there’s the other side of this David and that is to continue building up our health response capabilities. We’ve seen down in Tasmania, what can go wrong when some practices aren't followed. The ADF, the defence forces are down there and our AUSMAT teams are down there, I spoke to the Tasmanian Premier on the weekend, I want to thank him for his fast action in dealing with that and we’re very happy to help him and support him there. That's another way the National Cabinet is working David. It’s, Premiers and I, we’re talking all the time dealing with issues that are coming up and just getting all of governments; state and federal, to focus resources on these problems. I mean I have got 6,000 extra people involved over in Centrelink and government services just getting through the backlog of these claims. As we know unemployment is going to rise, but if it weren’t for the JobKeeper Payment, we would have seen that rate of unemployment rise even higher, by an extra 700,000 or so.

 

KOCH: Yeah, the National Cabinet has certainly been a massive success. The other extreme, the Ruby Princess has been a flamin’ nightmare, hasn't it? And is seen as the cause for this outbreak in Tasmania, is that what we have got to prepare ourselves for? That we're going to get sort of clusters of breakouts that we have to come down hard on?

 

PRIME MINISTER: I think that is very likely and I think we’ve got to acknowledge also David, that there are going to be some failures along the way and we can't have ourselves get dragged down by those. We have got to learn from them quickly, and we have to get on with it because the problems we face today and tomorrow will be there, and we can't spend all of our time just going over those issues. There will be proper processes to do that and you know people are doing the best job they can in the circumstances they’re under. These are extraordinary times and people are under a lot of pressure, so when things don't go the way we would like them to go, we have got to pick ourselves up and just keep going forward and working together. 

 

KOCH: You have thrown a lot of money at the economy, but it’s fair to say the economy is in better shape than most other first world economies in the world to really be able to afford this, isn't it? We have relatively low government debt to the size of the economy, so let's just focus on keeping businesses going, and people in jobs?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well that's exactly it. We did come into this crisis, and it is a dual crisis, a health crisis and it’s an economic crisis, and the two work against each other which is why this is one of the most complex issues Australia has ever faced, and we did come into this with a strong balance sheet in the position to do exactly what we have just done. By getting the budget back into balance and by keeping our debt as a share in the economy significantly lower than other countries around the world means that we have had the capacity to respond, but I have got to say, David, it has been the actions of the Australian people - our frontline health workers and others out there on the frontline doing things every day that are putting us in this position and keeping us in this position, and we have got to continue to show the diligence and the patience and application to keep it that way.

 

KOCH: Yep hear hear, just quickly, I know you have got to go, when is footy likely to come back?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I noticed the plans that they have to bring it back, and look I like it that people are planning to try and get Australia back to normal, but obviously, all of these things will be subject to the health advice and the health clearances that are necessary, whether it is opening up football or whatever it happens to be; the health advice has to be paramount. And I have no doubt that the NRL and the other codes understand that and they will comply with that. But I welcome the fact that people are thinking ahead and working out ways they can get things back on a stronger footing. That is certainly what we're doing as a National Cabinet, whether it is on the economy or on health, or any of these other issues, we have got to look forward to the other side, because there is another side, and Australians are helping us get to that other side, but there is some work to do yet and we are very focused on that, and ensuring we can take Australia there as soon as we can, but we have to be careful not to get ahead of ourselves.

 

KOCH: Yep, Prime Minister, appreciate your time. Thank you.

 

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks a lot David, thanks for your time.

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