The National Cabinet met today to further discuss options for easing restrictions over the coming months, helping prepare Australians to go back to work in a COVID-19 safe environment and getting the economy back to a more sustainable level.
The Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy provided an update on the measures underway, the latest data and medical advice in relation to COVID-19.
There have been 6,899 confirmed cases in Australia and sadly 97 people have died. There are now only around 1,000 active cases in Australia, and over the past week, daily infection rates have remained low. Testing remains high, with more than 730,000 tests undertaken in Australia.
We need to continue to have the right controls in place to test more people, trace those who test positive and respond to local outbreaks when they occur. These are precedent conditions to enable Australia to relax baseline restrictions and enable Australians to live and work in a COVID-19 safe economy.
National Cabinet again encouraged Australians to download the COVIDSafe app to ensure that we can protect Australians and reset baseline restrictions. More than 5.3 million Australians have already downloaded the COVIDSafe app. This is an enormous achievement, but more is needed.
National Cabinet will meet again on Friday 15 May 2020.
Re-opening a COVID-safe Australia and economy
The National Cabinet met today to finalise the three-step plan to gradually remove baseline restrictions and make Australia COVID-safe.
Australia has so far been highly successful in ‘flattening the curve’. The number of new COVID-19 cases in Australia each day is very low. We can now begin to take careful steps to ease some of the restrictions that have helped us suppress the spread of this virus.
We are confidently and cautiously taking the first step to lifting restrictions. Our success so far means we have slowed the spread of COVID-19 and built the capacity in our health system to manage the impact of the virus. We can now start to progressively ease the restrictions we have in place. The AHPPC has provided strong advice on the conditions that must be met as we establish COVID safe ways of working and living so that we can reopen parts of the economy in the safest possible way while living with COVID-19. This means that many Australians can start getting out to the shops, undertaking some local trips and travel, visiting playgrounds and public parks, and having friends and family around with a bit more freedom.
But the National Cabinet is very clear: continued suppression of COVID-19 is about collective action. Success depends on maintaining our new community norms – physical distancing, good hygiene practices and downloading the COVIDSafe app to keep us all safe while we are out and about.
For businesses, this also means taking the time to prepare and develop a plan to operate in a COVID safe way to protect their customers and workers. With every one of us playing our part, we should all feel safe and confident in leaving the house and starting to do some of the things we've missed in the last few months – like getting back to work, having a quick bite in a restaurant or cafe, attending auctions and open houses, and participating in group exercise.
Each step we take needs to be underpinned by a strong commitment from all of us to:
· stay 1.5 metres away from other people whenever and wherever we can
· maintain good hand washing and cough/sneeze hygiene
· stay home when we’re unwell, and getting tested if we have respiratory symptoms or a fever,
· download the COVIDSafe app so we can find the virus quickly, and
· Develop COVID safe plans for workplaces and plans.
Our success depends on us making these behaviours part of our daily lives during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep us COVID safe.
Australian governments are taking a measured approach. Our three-step plan provides a pathway for jurisdictions to move towards COVID safe communities in a way that best suits their individual circumstances. States and territories are able to move between the steps on the pathway at different times, in line with their current public health situation and local conditions. They'll need to maintain steady case numbers and be able to rapidly contain outbreaks, which we're set to do - with our enhanced testing regime, strengthened health surge capacity, and improved ability to quickly identify people who may have been exposed to the virus.
For each of the major areas of restrictions we have set out three key steps between where we are now and where we want to be.
· Step 1 will focus on carefully reopening the economy, and giving Australians opportunities to return to work and social activities, including gatherings of up to 10 people, up to 5 visitors in the family home and some local and regional travel
· Step 2 builds on this with gatherings of up to 20, and more businesses reopening, including gyms, beauty services and entertainment venues like galleries and cinemas.
· Step 3 will see a transition to COVID safe ways of living and working, with gatherings of up to 100 people permitted. Arrangements under step 3 will be the ‘new normal’ while the virus remains a threat. International travel and mass gatherings over 100 people will remain restricted.
A detailed plan of the steps, as well as a summary, is attached.
Under the three-step plan, states and territories continue to make decisions to their individual circumstances and local conditions.
Jurisdictions may ease restrictions at a different pace. Individuals and business should look to local authorities for the most up to date information, or visit www.australia.gov.au to be linked to state and territory resources.
Special arrangements will need to be continued in Indigenous biosecurity areas and for vulnerable groups.
National Cabinet also committed – as part of the three-step plan – to regular reviews and stocktake assessments of our progress every three weeks. We will be closely monitoring the situation as restrictions are eased. This will enable us to assess the impact of changes, track progress against our agreed precedent conditions, determine the pace of moving through the steps, and make any further decisions. The AHPPC and National Cabinet were very firm on this. We are prepared for an increase in case numbers or possible outbreaks, but relapse should not be an option. A second wave is not something we can afford to go through. The cost to our people, our economy, our social fabric, is too high. We should look to build success in each step, and move forward safely and with confidence.
So long as Australians keep living and working in a COVID safe way, we'll be able to keep case numbers low and continue taking steps on the pathway to relaxing more restrictions.
National Cabinet's goal is to have a sustainable COVID safe Australia in July 2020. We've shown what we can achieve when we work together - we flattened the curve. Now, let's work together to get Australia COVID safe.
AUSTRALIAN PARLIAMENT HOUSE, ACT
FRIDAY 8 MAY 2020
PRIME MINISTER: Always being thankful is a common lesson our mothers advise us, and I have always found that particularly good advice from my mum, especially if you're going through difficult times. It turns your focus on others, who are not so advantaged as yourself. We've been doing a lot of that lately, I'm sure. So many Australians are hurting right now. Lives turned upside down, painful separation from their loved ones. Livelihoods that they have spent a lifetime building stripped away. Uncertainty about their futures and their family's future. The last few months have given us a reminder of the things that are really important. Our health, our wellbeing, a strong health system and all those who keep it strong. A growing economy. Our jobs and our incomes that rely on it. We cannot take this for granted. Every job matters, whatever job you do. Every job is essential.
Our children's education. Caring for our elderly, respecting their dignity. The selfless and humble service of so many Australians who just get on with it every day make this great country work. We have seen these heroes in action. Above all though, the importance of each other. That every Australian matters. Every life, every job, every future. And we have learnt some important lessons that we can meet the tests, as we have, and the challenges that we have so far confronted. That when we have to, we can and we do pull together. That we can focus on something bigger than just ourselves. Be encouraged, Australia, that we are successfully making our way through this difficult battle on two fronts. And we're certainly doing it better than many and most around the world today.
Firstly, we've been fighting the virus and we are winning. Secondly, we have put in place and are delivering the economic lifeline through JobKeeper and JobSeeker and many other programs to get us through the worst of this, to buy Australians time as we fight the virus and we chart our way back. Thirdly, and particularly today, we move ahead with reopening our economy and our society, with a clear plan, and a clear framework, that shows Australians the road ahead. The next step beyond this will be to build the confidence and momentum that will see our economy get back up and running and get Australians back up on their feet and moving ahead with confidence. And then we can reset our economy for growth in the years ahead in this new environment. So we can deliver the jobs, guarantee the essential services that Australians rely on, keep Australians safe, and take care of this amazing country that we have the great responsibility of looking after. This is the plan we are working through to get through this together, as we promised.
So today our focus is on the road back. Today, we have put Australia in a position to go forward. We have strengthened our health system and put the protections in place. On the front-line, our testing and our tracing capabilities, containing outbreaks, all backed up by a health system with more ICU beds and ventilators, more personal protective equipment, doctors, nurses, first responders, ready to go. JobSeeker and JobKeeper in place. So with that work being done, today National Cabinet agreed on a three step plan and a national framework to achieve a COVID safe economy and society and it is our goal to move through all of these steps to achieve that COVID safe economy in July of this year. In this plan, we walk before we run. We know we need to be careful to preserve our gains, but we also know that if we wish to reclaim the ground we have lost, we cannot be too timid. There will be risks, there will be challenges, there will be outbreaks, there will be more cases, there will be setbacks. Not everything will go to plan. There will be inconsistencies. States will and must move at their own pace, and will cut and paste out of this plan to suit their local circumstances. There will undoubtedly be some human error. No-one is perfect. Everyone is doing their best. To think or expect otherwise, I think, would be very unrealistic. This is a complex and very uncertain environment. But we cannot allow our fear of going backwards from stopping us from going forwards.
The Chief Medical Officer, Professor Murphy, will go into the plan in more detail. But this is the plan for a COVID safe Australia. Three steps, moved at at the pace of states and territories that will get us back where we need to be as quickly as we can. A plan that, according to Treasury, can see some 850,000 jobs restored in the months ahead.
Step one will enable greater connection with friends and family, allowing gatherings up to 10 people, and five guests in your own home. Working from home, if it works for you, and your employer. That's a difference in emphasis, as I'm sure you’ve picked up. It will see children back in classrooms and in playgrounds in their communities. Golfers back on the green. Lap swimmers back in the pool. Boot camps back in the parks. Retail and small cafes and restaurants reopening. Intrastate recreational travel starting again. It will see easing of restrictions for funerals with up to 30 attendees, outdoors, and 10 at weddings.
Step two will allow larger size gatherings up to 20 people, including for venues such as cinemas and galleries, more retail openings on sector-based COVID safe plans, organised community sport, and beauty parlours, and you'll be pleased to know, barre classes open once again.
Step three, allowing gatherings up to 100 people. This will become clearer as we move through the first two steps. So there will be more work to do on step three. But most workers, by then, will be back in the workplace. Interstate travel will likely resume. Pubs and clubs, with some restrictions, will be open and also possibly gaming venues. As I said, step three, but also step two, will get greater definition as we move through the success of step one.
As I said, it's our aspiration as agreed among premiers and chief ministers and myself that in July, we will have moved through these three steps across the country. The pace, though, will totally be up to the states and territories. They'll be responsible for setting their own timetable and communicating that to their citizens and residents in their own states and territories. Premiers and chief ministers have asked me to stress there should be no expectation of step one starting on day one, unless they are indeed already there. Moving on these steps will take some preparation. It is also important to note that movement from one step to the next will depend on three criteria that we have always outlined, and indeed, has enabled us to move today, a week earlier than we had planned. Those criteria again - that the medical evidence suggests that further easing would not present an undue risk, that widespread testing is adequately identifying community transmission, and thirdly, public health actions are able to trace cases and trap local outbreaks. Testing, tracing, trapping, as they were saying in the Northern Territory recently. Downloading the COVIDSafe app, which is now over 5.3 million, is the best way to help us do this job, to keep you and your family safe. And I would say that especially now, because for some time now, Australians have been kept at home and they know who they've been seeing each and every day now for some time. But that's going to change in the weeks ahead. You'll be seeing more people, you’ll be connecting with more people. So the COVIDSafe app will be even more important to protect you and your family and your safety and for those in your community, those you work with, those you come in contact with. So I would encourage you to continue to download the COVIDSafe app. For industry and businesses, it's all about getting your COVID safe plans in place for your workplaces and your premises, and Safe Work Australia has been doing some excellent work there and I referred to that earlier this week with Nev Power and the Minister for Industrial Relations, Christian Porter.
So, that's the plan for taking us forward. We'll be reviewing progress of our plan every three weeks and making any changes as we need to. I again want to thank all the premiers and chief ministers for the spirit in which they have engaged in this process over the last several months. I also want to thank our expert medical and economic advisors, and of course Professor Murphy, who is here with us today, as always, and to you Brendan and your team, thank you for the excellent work that you’ve all done. I also want to thank my own team from our own Government, the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, the Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, and the Minister for Health, of course, Greg Hunt, and all of my colleagues for getting us to where we are today. But we've still got a long way to go. We've got a plan to get there, done the work to get there, Australians have done the work to get where we are and I want to thank them most of all, for enabling us to get to this point.
A year ago, I made a promise to all Australians. That we would work each and every day to keep our economy strong, to keep Australians safe, and to keep Australians together. We're keeping that promise to Australians. That's the fight we've been in. That's the fight we remain in. It's the fight we're winning. And it's the fight we'll continue to win together.
PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: Thank you, PM. I might just go through the power point. So we'll go to the first slide. This is again, you're familiar with this slide, it's showing where we are with our flat curve. You will see some little spike in numbers in the last few days. Most of that, 50 per cent of the cases in the last week have related to two outbreaks, the Cedar Meats outbreak in Victoria and the Newmarch aged care outbreak in New South Wales. This is what we expect to see and what we will continue to see and that's not such a concern if we're getting on top and managing these outbreaks as we have in those two cases. So, despite, other than those two cases, we've got very low case numbers. But the virus is still there, it's still in our community. That's why, despite our very good position, we've got to be very cautious and wary with our next steps. Some very good news on testing. Testing has really ramped up across the whole country, we've done more than 730,000 tests. We are just shy of 6,900 cases at the moment. Six out of eight states have had multiple days of zero cases. But they all know that that doesn't mean the virus isn't still in their community and all of us have to be very careful as we move forward. Next slide.
This just demonstrates some of the measures we've taken over the period of this outbreak. You can see the progressive impact of the border measures and the various social distancing measures that we put in place and how they have brought the curve and case numbers down and now it's time to look at those measures. We're not looking at the border measures. As we have said on many occasions, two-thirds of the cases in Australia have been from returning travellers. We're not going to relax any of our border measures soon and we're going to continue to quarantine all returning travellers because this virus is certainly in a much worse position in many other countries from which our citizens are returning. I'll go to the next slide, thanks.
This is, as the Prime Minister outlined, our three step process. Step one is cautious. It's gentle. It's not doing too much at once because we're in uncharted territory. There are not many countries in the world like Australia that is in a position to start gently relaxing measures with such low case numbers and we don't want to lose the control we've got. We want to make sure that outbreaks that occur are managed and controlled. We also want to make sure that before we do anything, every Australian follows these measures, everyone continues to practise that physical distancing all the time. Everyone maintains good hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene, everybody stays home when they're unwell, no matter how mild your cold or your cough, stay home when you're unwell, and please get a COVID test. That's the best way we'll find these hidden cases of the virus in our community, is if every single person who has any respiratory symptoms gets a COVID test and stays home. No more heroics of coming to work with a cough and a cold and a sore throat. That's off the agenda for every Australian for the foreseeable future. Please. The COVID safe plans for the workplaces are really important, as the Prime Minister said. Clearly also there's the health response. The Prime Minister has already alluded to that. Testing, tracking and responding to outbreaks. So in step one, it's essentially getting people in groups of 10 together, outdoors, particularly, staying working at home if it's going alright for you and your employer. Allowing 10 people in a one person per four square metre distance in small cafes and restaurants. We know that that will mean many cafes and restaurants won't be able to open, but many doing takeaway may want to put up enough distant tables to start just gently serving 10 people at a time. Some libraries and community centres, again, with only small numbers of people.
In step two, we're looking at larger gatherings of around 20, potentially in some states, they may look in some venues at really good COVID safe plans to go more than that. Opening a range of other things such as gyms, indoor fitness, beauty therapy, cinemas, galleries, and the like. Some interstate travel, we think, might reoccur in that stage. Step three is much more relaxed. This, as the Prime Minister said, there is still a lot of work to be done in step three, there's still quite a bit of work to be done in step two. We have more certainty around the definition of step one, and each of the states and territories will be separately defining how and when they will implement that. But in step three, we are talking about opening up most of the economy, but again, in a COVID safe way, with strict distancing, strict hygiene, all of those measures that we have to live with while the virus is with us in the community. Next slide.
This just provides a little bit more detail and really gives a bit of a narrative around each of the steps. So, very cautious early reopening in stage one, step two, many more businesses and activities and venues opening again. But still, with significant numbers, control, and step three, a much more broader opening but again, in that principle of good distancing and good hygiene. And in step three, we're hopeful that there will be more travel around the country and we might start to get some domestic tourism again. But step one, well defined, step two, a bit more work to be done, and step three, still a lot of discussion to be had before we can well define that properly. The next slide.
So what are we asking the community to do? Keep those personal responsibilities. I know I have said it already today, but please, keep that distancing. We could lose the battle that we have won so well so far. You only have to look at the nightly news and see what is happening in really good countries with good health systems like Australia, where they let this virus get out of control, unfortunately. We have managed, we've been lucky to control this virus and we want to keep that control. So while we relax some of these measures cautiously, every Australian has to do their bit. Every Australian has to do the things that I've said already about distancing and good health and staying at home when well. We'll continue to do all the things as a public health response, and we'll make sure that if we find outbreaks as we surely will, we'll get on top of them and control them. If we all do the right thing together, we can get through the next few months and gradually get a COVID safe normal life again.
Thanks, Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER: Thanks Brendan. I might start over this side. There's quite a few more of you, you're a bit bunched up, I'm noticing.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, have any states and territories indicated when they're likely to start step one? And also, just on the NRL, would you support a no jab, no play policy?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, first of all, on the issue of premiers, they'll be announcing their own timetables for when they're making those statements. I think you can expect to see some of them later today, making some initial comments and I'd expect to see them making further comments over the days ahead, over the weekend, and early next week. So that's when you can expect them to outline those timetables. I note, as I am sure Brendan would also, that when you look at those three steps, I mean there are some states like Western Australia where step one is pretty much tick the box. They're very much well advanced on that. South Australia, Northern Territory, quite similarly. But those on the east coast, a very different situation. So they’ve all got different starting points. But the important point is the whole country has the same end point, and that is to get to a COVID safe economy. As I noted the other day, as the then Minister for Social Services who started no jab, no play, I obviously had a lot of sympathy for that as it opposed to, at that time, vaccination of children in child care centres. Now, ultimately the states and territories have to determine what the health requirements are as they apply to the NRL. If they were to be insisting on that, then I would think that's entirely reasonable.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you say Treasury has advised you 850,000 jobs restored in the months ahead. When does it say those jobs will be restored, how many will be left unrestored by your calculations on the current employment rate, and is this the snapback that you envisaged when you put JobKeeper in place?
PRIME MINISTER: A lot has happened since then, Tim, as you would know. I think we've got a lot more information than we had back then. What was important back then was we knew that Australians would need an economic lifeline and that's why, firstly, JobSeeker and the effective doubling of JobSeeker, and JobKeeper were then put in place, to provide that lifeline. Since then, we've seen a lot of changes in the global economy and how other countries are dealing with this. Those 850,000 jobs I'm advised by Treasury, that includes those who may be on JobKeeper now or on JobSeeker. It’s people who have been stood down, going back into their full employment. And those, that work is being done based on the steps that you can see here today. So it's very much a function of how and when all of those steps are completed.
JOURNALIST: And by July?
PRIME MINISTER: That's the aspiration, Tim. But as we have learnt during the course of this COVID crisis, there's a lot of uncertainties. So that's what we understand to be the value of doing this. We've got one million people and more who are now on JobSeeker and that's been a Herculean task by those at Services Australia and Centrelink to get all of those claims processed in that period of time. And I want to see everyone get back to work, Tim, and that's why the plan that I set out, not just in relation to the opening up of our economy, and the reset we need to do on the policy level, that is what is going to drive the jobs and make them sustainable in the future. That’s what’s going to guarantee the essentials on hospital and education funding and disability care and aged care, that all requires a strong economy. That's why those subsequent policy measures, building on a lot of the reforms we put into place before we came into the COVID crisis, that is what is going to drive the jobs growth into the future. But as I set out at the beginning, Australia has had a record run on economic growth. And I always said, both as a Treasurer and as a Prime Minister, that we can never take that for granted. Any number of things can disrupt that and we've seen that happen. And so, we can never be complacent about the things we need to do to grow our economy and generate jobs. David?
JOURNALIST: So, I'm not actually sure if you said that in the press conference, but it's been reported that you want to have businesses, 80 per cent of businesses, fully operational by that July cut off. Is that the case?
PRIME MINISTER: I don't know what you're referring to. I haven't given such a statement.
JOURNALIST: Ok. What percentage, or do you know what percentage at the moment, of businesses are closed or running at half capacity, or anything like that? Just so we know kind of what we're going from.
PRIME MINISTER: I don't have an estimate of that in front of me. What we've seen is the reductions in employment. That's known. What we have seen is the reduction in the incomes people are taking home and we've been able to get, through Treasury, some early runs on some of that data and the Treasury can speak more to that. But whichever way you look at this, the economic impact has been very harsh. Today, the Reserve Bank has set out their various scenarios. They've got an average scenario there, I'm pleased that that average scenario is a little better than the one they were talking about not that long ago. I suppose that goes to Tim's point, things change. Look, I'm hopeful we can put this plan in place and that's why what follows this plan is building the confidence. We’ve got to get Australians to get their confidence back and they have every reason to get their confidence back. Because there are very few countries in the world that can stand here today and outline a plan like this because of where we have got ourselves to. There are a few, and I have been having discussions with some of them, very recently. But we're a small group at the moment. I hope that group gets a lot larger. Sam, did you have one before we move around? You have deferred it to the press gallery president.
JOURNALIST: Thank you. PM, two questions, if I may. The first on Cedar Meats which is the big break out concern here. Do you have any concerns about the way that's being managed and does it actually make the case for a slower easing in Victoria, and the second question is about those state border controls. Business complains about those. They restrict business. Do you think those state border controls have to be eased in the first step here, urgently?
PRIME MINISTER: Firstly, on Cedar Meats. We're going to have outbreaks. They're going to occur. Where people have the COVIDSafe app, it helps our health officials actually deal with those outbreaks. That would have sped things up had all of that been fully operational and they would have all been in place. I can tell you that will have occurred by the end of today. The code is being released later today, I'm advised, on the COVIDSafe app. I commend Premier Andrews for the way that he has sought to address this issue. These outbreaks are difficult. But you've got to move quickly and use the tools you've got available to you. Outbreaks are not a reason to slow things down. Outbreaks are going to happen. All premiers and chief ministers understand that. And so it's how you respond to them and I think in this case, I mean, not all information is perfect. When you go into them, how long they have been going on, not always clear. That's why I think some of these automated tools are very helpful to the premiers and health ministers in those jurisdictions. Each one of these is going to be tough but it's not a reason to slow things down. It's a reason to ensure you got the COVIDSafe app downloaded, you’ve got workplace practices, COVID safe premise practices, workplace practices, which is what is sitting at the foundation of the plan we've set out today.
Brendan, did you want to add anything on that?
PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: This virus, as we know, is incredibly infectious. We've seen from one wedding 35 people infected. So it's not surprising that when you get an outbreak in a workplace such as this, it will spread significantly. The important thing is not the size of the outbreak, the important thing is the response. And the response is testing everybody, every contact, locking the place down, closing it down, quarantining and isolating, all of those things have been done and I'm very confident that outbreak is under control.
JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] scalable, you're now opening the economy a lot faster than people thought. Is all of that stimulus locked in, JobKeeper - the end date is in the legislation, but is there any stimulus that you might need to wind back?
PRIME MINISTER: There's another payment to be made in July, which is a repeat of the $750 payment that was made just a few weeks ago. That's factored in as the next phase of stimulus which is going through to beneficiaries. The JobKeeper and the JobSeeker program, as you note, have a legislative life which was set out over a six month timeframe. I say it was scalable and what our objective is, is to grow the economy and get people back into jobs, and we’re making sure that people are being supported by the economy, and not the taxpayer, as quickly as possible. There's a review built into JobKeeper to be done before the end of June. Treasury will be doing that, they’ve been doing a lot of work on that just over the last week or so. So, look, we'll take that one step at a time. But I need to stress again that that was a temporary lifeline put in place to help Australians through the worst of this crisis. It comes at a very significant cost, not just to current but to future generations as well. And it will be there to get us, to meet that objective, but it's not envisaged - never was - to be a longer term arrangement.
JOURNALIST: The economy obviously won't be completely opened up until you're able to open the borders. Is it a fair assumption, leaving aside New Zealand, that the borders will not be open before next year? And when you do, are you attracted to a staged process? For example, I notice Nev Power said the other day it would maybe be a good idea to have charter flights for overseas students? Are you attracted to that sort of approach?
PRIME MINISTER: A couple of things. And I’ll pick up David's question, of which I didn't answer the second part of that. On the interstate travel and the border issues that are there, they have never been part of the national baselines. That has never been a recommendation. And they have been decisions that have been taken unilaterally by those states. I'm not making judgements about them one way or the other and they'll decide those. I did see data, though, that the Treasurer shared with me - I think he shared with you the other day - which showed that the freight travel, which is being done by road and other forms, was actually holding up, despite those border restrictions and that was welcome. Of course, the recreational transport and those sorts of things has come down significantly, and that includes air freight. But the road freight and the land-based freight transport, you know, goods are getting through, goods are moving around the country and I understand there's a whole bunch of kegs on their way to Darwin as we speak, running up the highway. Much eagerly anticipated, I'm sure, there for next week sometime. So, that is occurring. In relation to the borders, international borders, we've spoken about New Zealand, as you've already noted. Issues of international students, you'll note that it does come into the third step of the plan and that is a possibility and how you would work that through, well, they'd have to be carefully tested. So, we are open to that, and we would be working with institutions to see how that could be achieved. But it has to be done according to those strict quarantine restrictions and how that's done, and how those costs are met. So, there's a lot of steps to work through. But, I mean, we're open to everything, pretty much, to get the Australian economy back and firing again as much as possible. We've just got to step through it carefully.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the numbers of people under each step - so, 10 and 20 and 100 - does that include parents and children? Or could you have 10 adults and 10 children in one gathering under step one? And given that the states can make their own decisions about precisely what particular things open up when they want, how was the list decided today? So, how was it decided that playgrounds would definitely be in step one on the list that you've shown us all today and the various other measures?
PRIME MINISTER: I think I will let Brendan take over.
PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: So, there was a process where all the states and territories fed in what they thought was safe to do at each stage. So, it's 10 people. I mean, whilst we acknowledge that children don't transmit as often, we've got to keep it simple. We want to keep only five people visiting in your household, or 10 people in a gathering outside. So, 10 people training in a football field, it's 10 people getting together in a park. Again, hopefully with distancing. So, we got together and we looked at what was like a consensus position. Not every state agrees with every step, but we look at the relative risk of each thing. So, there's an absolute risk about gathering size. So, that's a protection, so that if things do break out, if we've only got gatherings of 10, that means much less potential for transmission. So, some states, though, don't want to open cafes and restaurants initially, because they feel that their situation, they would prefer to take some time. Everyone, playgrounds, for example - the evidence is really accumulating internationally that most transmission is occurring indoors. We now know that every citizen is following good hygiene practices. As long as you only have 10 people at a playground, and as long as the parents bring along sanitiser and wipes - people are changing their behaviour, so the feeling was that the risk for playgrounds is now lower. The risk for small gatherings is lower. There is necessarily an arbitrariness about this, and in step one there are things that could have been included that weren't, on the basis that we want to keep it gentle and careful. Step one is tentative, baby steps into normalisation. If everything goes well, we don't have big outbreaks, step two could be more confident.
PRIME MINISTER: Right up the back?
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister the federal health department decided to take no punitive action against a Sydney Council that told its staff downloading the Covidsafe app was compulsory on their work phones. Why should Australians trust the government to enforce those privacy protections, when a sunbather on the beach got an on the spot fine and an employer who breached the Biosecurity Act got basically no consequences?
PRIME MINISTER: Well I’ll have a chat to the Health Minister about that. But look, the vast majority of the enforcement arrangements on all of these measures are actually followed through by state and territory authorities. And if anything, there's been criticism of how thorough they've been. And so in relation to specific matter you've raised, I'd have to, I'd have to be briefed on that in terms of what the specific circumstances were and the actions that were or weren't taken by the department and I can follow it up with them.
Ellen, did you want? Or you’re good?
JOURNALIST: Yes please, in terms of the task of rebuilding confidence, given the scale of unemployment that's come as a result of this, how do you rebuild that confidence? And would you look at bringing forward government spending on infrastructure, and major projects?
PRIME MINISTER: Well we already have. That's something we're already doing. That's part of the plan now. And whether it's in Victoria or New South Wales, Western Australia or anywhere else, we've already got a very large infrastructure program - we went through the process of bringing many of those projects forward at the last quarter of 2019. And as I've reported previously, we're making pretty good progress on that. And now that we've been able to get through these issues in reopening the economy, which I think is one of the key issues for confidence. I mean, the reason you've got three steps here - we could have released just one step today, given that steps 2 and 3 still have more definition to go into them. But it's important that the gym's know they’re next off, cab off the rank. It's important that people know that pubs and clubs are in Step 3. They need to know that because they need to prepare for it and they need to know where we're going to go next and where the states and territories are going to follow. And that's why the states and territories timetables are also so, so important. That's what builds confidence. Having COVID safe working premises plans, builds confidence, because I understand Australians having been at home for several months; may be a bit cautious as they venture out again. And so they need to be confident when they're going into a restaurant or a cafe or doing things like that or going to a playground or whatever it happens to be that the plans are in place, that people are taking that action, that lifts public confidence in health, which means they're more active economically. And this is what has the flow on. Now I don't think anyone could suggest that the Commonwealth hasn't turned up when it comes to providing the economic supports at this time. I mean, it's unprecedented. And that is on top of the almost $9 billion of extra support we've put into the health system and of course, the $100 billion that has been rolling out for infrastructure around the country. So you're right, Ellen. It's got to be a part of that economic plan. Always has been. And we're already acting on it.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you mentioned earlier that there will be outbreaks, you say that there will be clusters. Is it a case that the states, the territories and Australians will need to hold their nerve once they go down this path and not snap back to tighten restrictions?
PRIME MINISTER: Yes.
JOURNALIST: And can I ask you on stage 1, for the stage 1 restrictions, do students need to be back in the classroom at schools?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, that's what step 1 is. And for the vast majority of states and territories, that's exactly where they're heading. And that advice has been consistent from when this COVID crisis first began. There's been no change. So I'm looking forward to seeing children back in classrooms learning, that's the best place for them to get an education. But on the other point, yes, I think it is important that we all hold our nerve. That's why I was saying before, you, these are cautious first steps, but important first steps. You know, we can, you can stay under the doona forever. And you'll, you know, you'll you'll never face any danger. But we've got to get out from under the doona at some time. And if not now, then when?
Yeah, no I’m coming round.
JOURNALIST: Can I ask a bit more how that 3 week review process will work? And also, just picking up on Michelle's question. Can you give a rough timeframe for when you think we might see general international travel allowed again?
PRIME MINISTER: I can't see that happening anytime soon. There is nothing on our radar which would see us opening up international travel, in the foreseeable future. There are already some very, very minor exceptions where the Border Force can provide an exemption for outbound travel, but that's in areas like facilitating development aid in third countries and things like that. It's a very limited set of circumstances. I've already mentioned in my answer to Michelle. How we could potentially consider how things for international students might work. But these are exceptions, not the rule. It is something that other countries are discussing, but it, by and large, almost without exception, I'm not aware of any countries that are looking at that option at this point. And, Greece is, I know, is considering that coming into their summer. They mentioned that at the meeting we had last night. But it sounds, you know, that they're still working through that issue. And I wish them well with it.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister You've talked about businesses needing certainty. But can you give the 5 million people on JobKeeper and all those on JobSeeker with the corona supplement the certainty that they'll get that for at least for the six months?
PRIME MINISTER: I give them the certainty that I want them to be back in their jobs where they don't need it, that's what we want. I mean, people don't want to be on JobKeeper and JobSeeker. They want to be in a job that's paying them. And that's why we're, that's what this plan is about, not to keep people on income support from the taxpayer, but to have a wage that's provided by business that's successful and earning again and going forward and creating a strong economy. That's what the lifeline is for, to get people to that point. That's what we're aiming towards.
Sorry we’ll go to Brett, I'm going to come around. We're just moving right around. OK.
JOURNALIST: Professor Murphy, I'm sure your best PowerPoint presentation yet. Australians are appreciating this clarity around where things are headed. One question to you, where do pubs and clubs sit on these steps. We can't see them on there? And then Prime Minister just continuing the road analogy. You talk about not letting the fear of going backward stop us from going forwards. Do you envisage a point where we might need to make a U-turn on some of these steps? Or is it a case that we just keep powering through regardless of what happens if there are outbreaks or things escalate beyond what you might envisage happening?
PROFESSOR MURPHY: So I'll start with, so seated restaurants in pubs and clubs like in other venues can, if the states and territories choose to implement in stage one, they could start with 10 people. They may well not for a pub and club that will be a pretty small restaurant. Similarly, in step two, they can still do seated dining. The general view is that with the exception of the Northern Territory, which is moving forward more quickly, that it will be level 3 before bars and nightclub type venues without seat dining would be open and gaming type venues. But as the Prime Minister has said, there's still a lot more work to be done in that space.
PRIME MINISTER: Step 3.
PROFESSOR MURPHY: Yeah.
JOURNALIST: And just on u-turns, going backwards. Is it a case that you know that the journey might stop momentarily? We won't revert back steps?
PRIME MINISTER: That's certainly the intention. I mean, it's, I said the other day, it's like the emu and the kangaroo. They go forward, not backwards. And that's what that's how this has to work. Premiers and Chief Ministers are very keen to ensure that you continue to move forward. And, but look, it's- it's a level of confidence is building on this. And that's what I think these, this first step also enables us to carefully look at how that step is going. The question was about how often we're reviewing. Well, that's every three weeks. And basically we'll go around the grounds of the Premiers and the Chief Ministers and ask them how it's going. There'll be some empirical evidence about how that's tracking. We'll have the health data, but we'll also have the economic data. And that will help guide, I mean, they're not formal reviews. They're just, I'd describe it more as stocktakes as to where the framework is at and and looking where all the states are and how we're going towards our ultimate aspiration of being there in July.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister though you must have, you say outbreaks aren't a reason to slow things down and all the momentum is forward, and the Premiers are on board with that, but it's just a point of common sense that at a certain point of outbreak, I mean, God forbid, but let's say we get some really substantial outbreaks following the restrictions, you're not actually saying are you that we will just continue to power forward?
PRIME MINISTER: I'm saying we’ll continue to act on health advice, Katharine. That's what we'll always do that’s, and all of these steps, the the key requirement as you move from one to the next is it's subject to the health advice. We've always acted on the basis of the expert advice. And if the expert health advice that, God forbid, we're in a situation like you outline, then we'd have to take the health advice in those circumstances. But this is why we're so keen to stress and I don’t know if we go back to that second last slide about what Australians can do, that scenario you talk about is so much less likely. If the COVIDSafe app is downloaded, if people are following the distancing practices and the hand hygiene, and if workplaces and premises have effective COVID safe plans for those operations, that's what protects you. It's not about whether there are cases, as Brendan has said. It's about the response. And if the response is effective, well, then we don't find ourselves in the situation you're talking about. But in those circumstances, the health advice, you can be assured, would play heavily in the decisions of Premiers.
JOURNALIST: [inaudible] thresholds, is there actually a threshold because there are thresholds for going forward?
PRIME MINISTER: No, based on the case. It's case specific. It's case specific at the time.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister on community sport last week, you raised expectations that we could see a return to the soccer pitch for kids. It's not on that step, what step does community sport fall into-
PRIME MINISTER: Two.
JOURNALIST: ...and how soon do you think we could see kids back playing sport?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, that's up to the states and territories. They'll have to outline their plans. But what you can see, I think now under step one, should the states move on that in their jurisdictions, that training would be able to occur for those types of sports, that can be happening under step one and in many places that would already be happening. Step two involves community sport. That's right, isn’t it Brendan?
PROFESSOR MURPHY: Yes, so step 2 has sport in groups of 20. And again, more work will be done that may well be possible for some competition to occur then. Then but full level C of the AIS framework will be in step 3. Step 2 is still being worked through. But in step one, people can train in groups of 10 according to the AIS level B, and we want that to happen.
PRIME MINISTER: And it involves, it doesn't have to be organised sport. But step 1 with 10 people in a park having a kick of a ball around, or a soccer on a Sunday afternoon. That's what step 1 envisages.
PROFESSOR MURPHY: Correct.
PRIME MINISTER: Yep, yeah Phil?
JOURNALIST: PM the economic forecasts the Treasury’s put on step 1, 2, 3 the job creation. Does that supersede the estimates put out an hour ago, a couple of hours ago by the RBA? They're still forecasting unemployment at 9 per cent at Christmas, 8.5 per cent next June. So do they, are these figures subsequent to what the RBA is saying? And if that's the case, could this take the edge off the economic forecast the RBA has just released? Could they not be as bad as?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, they were done, they weren't done as part of the same exercise, I mean the RBA and Treasury are different organisations, as you know. So they've been prepared independently of what RBA has been doing. There's a lot of dialogue that goes on between the RBA and Treasury. But the RBA set out 3 scenarios there. They've got a median case scenario. But all I know is, is that the more we open up, the more people go back into jobs and the better off everyone will be and the numbers will then tell the story, whatever those numbers happen to be. At the moment, I don't like what those numbers are at all. As all the Premiers, you know, affirmed again today, success is not being able to stand up every day and say there's 3 cases or 12 cases or 18 cases, not when you got a million people out of work. That's not success. And so we want to, they’re the estimates Treasury have done and we, this plan takes us a long way back, but not all the way back.
JOURNALIST: PM, your early access to super scheme has been frozen because of alleged identity fraud. Were there enough protections built in? How can Australians have confidence their details won't be stolen? And Professor Murphy, do you believe NRL players should be allowed to play without receiving a flu shot? And how significant is that health risk?
PRIME MINISTER: Well do you want to do that one first Brendan?
PROFESSOR MURPHY: So I think that's really a matter for the relevant state health authorities, I think. Now, I personally have a view that everyone should get a flu shot. And it's important where, but I think that's a matter for the relevant state.
PRIME MINISTER: Look, over $10 billion has been claimed and has been moved through that system and that program. We've had this incident and it's been moved on quickly, as you'd expect. When people undertake fraud, there was a response to fraud. I mean, fraud is possible in any program anywhere. Over my government experience, I've been in immigration, I've been in social services and I've been in Treasury. And I can tell you fraudsters try and have a crack at every single one of those systems every single day. So the fact that people have tried to have a crack at this doesn't surprise me. The Home Affairs Minister already, I understand, made some comments on this. I mean, it's a serious fraud issue, and that's why the precaution was taken to to pause that for at least 24 hours while that's being addressed. The fact that there has been such a swift response I think demonstrates that there are protections in place and action is taken and they should find them, they should lock them up.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, this week the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, seems to have stepped back from his previous assertion that there was enormous evidence for the Wuhan labs theory. Do you welcome the shift in emphasis from your US allies? And to what extent has this focus on the theory made it harder for you to gain international support for your inquiry?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, first of all, in terms of Secretary Pompeo, I want to extend my best wishes to him and his family. He has just lost his father and I know from recent experience how difficult that must be. He's an extraordinary fellow, and I'm sure his father would been incredibly proud of him. So all my best to you, Mike. I've already made comment on these matters. I think what is important is we find out and the world doesn't yet know. I raised this at the meeting with international colleagues last night. The Health Minister continues to do that through his forums. It's not directed at anyone. We just want to know what happened so it doesn't happen again. It's a pretty honest question with an honest intent and an honest motive and I'm seeing more and more support for that position. And we're supporting a European motion that's going to the World Health Assembly and there's an independent oversight committee of the Health Emergencies Program within the World Health Organisation. And on top of that, there's a health regulations review process that's going on that I think can accommodate the recommendations made by the Europeans as a good first step to getting down this path. But you can't let the trail go cold and I think Australia and the United States and the United Kingdom and countries all around the world would like to know what happened because we don't want to see it happen again.
We'll go here and then we will finish up with you.
JOURNALIST: PM, what's the role of business in the return of confidence? When should they restore pay cuts to staff and start paying their rent again?
PRIME MINISTER: As businesses are able to reopen and get on their feet, then I'm looking forward, as I'm sure they are, to getting staff back on the floor, lifting their wages again from their stand down arrangements and to be able to take that enterprise forward again. One of the things I'm very hopeful of is that because of the supports we put in place, the arrangements that the states and territories supported under the commercial tenancies code, was it basically allowed businesses to go through this incredibly difficult time with the loss of trade and not have the businesses collapse. Now, there will be some, sadly, who will have collapsed, but there are so many more that I think as a result of the supports and protections we put in place and the good mindedness and the fair mindedness of whether it's landlords, tenants, banks. I mean, as the Treasurer, I think indicated between $120 and $160 billion of loans have had their payments deferred as a result of the banks. I want to thank Matt Comyn and all the team he leads, the Australian Bankers Association, of course, CommBank. You know, they've engaged. I mean, I've given them a bit of a hard time from here and now, including from this podium not that long ago, but they responded well to it and I thank them for doing that. So I think all of this people have worked together, which means, yeah, people can get back up to their hours. People can get back up to what they were doing before. That's the whole point. That's what we're trying to do here. But it's not easy. It's one thing for things to be shut down. That can be done relatively quickly. It's terribly painful. But building it back up again and getting the confidence of businesses to go and do that is important. That's why we've set out this plan so they know where we're heading. They know where we're going. They know when we want to get there. They can plan around that. The Norwegian Prime Minister last night was making a similar point in how they're doing something quite similar to us, knowing who's next and what's going to happen next, even if they won't know the precise timing of it. They can prepare for it. And I’ve got to say, the COVID safe workplace and premises plans, training your staff in those things, they're important. They're important because when people come into a shop, they'll want to know that it's COVID safe and that you've got that sorted and I have no doubt businesses will be turning their minds to that.
JOURNALIST: One for you and one for Professor Murphy. Professor Murphy, after all this is over, are we going to see a change in that attitude of powering through your cold at work and employees requiring a sick certificate as well? And for you, Prime Minister, the JobKeeper payments have been undersubscribed, so why not spend some of that money on the arts, casual workers and migrant workers as well?
PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: So I think we will see a permanent change in that sort of cavalier attitude of going to work when you've got a cold or flu and I think that will be, even when COVID is gone and we don't know whether it will be fully gone from society. That would help with flu seasons and help with general health in the community. So I think that one of the two permanent changes I can see forever is good quality hand hygiene and that stay at home if you're unwell mentality. And I think we've all been guilty of that at various times. I know I have. And we're all going to have to change that mentality.
PRIME MINISTER: JobKeeper is a demand driven program. It doesn't have a target level of subscriptions at all. Never has. Estimates were made at a time when things were very uncertain about where things are heading. The fact that fewer may ultimately seek or need that support is a good thing. And as a result, the program will continue to run on the parameters we set out for it and will provide support to those that it's designed to assist. The JobSeeker program works in parallel with it. It's not JobKeeper or nothing. It's JobKeeper and JobSeeker. The two work together and this is very important. The economic lifeline we've put together is there to spread right across the economy. And so the premise of the question is false. It's a demand driven program and it will be delivered as it was designed. We've made some adjustments to it along the way that have largely dealt with administrative issues and clarification issues and where that is needed, then we'll continue to do that. But at the end of the day, that lifeline of JobKeeper and JobSeeker has bought us the time to do exactly this plan. Very few countries in the world are in a position to stand here today and outline the plan that we are now embarking on because they're in no position to do so.
Australians have given myself, the Chief Medical Officer, the premiers, chief ministers, you have given us the opportunity, Australia, to go forward with this plan, and now we will implement this plan together. And when that plan has been implemented, people will be back in work. People will be back together and Australia will be stronger. Thank you very much.