JONES: Prime Minister good morning, thank you for your time.
PRIME MINISTER: Morning Alan.
JONES: Heavens above, have you had a sleep?
PRIME MINISTER: I got one last night. But now I’m up and at it, like you, each and every day.
JONES: Look, thank you for your time and thank you for the unbelievable energy that you're demonstrating in what are difficult times. Look, I'll come to what you said yesterday, but can I just ask you what your thoughts were when you learned that 16,000 Australian citizens boarded flights to overseas destinations between March 19 and March 30, after the travel ban came into force on March 24. And after you made it quite clear on March 18 that Australians shouldn't travel abroad, 16,000 did.
PRIME MINISTER: Well, bewildered and frustrated, I think is the first reaction. And honestly, I think it was still an indication that people just weren't getting it. Now there are going to be some cases we know where for various scientific, for aid reasons and various other things that people are still going to move. We're still helping people in the Pacific, things like that. But that's not 16,000, I can assure you of that.
JONES: And PM why should they, sorry
PRIME MINISTER: A wilful defiance.
PRIME MINISTER: This doesn't- the rules don't apply to me, that sort of thing. And that's, and we can't afford that. Because if people behave like that, then then we lose lives and,
JONES: why don't you hit them with a bill? Hit them with a bill for the quarantine?
PRIME MINISTER: Well those, those who go overseas over this period. Look how they think they're actually going to be able to get back now, I think it's going to be very difficult, and I don't think they'll find themselves high up, high on the list.
JONES: Good on you. You said, you and your Treasurer and several Ministers said this JobKeeper will apply to six million people, a full time, part time casual sole traders. Are you convinced that these six million people will see a slice of the action or may some well fall between the cracks?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, this is why we did JobSeeper and JobKeeker and JobSeeker, which is the welfare system, the social safety net that catches those who come through the other system. And the payments for JobKeeper is a bit higher, but JobSeeker is there to catch those who fall through the cracks, that's why you have a safety net. That's why we strengthened the safety net. I hope it's not 6 million, Alan. I'm sure those 6 million hope it's not them, too. I'm hoping that the businesses will be able to stay open where they can and be able to adjust and trade. But that's going to be very, very difficult. That's why the measures we need to pass in the Parliament next week are really important to pass the JobKeeper bill in that JobKeeper bill includes very important changes to the Fair Work Act, which means in one day we can just for 6 months have some temporary arrangements in the Fair Work Act, which means we can get that support directly to those are going to need it through these businesses.
JONES: Just on, just on, just take one example, because I won't dwell on this. But when all this started a while ago, a raft of business, it was government [inaudible]. The government said and I've kept on saying, we've got to support the government, we've got to support the prime minister. But by government (inaudible), the hotels tell shut down. Now, I'm sure some of them said that's it for me. Look, I've been at it for 35 years. I'm out of here and therefore the staff go so they won't be able to reconnect with their employer. He's closed up shop so they won't get the $750 bucks, they’ll get the $550 bucks. But if they were on $70 or $80,000 a year, how, what trauma may they face trying to survive on $550?
PRIME MINISTER: Well people will find themselves in that situation too Alan, sadly, if they're in a business that has to shut down, I mean, this is why the safety net payment and the job, that is the jobSeeker and the jobKeeper payments are not that far apart. And that is that is just the way. That is why this is such a devastating impact across the community, whether they’re on $80,000 or whether they’re on $50,000 or $150,000, if they've gone into a stood down job and find themselves in that situation where they have to rely on,
JONES: Which they do, and which they do,
PRIME MINISTER: That is tough. And that's why,
JONES: But you would imagine this may lead to significant psychological, emotional and social consequences?
PRIME MINISTER: This is why we increased the funding on everything from mental health to emergency cash support for we've put more money into Meals on Wheels, for goodness sake. We've put more money into domestic violence support. One of the things I was talking about last night, Alan, a lot more people would be online at the moment. And we've got a thing called scamwatch.gov.au that’s to protect people from scammers, particularly elderly people. Be very wary of scammers online at the moment. And for our kids online, we've seen an alarming increase in those trying to have predatory behaviour towards children online. And we've got the e-safety.gov.au website, which is very important to help parents and others who are looking after kids because our kids are online learning.
JONES: Absolutely. You've introduced federal regulations to make it illegal to bulk purchase goods needed by Australians which are purchased and sent overseas. I'm sure you understand how much the blood boils of hardworking Australians when there are two Chinese owned company developers, obviously with Australian names. They call themselves Greenland Australia and Risland Australia, and their staff go out and buy in bulk more than 100 tons of surgical masks, Anti-bacterial wipes, hand sanitizer, Panadol and ship them back to China. Are we too soft with these people?
PRIME MINISTER: Well we changed the laws basically to deal with that. The case you're talking about, were back early in February, circumstances were a little different then. But that. But it's important that we crack down on this. And that's what Peter Dutton is doing with Home Affairs to do just that. And yesterday and in fact, we got millions of more masks out of China, some great work by the various people who are working with us to help us with it. Twiggy Forrest had some involvement with that, as did Aspen Medical and a range of others that we work with to access these masks. And so, you know, that's that's what this is all about. Now, it's a day by day challenge to ensure we get the personal protective equipment. We're increasing the number of respirators we can get access to. This is very important to ensure that as the number of cases climbs and we’re slowing that it was down to a 6-percent increase yesterday. I mean, not, wasn't that long ago was 3 times that or more.
JONES: Yes it was 45 [per cent]. The thing that worries them, though, PM, and I'm sure you're aware of this, a former Chinese military officer who worked with the Chinese Communist Party agencies and another group with links to organised crime. These are the people behind all of this, this bloke Quang, is a former officer in the People's Liberation Army, runs a number of Communist Party backed organizations. And people are saying, how the hell, how are these people operating in Australia?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think in many ways Alan, when these things are exposed and acted upon. I think it's a reminder that, you know, we need to have strong laws about these things. And that's why we have put strong laws in place.
JONES: Well, after all this though, and the cost to the world economy, trillions of dollars, this week the wet markets across China resumed operation. No additional rules, no regulations. Fruit bats are still on the menu. What is the world, or should the world be doing about this?
PRIME MINISTER: Well wet markets, I think, is a very real and significant problem wherever they exist. I mean, this virus started in China and went round the world. And that's that's how it started. We all know that. And these wet markets can be a real problem when it comes to what can occur in those markets. And I think from a world health point of view, this is something the World Health Organisation should do something about. I mean, all this money that comes out of the UN and the World Health organisation,
JONES: Well the bloke in charge is in bed with China, he’s an apologist for China.
PRIME MINISTER: You know, this is why we've got to be quite strident on these things in these forums. And make sure that they're dealing with what are quite serious world health risks.
JONES: Look, I'm not, I'm not here to pat you on the back, but a lot of people have commented about your address last Friday where you very sensibly warned that those advocating lockdown should be, your words, be careful of what you wish for. And sensibly, I think you agreed to quarantine people arriving in Australia from overseas in hotels guarded by police and the military and so on. But days later, state Premiers proceeded on their own way and imposed these draconian lockdown rules without parliamentary approval. Your advice was be careful what you wish for. What do you say to the people who now have to be careful? They're frightened of going out of their home?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, the social distancing, the healthy distance rules that are being put in place are being put in place for people's own protection. Now each of the states and territories, they are making their own decisions about how they are enforcing those rules. And the police have discretion. I mean, I'm more familiar with what's happening in New South Wales, obviously, and in the ACT because I'm not in the other states. But all of them have to make their own decisions about how they do this and get this right. I think I'd say this, though, Alan. We're in the very early days of it. People are adjusting to it and so are the police and those enforcing it. These are huge changes we're asking the country to make. And I know they're frustrating. And I think we've got to give each other that, you know, give the police a fair go. They try to do something very difficult. We can't expect them to have perfect execution of these measures in the first instance. They'll get it right. People working with them will get it right. But equally, you know, we're still seeing people doing things that they know they shouldn't be doing. And that's very frustrating,
JONES: That’s a minority and we should deal with them.
PRIME MINISTER: It is a minority I agree with that. But a week or so ago, it wasn't the minority.
JONES: No. You've often said, though, that two things, it's a new normal. And and this could be six months, six months, a long time?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, it is. And look, it could be longer, Alan. And I'm trying to prepare the country for a longer haul. That's why on these measures, these things of controlling behaviour and all of these things, we've got to be careful to ensure that people can keep doing it for that long. I don't want people to, we need them to be patient and not to get too frustrated. But it is going to be tough. That's why I think we've got to work together to ensure that we can have these rules in place for as long as we can. And then we can get our economy back on its feet as soon as we can. There are no magic numbers that allow that to happen. We're watching those things very closely. I mean, we've been able to get the growth in the virus down a lot, but it still needs to go further. Because if we don't do that, then obviously the pressures on the health system, the emergency departments, all of that would get to a very, very serious level. Now we're avoiding that so far. But as we've seen overseas, many places have not.
JONES: And one of the most prominent complaints, PM, from those who correspond is that the public service employees are still being paid a full salary, they’re not on $550 bucks or $750 bucks, the ABC, which spends most of its time criticizing you and your government, the ABC hasn't been pruned back. Should public, the public sector, the ABC, even politicians take a pay cut?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, we've put a ban on any increases. And look, the percentage of total salaries of the budget is actually in the federal government very, very small. And look, we'll look at those things if that's necessary. But I honestly, it's not something that I'm focussed on. I know people are taking a hard hit every day in their businesses. There are many businesses, Alan, whether it's supermarkets or a lot of these areas. They're doing, they're doing quite well, actually, in these circumstances because of the rush. So some businesses, mining and so on, they're going on like they were before, other businesses are heavily hit. But I don't think it's actually helpful in a crisis to stop having people turn on each other about who's getting what.
JONES: Okay. But just on that, businesses and you're right, some doing well, you know, some heavily hit. Now, you announced yesterday that 1 million families will receive free childcare during the coronavirus pandemic. And the aim, you said, is to get the child sector through to the other side. Am I right in saying the government pay 50 per cent of the sector's fee revenue so long as the childcare centres remain open and don't charge families? Is that right?
PRIME MINISTER: Correct. And they also get the JobKeeper payment where they're in that situation as well. So the two together means that those centres will stay open. We've already seen that there are, the number of children going to childcare. Not, not surprisingly, has fallen, which would cause many centres to close. And what we need is for them to stay open. So those parents who still work. This is about parents who are working and can't have their children at home. And it's the same for schools. I mean, that's why they need to be able to send their children to those schools and they need to be able to send them to childcare centres because if they can't do that, they can't be a nurse and turn up to work today.
JONES: That's true. PM But given the childcare operates, private businesses either run for profit or not for profit. They're private players right across the country. Thousands and thousands of businesses have hit the wall across the country, including perhaps people like Virgin and whatever. Why do these childcare businesses get bailed out and others are left?
PRIME MINISTER: Because they ensure that people can go to work Alan.
JONES: Yeah, but there are people that you, you said yesterday if you're working from home or you're at home and not working, you can still have free childcare?
PRIME MINISTER: No, well what we’re saying is the childcare centres will be prioritising those who have to, parents who have to go to work.
JONES: Yeah but they’re private businesses, you’re you’re subsidising private businesses?
PRIME MINISTER: Alan, but what I'm saying is that I mean, the childcare centres won't be able to double the number of people they can take. What they'll be doing is taking the children of parents who can't look after their kids at home and who have to go to work. So the childcare sector is vital to keep our economy running, to keep our hospitals running, and to keep our aged care centres running. And if we don't have the childcare sector in place, Alan, then we're going to lose a significant part of our workforce, which is going to keep people alive.
JONES: Just before we go, thank you for that, you were talking about crossing the bridge, we hope it's not a long bridge. Do you think Australians know that when we get over that bridge, there could be fewer companies paying company tax, fewer individuals in work paying personal tax, there'll be more people on welfare, that expenditure goes up and then their export income may be significantly diluted because our markets are Asia and Europe. Therefore, the lesson is here, there's going to be an awful lot of belt tightening down the track.
PRIME MINISTER: Oh, look, Alan, on the other side of this, it's going to, it’s a long road back to recovery. But what's important is I'm trying to get Australia in the best possible place,
JONES: Yeah we understand,
PRIME MINISTER: Where we start that process by keeping as many businesses in business,
JONES: and as many people at work in work,
PRIME MINISTER: In work, and so on the other side, and can I stress this thing in particular, there'll be two parts of the legislation we need to pass next week to get JobKeeper up and running. There is the fiscal bills they're called. That's where the money comes from to support JobKeeper, and then there are the industrial relations changes that we need to make,
JONES: you are going to get me into trouble because I've got to to the networks,
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, anyway we need to pass both of them. And we need support for both of them.
JONES: Wednesday, next Wednesday. Good on you. Thank you for your time. Thank you for what you do. Talk next week.
PRIME MINISTER: Thanks, Alan.